The inspiration for this comes from many conversations with many people, but I’d especially like to credit Susan Labandibar, Julia Gittleman, and Laura Beals for pointing out, in their different ways, that one of the most pressing real-life challenges in nonprofit technology today is finding people who can bridge between the outcomes / impact assessment / evaluation / research team (on one hand) and the information systems team (on the other hand) at a nonprofit organization.
Not that I’m a professional full-time data analyst myself, but if I were, I’d find the numbers, and start doing the math:
- How many brilliant computer scientists are graduating right here in Massachusetts every year from our best high schools, colleges, and universities?
- Of those graduates, what percentage have strong skills in database design, database development, database management, or data analysis?
- Of those who have strong data skills, what percentage would be eager to use their geek skills for good, if they were offered an attractive career ladder?
That’s our applicant pool for the Massachusetts Institute of Nonprofit Technology. (Or MINT, if you prefer.)
Now, let’s figure out the absolute minimum of additional knowledge that these computer science graduates would need in order to be the kind of data analysts who could bridge between the outcomes / impact assessment / evaluation / research team and the information systems team at a nonprofit:
- Outcomes measurement
- Outcomes management
- Impact assessment
- Social research methods
- Knowledge management
- Organizational cultures of nonprofits
- Nonprofit operations
- Organizational cultures of philanthropic foundations
That’s our basic curriculum.
If we want to expand the curriculum beyond the basics, we can add these elective subjects:
- Nonprofit budgeting
- Group dynamics
- Project management
- Appreciative inquiry
- Meeting facilitation
All of these electives would pave the way for other degree programs, in which they would also be extremely useful:
- Bachelor of Nonprofit Systems Engineering
- Bachelor of Nonprofit Web Development
- Bachelor of Nonprofit Help Desk Support
- Bachelor of Nonprofit Hands On Tech Support
- Bachelor of Nonprofit Social Media
I already have my eye on some great local colleagues who could be the faculty for the Bachelor of Nonprofit Data program. In addition to Susan, Julia, and Laura, I’d want to recruit these folks:
- Kim Diorio, Tech Networks of Boston
- David Gleason, Tech Networks of Boston
- Tuan Pham, Tech Networks of Boston
- Ellen Bass, Capacity Institute
- Noah Schectman, Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Boston
- Stefanie Archer, 501Partners
- Michael Johnson, University of Massachusetts-Boston
- Roberto Cremonini, GivingData
- Georges Grinstein, University of Massachusetts-Lowell
- Catherine Dun Rappaport, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
- Nicole Shiner, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
- Andrea Ryan Farina, Saint Francis House
- Kara Sabalauskas, Home for Little Wanderers
- Jennifer Dobruck Lowe, Crittenton Women’s Union
- Jessica Martin, Boston Indicators Report / Boston Foundation
- Marc Baizman, Salesforce Foundation
- Gavin Murphy, Annkissam
- Holly St Clair, Metropolitan Area Planning Council
- Dan O’Brien, Boston Area Research Initiative
- Patrice Keegan, Boston Cares
Please note that three members of the TNB team top the list of potential faculty members. Why? Because I work there, and because TNB has set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal of developing the careers of 1,000 technology professionals. This undertaking would be very congruent with its vision!
However, setting up the Massachusetts Institute of Nonprofit Technology must be a collaborative effort. It will take a strong network of colleagues and friends to make this happen.
Do you think that this is needed? Do you think my plan needs a lot of work? Do you have any ideas or resources that you’d like to suggest? Please feel free to use the comments section here to share your thoughts.
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