At the Tech Networks of Boston Roundtable on November 7th, Peter Miller will be the featured guest, and the topic will be what nonprofit organizations need to know about community technology centers. Third Sector New England will be playing cohost, and the session will be held at the Boston NonProfit Center.
If you’re wondering why you, as a nonprofit professional, need to know at all about community technology centers (CTCs), here are a few points to consider:
1) If your organization offers advocacy or direct services to the community, then it’s important to know that CTCs are powerful resources for your constituents. They provide access to online tools and information, skills training, and a focal point for community members that are interested in bridging the digital divide.
2) Some CTCs are based in community access television organizations, and a key places for community members to learn about the overlap between online communications and other forms of media.
3) Some CTCs are based in libraries, and it’s clear that professional librarians can be powerful allies for nonprofits and their constituents. Librarians understand about free access to information and about knowledge for the public good; they can bring their skills to bear in bridging not only the digital divide but the knowledge divide.
4) Some CTCs are based in housing developed by community development corporations. They can be crucial in assisting residents with online education, with finding and applying for jobs, and with online organizing for local needs.
5) CTCs can help your nonprofit with its internal professional development needs, if they are offering courses or certification in software or hardware skills that are crucial to your operations.
In general, the worldwide community technology movement is a power for social good, and you should at least be briefed on what it’s all about!
I am much obliged to all the good folks who have posted suggestions and feedback about my first attempt to create an image that would represent my thinking on the role of data in mission-based organizations. Likewise, those who emailed me their thoughts deserve thanks!
I’ve created a revised version that incorporates some of the feedback. Before you take a look at it, please bear in mind that:
- I am not a graphic designer.
- I am not attempting to create a graphic that illustrates everyone’s ideas about the role of data in a mission-based organization. I am merely trying to illustrate my ideas.
Visualizing the role of data for mission-based organizations – Round II
Item #2 on the list notwithstanding, I am enjoying very much the opportunity to learn more about what others in the field think about (and visualize) when they ponder the role of data in our sector. Once again, I invite you to post your reflections, suggestions, and questions in the comments section here on this blog.
Heads up, mission-based organizations in Massachusetts! Powerful data visualization tools (and the skills to use them) are within your reach.
Thanks to the MetroBoston DataCommon, all you need to get started is to sign up for one of their trainings. The DataCommon is a joint project of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Boston Indicators Project; if you’ve been admiring not only the insights but the great graphics that you find on the latter’s web site, then you’ll have no trouble seeing the value of the free training.
An enormous added value of taking the MetroBoston DataCommon training is that they walk you through the process of creating a free Weave account. This means that the version of Weave that you will be using is already loaded with crucial data sets from sources such as the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You will be able to analyze, understand, and communicate your organization’s mission and impact, while using hard data about regional conditions to provide a context.
Of course, this opportunity is going to be less helpful to those who are not within an easy traveling distance of the MetroBoston DataCommon headquarters at MAPC. What I would like to see is regional planning agencies and nonprofit associations in other states offer similar resources and trainings.
I’m sitting here, reflecting on the Innovation Network’s “State of Evaluation 2012” report.
I encourage you to download it and read it for yourself; start with pages 14 and 15. These two pages display infographics that summarize what funders (also known as “grantors,” or if you’re Bob Penna, as “investors”) and nonprofits (also known as “grantees”) are reporting about why they do evaluation and what they are evaluating.
Regardless of whether you call it evaluation, impact assessment, outcomes management, performance measurement, or research – it’s really, really difficult to ascertain whether a mission-based organization is delivering the specific, positive, and sustainable change that it promises to its stakeholders. Many organizations do an excellent job at tracking outputs, but falter when it comes to managing outcomes. That’s in part because proving a causal relationship between what the nonprofit does and the specific goals that it promises to achieve is very costly in time, effort, expertise, and money.
But assuming that a mission-based organization is doing a rigorous evaluation, we still need to ask: what is done with the findings, once the analysis is complete?
What the aforementioned infographics from the “State of Evalution 2012” tell me is that both grantors and grantees typically say that the most important thing they can do with their outcome findings is to report them to their respective boards of directors. Considering the depth of the moral and legal responsibility that is vested in board members, this is a pretty decent priority. But it’s unclear to me what those boards actually do with the information. Do they use it to guide the policies and operations of their respective organizations? If so, does anything change for the better?
If you have an answer to the question of how boards use this information that is based on firsthand experience, then please feel to post a comment here.