At the end of 2010, I started having a weekly, 30-minute skype call with my friend Vanessa Rhinesmith. There is no agenda. We do not work together. We call these weekly calls, “brain dates.” It is a chance to connect in real time, share ideas, and generally have space to explore ideas or questions that we have encountered during the week as we push ahead with our various jobs, projects and goals in the nonprofit and technology sector. This week, I shared with Vanessa that during my time offline for the holidays, I found myself reflecting on just how many different frustrations I feel people in this sector have voiced over 2010 – to the point that I, honestly, feel really overwhelmed by the “sick and tired” state of nptechers world wide. But, I hope 2011 will be the time when we funnel those frustrations into real steps towards a better, more collaborative, more effective, and more aligned sector of social impact.

Last month, Joe Solomon shared on the NetSquared Blog what he hopes is our reflection on 2011 a year from now, focused on a year full of empowering and harnessing organizers. I wanted to take a few minutes today to share my 3 Goals for 2011 – I’d love to hear what others you’d add to the list!

How can we build a better sector? 3 Goals for 2011

For me, for you, for all of our organizations; and for the sake of this world we are trying to improve!

Please note, and this is key, that these are goals for the people operating in this space. As much as we love technology, it isn’t anything without people creating it, using it, changing it, and evolving it.

Find and talk to others using the same tools

We can learn a whole lot from each other. Seriously.

Coming together to talk about tools with others who use them can also mean a louder, more unified voice in requesting changes to those tools. When one organization says they want the software or platform to work differently, it’s a nice feautre request email that may even get a “thank you for the input” message in response. But when hundreds or more organizations can all say they want a change, the message is so much louder!

Share failure and success

This isn’t a new idea. Many people have talked about how we need to, and many have even shared how they have failed, and how they’ve succeeded. But I hope we can go deeper both in what we share and how we listen. When we are talking to others about our work, our projects, campaigns or tools, what if we shared more of the “why we did it” and “how we made it happen” instead of which tools, and which messages? What if we moved from sharing which tools, tactics or campaigns were “fails” or success to a focus on sharing which strategies worked or didn’t work.

Put questions before answers

Instead of leading with answers, let’s start focusing on the questions we can ask each other, ask of funders, ask of our communities, ask of ourselves. There’s great opportunity to learn and collaborate when we approach conversations with the lens of discovering what really worked, what is really possible, and where our impact is needed. And then if we keep a mission-critical focus, wow: Big things are possible!

What do you think about those goals? What are the goals you have for funneling your frustrations into real action?

Funneling Frustration: Building the future for technology and social change
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  • Thanks for sharing these great goals, Amy. I find that what so often gets lost is the “why” and “how” and we just list things or discuss them superficially. When I work with NGOs involved in planning I often refer to the 101 (i.e. beginning) Journalism questions: Who, What, Why, How etc.. The more we can really articulate WHY we did something, HOW we did it and WHAT happened then…the more useful our reflections will be to ourselves and each other.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for joining in, Bonnie! I completely agree, and would even say that
      when we include information about why we did something, how we came to that
      idea and how we created the plan (not just how we implemented) and then
      share the results, we can tell a story that may mean our own project
      “failed” to meet our goals, but could work for another group that is looking
      to achieve what we did! The more we can share, the more we can support our

      Thanks again!

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  • Coming from the product/platform side, we look for feedback from as many audiences as we can get. We then take this feedback and try to distill themes. These themes are then used to drive product development.

    I would like to see non-profits using the same products/platforms come together. Non-profits can be a bit segmented and hard to reach sometimes, so having a place where non-profits are at can help us save resources. There resources can then be used to create better products 🙂 The greater the numbers, the more likely change will occur.

    One more note — feedback early is always better than feedback later when a platform is mature. It’s like the concept of microplanning from Networked Nonprofit.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for adding your ideas, Rob! I’m really happy to have some
      contributions to this conversation from the product side of the equation. I
      have been exploring the idea of a
      sorts where organizations (and individuals) can pool ideas, request
      changes/features, and even pitch the kinds of technology solutions they
      really need, along with the commitment to use what the marketplace builds if
      it matches the requests, etc. There are quite a few people who have emerged
      through these conversations and I think that the consistency at which this
      concept comes up, and the fact that it is emerging more and more often now,
      is a sign that maybe we are ready to start really figuring it out!

      Thanks again for your feedback and for all you do with Causevox to be a
      collaborative, community-driven platform!

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