N-Ten 2005 Boston Regional Conference: Advocating for New Technology

On Friday, I gave a case study at the Advocating for New Technology session of the N-Ten 2005 Boston Regional Conference: Enabling Technology Funding: Issues for Grantmakers and Grantseekers. Unfortunately, it’s not a case study I can share in detail on this weblog, but it deals with how I advocated for my office to begin using RSS feeds to distribute content.

There were only about twenty people at the session, so we arranged ourselves in an oval for the group talk. That was such a nice change from standing in front of an audience.

Most of the attendees deal with technology in non-profits in some way, like as in-house technogeeks or as consultants helping a non-profit address technology issues. I learned quite a bit from Eric Segal and Steve Backman, the other presenters, and the audience members.

Naava Frank, who along with Deborah Finn, helped organize and moderate the session, started off by observing “There is no science for advocating for technology.”

Eric Segal

“When and how to promote new technology” is more important sometimes than actually advocating for new technology.

What is the organization trying to accomplish? How does the technology map to that?

“We don’t know about the whole world, so we do the best we can,” when it comes to advocating for new technology and selecting new tools.

Knowing the whole organization is important.

The person at the foodbank giving out food is the person to enter data. Where is s/he going to do it? When is s/he going to do it? How is s/he going to do it? Why is s/he going to do it? If you can’t answer those questions, then don’t design the database.

Steve Backman

It’s important to know the organization’s goals before selecting a technological means. Some people choose a means without knowing what the goal is.

What is your role in regards to the project? We talked throughout the session about how we might think our role is pretty straightforward, but while working on a technological solution, we might also need to be a hand-holder, conselor, advocate for change, instructor, and more.

I began my case study by pointing out that in my situation, I felt like I was advocating for change in general as well as advocating for a new adoption of technology.

Here are some points and questions that came up during the discussion:

There’s often lots of ambiguity about decision makers. Who makes the final decision? Many times, the decision makers are the least tech savvy in an organization.

Sometimes someone in charge thinks everyone else thinks the way she does about technology.

If the executive director isn’t that engaged in it, it’s likely to fail. If he’s engaged and no one else is, it’s also likely to fail.

Staff adaptation of technology is often problematic.

Are these things technology problems or an organizational problem? Technology can’t alleviate all of the problems.

Fear is a big part of change. Breaking down fear is essential to moving projects forward.

Deborah: just walking around and talking to people can bring up all sorts of things. On her rounds around a company, she used to find people who wouldn’t complete a service/help request, but would say “Oh, while you’re here, could you … “

How do you convince people that change is good?

Steve recommends The Secrets of Consulting by Gerald Weinberg.

What strategies have people implemented to alleviate people’s fear of technology? Deborah’s strategy: 90% is stress management and 10% is technology. Of the 90%, 90% should be listening and 10% should be talking.

Language is a barrier to promoting technology–if we talk technobabble and the other people on staff can’t understand us, we can’t advocate effectively.

Sometimes good advocators aren’t good communicators. Sometimes half of advocating is cleaning up from what someone else has done.

Be Sociable, Share!