International development, meet domestic (USA) development.
Many of us spend our entire careers between Washington and somewhere else in the world. When I made the switch from US development to global, I was amazed by how little my colleagues were utilizing the nonprofit resources we develop and use at home in the United States. The industries have a lot of similarities but don’t always cross paths. The world of digital development is no exception.
We recently wrote about our favorite digital development resources - Consider this review a new addition to the list… with a USA twist!
Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network, is a membership network “where nonprofit professionals learn about and celebrate the ways technology helps them meet their missions.” Sounds pretty relevant, right, global digital development practitioner?
Their network largely focuses on North America, but the resources they publish are globally applicable well designed, easy to understand and totally useful… oh, and most are free. F-R-E-E.
I took some time to review their free resources and was immediately drawn to the Tech Accelerate online assessment tool. Is it useful? Is it relevant to the international development community? Is it a tool that folks seeking digital development or ICT4D information could consider?
(Spoiler alert: Yes, yes and yes.)
What is it:
An online assessment tool that nonprofit organizations can use to evaluate institutional technology use across four areas; leadership, organizational policy, infrastructure, engagement (fundraising/communications). It is free but does require registering with an e-mail and some stats about your org. FWIW, I’ve found their e-mail spam to be minimal and pretty useful.
why I tried it:
I used the tool as a supplement to TecSalud’s Technology Readiness Assessment we conduct with our clients who we support through our Digital Development (moving from paper-based to computer and mobile-based data collection) program.
Our test client:
An organization with operational HQ in USA but program HQ in Central America
Staff of 8, expanding to 10
Early stages of exploring use of technology in community health center
Limited budget to invest in IT/tech human resources and technology (Less than $15,000/year)
How did it go:
Relatively smoothly, though some of the questions were difficult to answer.
NTEN does recommend working on the assessment with more than one team member which will make the assessment more valuable for larger orgs with roles that more specifically align with the four categories. For our client, the team was too small so I leaned on the ED for most answers I couldn’t answer on my own.
Some of the questions are tricky and may not apply. The assessment allows for a set number of questions to be skipped. You can move around and go back, jump sections, change answers.
How painful is the time commitment:
It took about 30 minutes to get through with some degree of accuracy. If you REALLY want to dig in, I’d imagine a lot of these questions will require research, asking questions, discussion.
The bad grade marketing is slightly alarming, but once you recall that NTEN isn’t selling anything (i.e. EEK you failed! Buy something from us to fix it now!) the pain subsides a bit. They do sprinkle a bit of call to action to join the network/attend events, but nothing more.
The assessment results are very detailed. Individual question explanations are provided if you scored particularly low. I found some of it useful, some of it not.
The mixed advice has some great tidbits to think about when creating a priority list for improving your organization’s technology practices. This could be particularly useful when bringing on IT personnel or tech consultants.
I would recommend this tool for fluent English speaking organizations that are significantly larger than our client. This is definitely useful for organizations that have more than 20 staff, but may be intimidating for smaller groups.
For international organizations or governments, some parts of this evaluation may be frustrating (especially the last section) if it is largely answering no/not prepared/don’t have the resources to do any of this. It’s a great resource for groups who are at any stage of the technology investment process, including square one.
Don’t get discouraged!
Think of this as one of many resources to get organized and prioritized. Remember, technology should work for YOU. If it feels like a burden, take a step back and think simple. There are plenty of free technologies out there that require little time and effort to make a jump from no-tech to some-tech.
Questions? Looking for this type of support? Send us a note or check out our digital development packages. We work with organizations of all sizes and budgets to pick and choose tech, no matter the starting score!