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NetHope 20th Anniversary Summit: Lessons Learned & Looking Forward

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  • By Dianna Langley and Robyn Baroh
  • November 2, 2021
NetHope 20th Anniversary Summit: Lessons

By Dianna Langley, Senior Director of Engagement and Robyn Baroh, Membership Manager


So many strides have been made in the past twenty years just from one simple idea - we believe that through collaboration, technology can be used to change the world! And through this simple idea, we have indeed made a collective impact in the humanitarian, development, and conservation space.

Here are some key highlights of our work thus far:

  • Over the past twenty years, we have delivered over $160 million of software donations to our Members.
  • We have given more than $3 million worth of in-kind donations to our members
  • We responded to humanitarian crisis and global emergencies happening around the world
  • In 2013, we launched the NetHope Academy and to date we have graduated more than 1662 students from Haiti, Rwanda, Ghana, and others.

In light of the unpredictable times that we live in, we elected to have a virtual global Summit for the second time in a row. Even though we are unable to be together in person, the virtual format gives us a unique opportunity to engage and interact with more people – from the field office to the C-suite. It also enables us to be more inclusive since we can provide tickets at a more affordable rate to stakeholders – often in program impact countries – that might not have traditionally been present in previous years. Thus, giving more perspectives a space at the table to ensure that their voices are heard when it comes to power shifting conversations on how to localize the use of technology to scale up nonprofit work.

Understanding the evolving needs of our community Members

Our Members have a wide array of interests and it was critical that we kept this front of mind as we designed our NetHope 20th Anniversary Summit. Specifically, we paid attention to the current priorities of a specific nonprofit, as well as their ambitions to interact with another, and emerging dynamics with the people that they serve or ecosystems they work in.

As a community of global changemakers, we realize that technology is not the future of international development, but rather the now. There is a focus shift from just getting technology into nonprofits to how advancements in data and technology can be used in appropriate and ethical ways to achieve targeted outcomes. Over the past two decades, our conversation among our community Members has evolved from understanding how to get basic bandwidth to their offices, to deploying email into their workspaces, to how business analytics and artificial intelligence can level-up human decision making.

Building on our wins to tackle what needs to be done now

With great opportunity comes great responsibility, and the NetHope 20th Anniversary provides us with a space to build on the modern vision of a nonprofit – one that is stakeholder-centered through the power of digital. As more programmatic outputs and outcomes are being fulfilled by an ecosystem of implementing partners, there is a keen desire to ensure that all the actors are equally equipped to create and sustain digital solutions for the communities that they serve. Thus, ensuring that gains made in using technology as a power for good are not restricted to only those at the top funding level.

When NetHope was born two decades ago, we focused heavily on internet connectivity in some of the most hard-to-reach parts of the world. This “unlocking” intervention was grounded in the belief that our Member organizations needed to be able to respond quickly in emergency situations, and the way to do that at scale and collectively was with the power of digital connections. Subsequently (as this foundation became repeatable and sustainable) we then added to those gains by working to ensure our Members were equipped with the necessary technology tools, both software and hardware, to optimize their workplace and programmatic efficiency.

As we look forward to the next decade of collective impact, we are building on these two foundational layers and working with our Members and corporate partners to tackle the challenges presented to nonprofits now: change management, digital skills and the digital divide, data cohesion and utilization, misinformation and disinformation, cyber security and vulnerable people’s data, climate change and sustainability both within and without organizations, as well as information certainty in an era of data fatigue and fake news, and many countless more.

The NetHope community will work together to amplify all our efforts for designing and deploying digitally-enabled programs that are equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and that narrow the digital divide for the good of people and planet.

20th Anniversary Summit as a celebration and a catalyst for change

For our resources to have the most impact we need a concerted effort to learn from other’s successes, create projects together, coalesce around shared problems, and channel our resources towards collective impact so we can catalyze more impact.

The NetHope Summit and its agenda have been customized for attendees to understand how new tools, proven practices, and emerging technologies can be used to support their own strategic intentions, and can result in transformative and sustainable change for others too.

Technology and digital are not just concentrated in one single department within an organization - it permeates across team boundaries, into different levels and experiences. To that end the NetHope 20th Anniversary Summit provides all attendees with an opportunity increase the size of their influence network. Helping people to connect their expertise, shared experiences, and sectoral context for bigger impact together.

Furthermore, the Summit is also an “open and safe space” to have critical conversations to build on our collective understanding about what really works and what doesn’t. NetHope has for twenty years been a venue to share success and failures that nonprofits have encountered in their use of digital solutions in some of the world’s most complex environments. This honest sharing facilitates collective learning for all the participants in the community (be they Member, corporate partner or other), as well as coalition building to tackle complex problems.

Knowledge flow between multiple entities is going to be critical to the next phase of our journey. Therefore, content from the Summit is always available in perpetuity to NetHope Members’ staff so that the information and shared lessons can bounce around within all corners of the organization. In addition, some of the sessions from the Summit will also become skills training, whilst NetHope’s regional Chapters further the conversations too.

As we seek to address complex systems, this year’s historic get-together will be a moment in time for us to venerate our past successes, understand the world that we find ourselves in to sharpen the focus of our collective, and identify and grow opportunities for our community to work together for the good of people and planet.

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