By Lauren Woodman, CEO, NetHope
This is the time of year when many review the past 12 months before we take a deep breath and dive into the next year. While it’s true to a large degree that our pasts color who we are—the actions we took, the decisions we made—and brought us to where we are today, those decisions should only inform our path. Each passing day brings new challenges that require our insights, but also demand a flexibility and agility to meet the challenges of the future.
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This same principle holds true for organizations. At NetHope, we use this as an opportunity to not only review accomplishments and analyze problems, but mostly to look ahead at what lies before the entire sector in the coming months.
First, a short but certainly not comprehensive overview of NetHope’s last year:
Collaborating on connectivity
- Deployment teams continued their work in Puerto Rico, reconnecting schools and rural communities to the communication grid so aid workers could coordinate further aid efforts, and residents could reconnect with work, friends, and loved ones, getting many back on track to life prior to Hurricane Maria. We sincerely thank our members and partners doing work on the island.
- This year was devoted to preparation, training, and readiness for the inevitable natural disasters that promise to increase in number and severity over the coming years. NetHope worked with many of our members and partners to create a full-scale simulation exercise which would increase our ability to respond with equipment, people, and services in areas hit by disaster.
- The eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala displaced upwards of 4,000 in the region surrounding the volcano. A team was deployed, and due to their work, several emergency shelters had connectivity and a six-month guaranteed connectivity agreement was arranged with local ISPs, giving aid responders vital communications to arrange for supplies and medical assistance for people whose homes were destroyed by the ash and mud flows.
Center for the Digital Nonprofit: Increasing sector effectiveness
- We celebrated the first anniversary of the Center for the Digital Nonprofit. The Center was formed to assist our member organizations in helping further them their digital transformation. The Center has achieved some major milestones during its inaugural year, inclduing securing six founding partners that now include Microsoft, Okta, Blackbaud, Box, Oracle Netsuite, and Avanade. This support is important not only financially and operationally, but it also demonstrates the recognition and credibility our approach brings to the delivery of humanitarian, development, and conservation aid by embracing digital technology.
- The Center developed survey tools to benchmark where nonprofits are on the digital transformation continuum and digital skills. We’ve shown the results in two published white papers detailing the state of the sector: the Digital Nonprofit Ability Assessment and the Digital Nonprofit Skills Assessment. As a result of these assessments, a Digital Skills Framework was launched, helping guide members to implement transformation, and, as part of this, piloted an IDEA (Imagine, Design, Execute, Assess) digital transformation process creating a real-world roadmap for nonprofits to navigate this transformation.
Devices for a Digital Future
- This year witnessed the year anniversary of the 2017 NetHope Device Challenge and Project Reconnect. For the Device Challenge, 17 organizations were chosen to distribute mobile devices to NGO aid responders, program leaders, and program beneficiaries. The results have put more than 37,000 smart phones, tablets, and other devices in more than 30 countries to projects ranging from training for the deaf community in Pakistan to environmental protection in Indonesia. Project Reconnect matched refugees and organizations serving them in Germany with devices and training to further incorporate them into their new lives in their adopted country. Each project is helping promote the power of digital not only through aid organizations, but also putting that power directly into the hands of those who need it most.
- The NetHope No Lost Generation Tech Task Force made significant impacts advancements, collaborating to match tech solutions and funding with effective education programs. Since its launch, the NLG Tech Task Force has gathered a group of 70+ organizations, resulting in millions of conflict-affected youth reaping the benefits of this collective impact approach to create scalable and sustainable solutions.
- In Uganda, our work providing connectivity for the Bibi Bidi settlement for South Sudanese refugees has allowed us to leverage our understanding of development organizations and broadband service providers to develop a variety of templates, models, and assessment tools relevant to broadband demand aggregation that can be quickly modified to support the specific objectives of a specific task order.
A Culmination of Collaboration
The culmination of the year was our annual NetHope Global Summit, held this year at the historic Royal Dublin Society in Dublin, Ireland. With record attendance of more than 500 guests and more than 160 presentations, it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with members, learn about valuable tools and resources from experts from member NGOs, tech, and funding partners, and get a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities facing our sector.
I greatly look forward to the opportunity to meet more of our members and partners and get a pulse on how to improve serving our members and collaborating with our tech partners.
As much as Summit—and for that matter the end of each year—is a mirror to reflect on our collective accomplishments, it is even more so a window to view and envision a future where, using the promise of digital transformation, we work together to improve the lives of vulnerable and marginalized people around the world.
In 2019, NetHope has many new initiatives as well as continuing our core mission of connectivity. Please be on the look-out for more information as these initiatives, projects, and programs are announced. We encourage you to get involved via Working Groups, surveys, and other channels. Your involvement is key to all our success.
My thanks to the entire NetHope community and our shared commitment to improving the human condition. Thank you for a memorable year and a promising 2019.