What is #DigitalForGood?
I was thrilled to discover that there was a digital tech-focused conference targeted at charity professionals, right here in Toronto. The sponsored event brought together subject-area experts from the corporate and social benefit sectors to support forward-thinking charities make better use of technology to accomplish their mission. Ultimately, the biggest lessons I took away were not about specific tech products or tools, but about attitude and approach.
1. Centre people, not tech, in your digital transformation strategy
In her morning keynote, CanadaHelps President and CEO Marina Glogovac gave an overview of how to design a successful digital transformation for an organization. Like any other big organizational change, building buy-in from staff, volunteers and clients is essential, knowing that new processes and systems will take time and energy to learn. Change can bring tension, but, rather than avoiding this discomfort by rushing or collapsing the timeline and risk leaving some stakeholders behind, she urged us to plan for incremental progress we can build on over time.
2. A shift in mindset might be the most important tool
Considering the speed that technology is changing, it can feel impossible to keep up. But it also means there are constantly new, exciting opportunities to leverage if we’re open to them. Learning to embrace uncertainty, letting go of self-consciousness and getting comfortable with trying and learning from failure are central to being able to adapt.
3. Our challenges are not unique
As charities, we’re used to differentiating our value-add from other organizations but while our exact approach or mission might be unique, the day-to-day problems we’re trying to untangle probably are not. Whether it’s volunteer management, communicating across multiple program sites, or onboarding stakeholders to new processes, someone out there has almost certainly faced something similar. If we can generalize our challenges and talk to peer organizations, we can learn from each other and share solutions.
4. Nonprofits and charities might be the best positioned to defend the social good
In each of the previous industrial revolutions, we have seen rapid progress but also sharp increases in inequality over the short to medium term. Now, in the early stages of the 4th industrial revolution, Bruce MacDonald of Imagine Canada put out the rallying cry to all charities to reflect on where we can take a stand to defend the rights of people. It is incumbent on the social purpose sector to stay literate and up-to-date on technological changes in order to be advocates and watchdogs, and to set the standard for the social values we want to see reflected in a tech-driven future.