In 2008 I led a discussion through an NTEN Affinity Group to craft a code of conduct that nonprofit technology providers could agree upon. This was based on work that Marc Osten had done to articulate a set of principles for the UK circuit rider movement with help from Beth Kanter and Michelle Murrain.
As a follow-up, at the 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference I facilitated a discussion about what might be done to find common ground among #nptech providers. While never officially adopted by NTEN or other organizations, they stand the test of time
We hope that these are principles that nonprofit technology service providers, consultants and vendors can all agree upon.
NonProfit Technology Professional’s Principles
We, as technology professionals serving nonprofit organizations, pledge to:
- Do no intentional harm to data or devices containing data
- Appreciate, respect and adapt our approaches to an organization’s culture, mission, context and resources
- Focus on solutions appropriate in both the short and long term
- Explain technology strategies and tools using clear, non-technical language
- Understand and communicate relevant excellent practices as well as legal and technical requirements related to our work
- Engage in continuous learning to maintain our skills and knowledge
- Regularly participate in – and share knowledge with – our nptech community
- Maintain ethical practices and declare any conflicts of interest
- Provide recommendations and not directives, communicating the reasoning behind recommendations, ensuring decisions are always the clients
- Be transparent about pricing for products, services and any project costs
On March 13 of 2008, the following message was sent out to all relevant nonprofit technology related listservs, online bulletin boards and affinity groups, showing the supporters of the initiative.
Imagine our U.S. community of nonprofit technology professionals – staff, consultants, vendors, support organizations and others – having a set of principles to guide our work and let other communities know us better.
Most groups of professionals have principals or codes of conduct that their members agree to abide by – nonprofit technology professionals (NTPs) in the USA being a notable exception. We would like to facilitate our community generating and agreeing to a set of principles/ code of conduct. The UK Circuit Riders have already articulated and presented a set of principles appropriate for them, that many have signed on to follow. Now we think it’s our turn.
We are presenting a draft set of principles as a starting point for discussion. NTEN has agreed to host the discussion through an online affinity group. Over the next 90 days, we ask all of you to review the draft, comment, contribute and discuss (see process schedule below).
At the end of ninety days we will put all of the feedback and discussion together into a set of principles built by the community. We will then encourage all nonprofit technology professionals to sign on to the principles and abide by them.
We are looking for basic principles applicable to the broadest range of nonprofit technology professionals – staff, consultants, vendors, professors and others who identify with our community.
Sign up for the discussion forum where you can view the initial draft, read more about the why? and how?, comment and discuss.
We look forward to the conversation – including in-person discussion and input at NTC – and we will contact this list again when the final draft is ready.
We hope you will join us in taking another step to professionalizing what we love to do,
Beth Kanter, John Kenyon, Michelle Murrain, Marc Osten
Process Supporters (organizations for identification purposes only):
Peter Campbell, Earthjustice & TechCafeteria
Teresa Crawford, Director Advocacy and Leadership Center, Institute for Sustainable Communities
Jeff Forster, Robert Morris University, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management
David Geilhufe, Philanthropy Program Manager at NetSuite
Dave Greenberg, CiviCRM
Mary Gross, Director of InfoTAP, a program of Nonprofit Management Solutions
Allen Gunn, Aspiration Tech
Cheryl Hanback, Web & Graphic Design
Phil Klein, Pen & Pixel
Eric Leland, Leland Design
Sheldon Mains, Nonprofit Tech Consultant
Ryan Ozimek, PICnet
Laura Quinn, Idealware
Jon Stahl, ONE/NW
Michael Stein, Internet & Media StrategistRead More
Panel with Marla Cornelius, Compasspoint; Julie Davidson-Gomez, Exhale; James Lin, Glide Foundation; Olivia Araiza, Justice Matters; Miho Kim, Data Center.
Compasspoint did a report on next generation orgs: Next Generation Organizations by Marla Cornelius and Tim Wolfred (coming in September). Covering a variety of characteristics of next generation organizations: Impact Driven. Finance & Business Savvy; Continuous Learning; Shared Leadership; Wired for Policy Advocacy; Ambiguity of Work-Life Boundaries; Constituents as Thought Partners; Board as Value Add; Multicultural & Culturally Competent.
Initial thoughts/ aspirational components of these dimensions
(Audio recording available after 8/31)
Using storytelling to reframe how we think about impact and results. Being solution agnostic – try everything until it works. Break down the silos between programs, finance, etc. Using failure and learning to improve and innovate. Power is diffused, power is shared, everyone is tapped for solutions. Keeping connected to advocacy and policy work that relates to your work. People do, touch, learn things in their life that adds alue to their work, hence the need for good work life balance. Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) – who cares what the time sheet says, get work done in a good way that keeps the larger picture in mind.
Discard that scarcity/ charity mindset – you are more than an org, you are part of a larger system. Engage with the network of orgs/people in your focus area as thought partners to find solutions. (Transparency and Openness- see Networked Nonprofit). With boards we try to limit their sphere of influence, we can use them as thought partners in solutions. Boards should derive their priorities from the organizational needs – what impact are they having on your org?. For cultural competency, recognize forms of power, privilege and disadvantage attached to social/cultural categories – does the org seek to counter that kind of oppression.
Points from stories from the panelists:
Julie: Talked about previously avoiding board membership, now a board member, thanks to a board recruitment model that courted her over 3 years. Now learned that governance is just a small part of what she does as a board member. Enjoys haring professional gifts around process and leadership.
Multiculturalism – they really don't use that term. It is really about bringing the whole person into the room, engaging their whole story. traditional model is to keep peoples stories out of the office. Requires engaging with self-knowledge. learning to tell your own story, where your story and the orgs story connects..
Example from Glide: building is open, no buzzers no locks no "do you have an appointment?". Can be chaotic but is an opportunity for connection. Security is charged with holding the space open but to be there if there is a situation. Had security staff attend domestic violence program. Same triggers that start domestic or street violence trigger bad bosses, asshole colleagues, etc. Helped people find internal physical signs of stress when someone pushes your buttons. Rather than reacting, I can respond if I recognize when I am triggered. Security staff learned from the model, learned to handle his triggers. If you can't recognize/handle your own triggers you can't handle other peoples stories that are bound to trigger you.
They are about how to change a school from the inside out – change the lives of children from families of color, create social justice. Very open space at their office, living room atmosphere. Involves rainstorming, it's about every member of staff in every stage of their lives, being responsive to their needs. More creative staff is engendered when you embrace peoples lives and accommodate staff's lives.
Shared leadership. Org model is group of circles focused on focused on capacity building, program, administration. They had a leadership decapitation. Co-directors left with all of their work, including grant files. Staff was polarized. Looked at how staff interacted with each other. Traditional model was not working, opportunity to create/shape new leadership model. not traditional management structure. Centered on Coordinating council vs. traditional hierarchy. Takes power from founder, major donors, state, etc. and gives it to the staff. Did an exercise about what did/did not work, major disagreements that they hashed out. Found principles they could agree on. First reaction was to create a policy document. Instead they created a "quilt" with different panels, on their wall, reminds them of the fundamental principles that they are working from. Have a tool that reframes mistakes as learning before moving to HR discipline. They have pay equity – everyone gets paid the same. How does pay equity promote/ cultivate the value that you express to the world. There are other elements that they use to mitigate the issues of pay equity. It's about working on things as a process. Shared leadership is actually more structure than less.
James: These new ways of thinking are exciting but intimidating. SOunds great but sounds impossible at the same time. Inspiring but fear inducing.
Miho: Not only the personal is political but the spiritual is political. This journey of change made her look into herself, what are things she is ashamed of, strengths, but once you are authentic, your bond is deeper.
Marla: Thinking about how to incorporate these ideas and stories into her life and be aware of her own limits/paradigms, traditional ways of thinking.Read More
Last year I took my first foray into fundraising with a Facebook Birthday Wish, raising $650 thanks to generous support from my colleagues, friends and family. This year I have the goal of raising $900 for an organization I have been a fan of for a long time - Visual Aid.
Visual Aid encourages artists with life-threatening illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Breast Cancer to continue their creative work. This small organization does big things including providing opportunities for artists to connect with their community, providing art supplies, career resources and educational outreach.
As many of my readers know, in my travels I usually try to fit in a visit to an art museum, be it the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh or the National Portrait Gallery in London (pictured) among many.
As an art lover and an amateur photographer I know the power art can have to nurture both the soul of the artist as well as our own.
The founder of Visual Aid and photographs from their current exhibition are featured in the new documentary "We We Here: Stories from the AIDS Years in San Francisco".
Thank you in advance for helping continue the creative work of those who might otherwise be silenced by illness.Read More