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NetHope makes global tech connection

Global nonprofit consortium NetHope connects the world’s largest nonprofits to big tech business to address the planet’s most pressing challenges. This month in Dublin, it assembled 500 professionals to grow joint working efforts at its 2018 global summit. Chief executive Lauren Woodman offers an overview.

Lauren WoodmanNetHope, a consortium of nearly 60 major global nonprofits, connects with technology companies and partners to address the world’s biggest development, humanitarian, and conservation challenges. 

Our members include some of the world’s biggest and best-known nonprofits, like Save the Children, Oxfam, and International Rescue Committee.

We connect them to our primary corporate partners, which represent many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Okta, Blackbaud and Amazon Web Services.

The NetHope community, created in 2001, strives to transform the world, building a platform of hope for those who receive aid and those who deliver it, empowering committed organisations to improve the world through the power of technology. Our programmes are in place in over 180 countries worldwide.

This month in Dublin, 500 members attended our NetHope Global Summit 2018. Each year, the summit draws NetHope members and tech and funding partners alike, representing nearly 30 countries.

They come for an intense week of sharing challenges and experiences, learning through participation in sessions and workshops, hearing from hundreds of speakers and thought leaders, finding partners through networking and collaborating, and identifying promising new technologies through a technology solutions showcase.

Four key issues were top of the Dublin summit agenda, reflecting NetHope’s priorities for action to improve the human condition for vulnerable and marginalised people across the globe. Within each we have a significant programme of work.

Refugee response

We have participated in, or implemented and administered several projects in response to refugee situations, including:

Project Reconnect – with funding from Google’s nonprofit arm, the Tides Foundation, this NetHope-administered programme awarded 50 laptop grants to organisations serving refugees in Germany, including nonprofits, newly launched tech-focused organisations and small regional initiatives. With support from Google volunteers, tutorials and handbooks were developed for the administration and use of managed Chromebooks and best practices shared, aimed at helping refugees rebuild their lives in Germany. 

NetHope’s work in northern Uganda with the South Sudanese refugees has included assisting with connectivity for its NGO members’ work, as well as the refugee community and providing devices and connectivity for their livelihoods and connections with families still in South Sudan.

2017 NetHope Device Challenge – through a $5.5m grant from Google.org, 17 global nonprofit grantees were able to purchase over 37,000 devices (phones, tablets, PCs) to aid in innovative humanitarian, development, and conservation efforts, many of which directly benefitted refugees.

Connectivity and infrastructure

Much of NetHope’s work is tied into connectivity and creating emergency communications networks in disaster and crisis situations. NetHope works with in-country NGO members that are responding to crises to set up network hubs both for first responders, then accessible by affected communities. Technologies used include Cisco Meraki equipment, TV White Space and others.

We are also focusing on developing renewable energy options for areas where fuel and generators are not available, practical, or sustainable, as well as preparing for future disaster response across the globe when we hosted a full-scale disaster simulation in July in Panama. There, nearly 100 individuals from our member and tech partner organisations participated in the training. 

One of NetHope’s notable projects is in Uganda, where a Demand Aggregation project is consolidating the needs of its NGO stakeholders and presenting them to connectivity service providers. NetHope is able to facilitate new solutions, including optimised pricing, and improved quality of service.

Digital nonprofits

Through its newest initiative, the Center for the Digital Nonprofit, established in 2017, is providing the guidance, resources and tools, and grant making needed for digital transformation, with a focus on people, process, and technology. The journey toward digital transformation starts with people changing the way they work made possible by technology. 

We just published a digital nonprofit skills white paper, focused on the people aspect of the equation and based on NetHope’s digital skills framework and a survey that was fielded to over 300 respondents representing 49 nonprofits.

We had already published the digital nonprofit ability assessment white paper based on a digital nonprofit ability assessment (DNA) tool, which measured the general readiness of NGOs for digital transformation.

When combined, these papers reveal opportunities and challenges for the NGO sector as it navigates and endeavours to innovate in a rapidly changing digital environment. For the first time, we have established industry standards we can reference and have insights into the opportunities and challenges of transforming the global nonprofit sector.

Information security and data protection

With a growing dependence on technology and data in humanitarian programmes, data protection and information security is of utmost concern. NetHope’s international NGO members are just as susceptible to security breaches and hacking as any other organisation. It is actually likely that NetHope members are more susceptible because of the localities in which they choose to operate, and the stakes are high when you consider the vulnerable communities they serve.

nethope logoIn addition, developments in international privacy law, such as the European general data protection regulation (GDPR), have imposed new requirements on NetHope members to protect the privacy of their donors, staff, and beneficiaries.

While the realities of operating in today’s environment are certainly challenging, NetHope members do not see these issues as an imposition. On the contrary, our members view the challenges of data protection and information security as an extension of our collective work to improve the livelihoods of all global citizens.

NetHope operates a robust online NetHope Solutions Center, helping NGOs and like-minded organisations to find technology and cloud solutions to a range of business problems and challenges. Our webinar series is particularly popular with members and the broader global nonprofit sector. 

The NetHope Global Summit 2019 happens in San Juan, Puerto Rico from October 21-25.

Photo by Jonathan Perugia @Gaia Visual

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