In this guest post Nathan Baranowski from ojo solutions discusses the future of technology as he sees it. He also shares seven vital themes for any organisation looking to make technology work for them – and not the other way around.
There is no doubt about it: Technology is transforming our lives. It has never been easier to stay in touch or connect with people across the globe seamlessly, on any device and from anywhere. But even with all of these advances, have our lives really improved or have we become slaves to our iPhones? Can technology really work for us?
There are thousands of examples of how technology is transforming the way we live and support amazing causes, but for technology to truly work for non-profit organisations and larger communities alike there are some important themes to consider:
The Invisible Nature of Technology
Today we need to purposefully interact with technology for it to work for us. Yet technology is working for us invisibly every day. The move to smart and integrated technology that fits seamlessly into our living environment will rapidly become the norm; wearable technology and smart homes are the first step on this journey. For technology to work for us we need to embrace and understand it and ensure we are part of the digital evolution.
For non-profits this means placing digital at the heart of your business. For many that will mean investing in digital capabilities and hiring staff with the right skills to meet the challenges and demands technology will bring to your organisation and ensuring as a business you are able to effectively harness it to support your cause. .
Building New Capabilities
Technology is helping us do new things. How far we push the boundaries of what is possible is limited only by our imaginations.
The rise of open source and technology businesses with a desire to do good is an opportunity for non-profits to harness new capabilities and better support their causes. Tapping into free or heavily discounted solutions and professional resources is critical to harnessing the success of your digital transformation.
Technology Will Not Save Us
Technology has the ability to do wonderful things. It is not however, an answer all of our issues. Technology is an enabler and supports us in meeting our goals. For technology to work for us we need to work with it, guide it and set the rules. We need to take control of the technology and not let the technology control us.
Non-profits are not in the business of developing apps or managing technology. They must find good partners who can build the technologies they need, set the rules, use their skills to continually innovate and develop person-to-person relationships with the people who support their causes.
At some point we all have a love-hate relationship with social media. Yet it is helping us to communicate, to empower us all to engage and take control of the things that matter to us. Technology is helping people break down barriers and shift behaviors.
Charities have an opportunity to harness these new-found connections to tell stories to more sympathetic people in more places. The challenge is to do this well and focus on developing loyalty to your cause, going beyond the sense of we should have a twitter account and not knowing what to do with it.
With technology comes a loss of control. From hacking scandals to cyber bullying, we need to be mindful of the risks and be sensible about how we want technology to be in our lives.
For charities this means appropriately protecting ourselves from cyber-attacks, ensuring that data is safe, that the information being recorded is appropriate and — most importantly — that charities behave with more integrity and transparency than ver.
Technology has the ability to further both humanity and the Earth. Yet its ecological damage is vast and invisible to most. The never-ending desire for the latest devices is driving more and more destruction as we extract precious metals and fill landfills with old devices. For technology to work for us it needs to be “dolphin friendly”, fair trade, organic and reusable.
Balancing digital innovation and environmental impact is not easy. One secret is choosing partners with the ability to scale and provide green IT. Cloud technologies, which run off of reduced power, and renewables are simple ways to start. It is key to consider peripherals and reduce consumption of waste, as is considering ethical questions when purchasing technologies.
Support Health & Well-Being
Technology supporting a healthier lifestyle is big business, yet anyone who works in an office will at some point have felt like a slave to their email inbox. Ironically, technology can help us to unplug from the day-to-day and reconnect with what’s important. Yoga apps on your tablet and video calls with the family are both examples of technology working for us.
Charities, like all organisations, face an ‘always on’ world and the dilemma of how to protect the personal time and the well-being of their staff. Furthermore, is there an unspoken expectation that charities and non-profits should do better, than profit-seeking organisations, in this area?
Having worked in the charity and non-profit sector for over 10 years, the concept of good will is often discussed. Yet the mindfulness movement, which has become downright trendy with tech companies and big corporations, seems less prevalent in the not-for-profit sector. Perhaps it should be even more relevant in an industry where passion and the drive to do better for humanity are so central to success.
Taking these themes into our lives and work will ensure that technology can and will work for us. All that remains is to avoid getting sucked into the world of automation. We must not lose our faith in the creativity of people. Any technological change should bring your organisation’s values to life.
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