The Bridge--Web 2.0 Fundraising and Marketing in Action
Innovating Along the Curve

Engaging Nonprofits in the Tech

Nancy's been asking some interesting questions about second wave adopters--how to move the use of social media tools from the margins of nonprofit operations into the mainstream, with more people using the tools for communication, advocacy and education. She pointed to Bev's thoughts on some key questions to ask:

Beth , Nick, David and Steve continued the discussion, exploring various facets of organizational readiness and strategies for engaging nonprofits in using these tools. Since then, as I've been researching flat world business practices in preparation for a white paper on the impact of the globalization on nonprofits in workforce development, a few thoughts have been floating in my head.  I'm going to overview a couple of them here and then come back in later posts to explore them in more detail.

Why Are Some People Ready to Jump on the Technological Bandwagon and Some People Aren't?
What's really been on my mind is what is it about some people that makes them eager to embrace technology, while others have to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the new world? This led me to Everett Rogers and his innovation adoption curve.   This is an area that's rich with insight, I think, asking us to consider both the nature of people, as well as the nature of the innovation itself--both of which impact who will embrace a particular technological change.

Clearly technology that encourages openness, transparency, collaboration, sharing of information, etc. is going to appeal to some and be a threat to others. When you consider the nature of a lot of nonprofits, many of which are formed and operated in the shadow of command and control bureaucracy and government, it's not surprising that social media might take awhile to catch on. Add to that the fact that a large percentage of people are extremely risk averse, and we can see we have an uphill battle before us.

How Do We Find the Tipping Point?
Another issue I think we're dealing with here is Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point"--"that dramatic moment when something unique becomes common. "A few years ago, e-mail was a tool used mostly by computer geeks and NASA scientists. But as e-mail accounts became readily available and more and more people saw the benefits of this kind of electronic communication, we saw larger numbers of people moving to using the tool.

Gladwell argues that what makes trends "tip over" is in part the influence of several key types of people--what he calls "connectors," "mavens" and "salespeople." This ties in with Roger's earlier work on diffusion of innovations, where he notes that it's the early adopters or "opinion leaders" who will drive the diffusion of the technological innovation. More simply--if you get the right people talking about and using the tools, then the use of the tools is more likely to spread.

 Both of these areas deserve further exploration and discussion, I believe. I started collecting some of my research under 2nd wave tags   and want to do some more thinking on strategies for finding and "tipping" the right people. There are a lot of other factors involved as well, including access to technology, etc. But I think that it's really the culture/human factor that makes the difference. People will only deal with all the barriers if they perceive that the benefit outweighs the risk and the hassle.


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Michelle: Thanks for the reminder about the adoption curve. It took me for a trip down memory lane ... In the early 1990s and late 1990s, I remember that nonprofits were totally stressed about web pages and email. In fact, I used to teach "technostress" workshops - and we used to identify adoption strategies based on the adoption curve.

Great thoughts! Loving the conversation

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