Making the Case for Technology
Within the Community
I have been following this exchange with great interest and will now take the opportunity to offer a few thoughts. My lack of organizational affiliation at the present time -- I have been consulting with citysoft.com and several other groups -- hopefully frees me to make comments that will be received as a personal expression and not reflective of any particular group or interest.
I agree completely with the premise that solutions to the current situation of increasing gaps in opportunity and resources between low and higher income communities demands Herculean--and forseeably for some time to come--selective interventions. The scarcity of technology talent is a significant challenge to scaling efforts but I would go further to say that the scarcity of talent in delivering high quality, culturally competent education and human services to families in low income communities requires even more attention. A previous contributor made a comment on the report's suggestion of creating a digital peace corps to which I concur -- where do you find people to carry out such an effort? And a related question, how do you develop and support this expertise?
I think the following approaches could help clarify solutions to these challenges:
*More honesty in the funder/investor community about expectations, and the willingness to support expectations with appropriate resources.
If investors expect results that reflect the scale and the style of the private sector and large scale government initiatives, then the quantity and duration of investment of resources should be on par. Concurrent with this should be an open acknowledgement about who will be funded--this will not be a reinvigoration of today's typical neighborhood CBO, but the creation of a new layer of public-private hybrids that reflects the background of well-resourced private sector and government groups. Even the elite of today's traditionally funded nonprofit groups remain stifled and starved by the gap between what they are attempting to do and the resources made available to accomplish it. Hence the emergence of social entrepreneurship groups such as LearnNow and citysoft.com that are attempting to harness private sector investment for work that has social value.
*A rapid infusion of support for groups that are already demonstrating success.
Although it is widely acknowledged that talent is the key to effective initiatives, groups doing social value work that have managed to assemble talent, to innovate, and to deliver better services are often only incrementally more resourced than their less effective counterparts. The window of time on retaining talent on technology related initiatives is even shorter, and consequently, the opportunity loss greater when talent is not adequately recognized and supported. High turnover as the result of low compensation and stressful, under resourced work environments remains one of the biggest barriers to recruitment and retention of talent in pre-school, youth development and K-12 education.
*Greater study and promotion of efforts that are producing real results.
The promotion of initiatives that are advancing superficial outcomes contributes to cynicism, while the lack of information on efforts that are actually helping people move into higher education, employment, better health, and improved relationships perpetuates the perception that there is a lack of good models. One of the most important roles that intermediaries can perform is to help investors, policy makers, and communities at large discern quality and effectiveness in services. Education related services, especially, are increasingly in need of standards and objective evaluation.
Just a few initial thoughts. Best wishes for the holiday to everyone!