Note: This is a reprint from my blog at www.communicopia.com.
A few weeks ago I predicted that this year’s Web of Change conference would be our best ever. I guess you would expect a conference founder to make such a claim, but this year we really pulled something new and magical off.
Web of Change 2006 had almost 80 incredible attendees from all over North America (and one very notable guest from Europe) and the conversations and connections were some of the most thoughtful, insightful, and helpful of my 10 years in this industry.
One of my highlights happened the first morning with the official release of the “dot organize” project, a year long foundation funded research effort led by the lovely Leda Dederich. The goal of the research was to uncover the real barriers to non-profits (mostly small to mid-sized) using technology to advance their mission. You can read the live blogging notes from the session here.
The findings resonated with what I see in my work: the demand for online tools is as high as its ever been, and it's now being driven by campaigners and communications managers (as opposed to webmasters or IT, who, apologies, tend to be lower on the organizational totem pole). But the real call to action for our community was that the frustration felt by these same people. 68% identified as being somewhat or highly frustrated with how their current organization is using online tools. Not a great metric for our indistry.
And the tools they long for? Not the leading edge social networking, integrated CRM / fundraising systems, or mobile technologies, but boring bread and butter like Content Management Systems, email tools, and better websites. No surprise here for me I see this every day.
The biggest differentiator with non-profits who get real lift from technology was whether they had a dedicated (or at least part time) internal staff resource who helps navigate this new world and translate relevant impacts to management and other staff. These staff don’t even have to be super technical, the “power users” who learn the new tools and show others how they work also make a huge difference.
This was great to hear because one of the intentions behind Web of Change, and why I continue to pour a lot of personal and company resources into fundraising for, promoting, and managing the conference is to help build a more effective, collaborative, and ultimately more helpful industry of practitioners in this space. It was heartwarming to hear that good people inside organizations - and integrators like Communicopia - are exactly what are needed most. These are some of Web of Change's most tangible impacts - people becoming stronger and more effective, making committments to focus or work full time in the social change sector, and connecting and collaborating on new ventures that will provide better service to the organizations and causes that we all care about helping.
So this year was personally very rewarding for me. There are so many more stories from our time together that are best told by the participants themselves. Check out Howard Dean campaign wunderkind and EchoDitto co-founder Michael Silberman’s thoughtful post here, or some of the over 1,000 photos posted by our participants at our Web of Change Flickr group, including my personal favourite , me with my great friend and co-convenor Jodie Tonita, who it is such a joy to work with.
Thanks to all of those who travelled so far and took time out of your busy schedules to participate, and thanks again to our amazing sponsors who helped us give out scholarships to almost half of our people (and nearly everyone who asked).
And if you missed out on the most intimate and impactful event in the socal tech sector, be sure to sign up early for next September!