Are we witnessing a digital revolution? Or digital evolution?
Can we simply adapt and apply old skills to new contexts? Or do we need to learn new ways of thinking, doing and being?
One thing is certain. Our nonprofit institutions are dynamic, complex systems embedded within an even more dynamic, complex übersystem: human society.
The Traditional Nonprofit Conference Scenario
Consider the following typical conference scenario:
After registering for a conference and paying a fee, Sue travels to the headquarters city and hotel. (The conference is closed to individuals unless you can afford to pay.)
Once onsite, she makes her way to a large ballroom with theater seating for the opening general session. (Sue is tethered to this place and time if she wants to attend the presentation.)
Talking to others during the presentation is taboo and the host organization has a strict “lids down, mobile devices off” policy to help attendees focus on the content. (Sue is isolated from her friends even though she is surrounded by colleagues and wireless Internet access is available. Leaders forbid attendees from using those resources during sessions.)
Having read the final printed conference program (analog materials) describing the experience and education, Sue joins 1,500 others in listening to a 60-minute lecture. (Every registrant is a consumer of the same one-size-fit-all generic information regardless of their years of industry experience.)
The Everyday Experience Of A Conference Attendee
Now consider Sue’s experience during the rest of the day:
From her hotel room, the conference center, the coffee shop, the restaurant and bus, Sue connects to the Internet via her smartphone, tablet device and laptop. (Sue is mobile.)
She searches for information (digital resources are open for her to freely access) relevant to the conference’s presentations.
She texts with friends to see which education sessions they will attend. In some cases, she sets up onsite meetups with people in her social networks. (She is connected to other people.)
She posts in social networks questions about conference speakers and presentations. (She is connected to online communities.)
Her social connections respond with links to related information. (Her social networks are connected to content.) She skims the electronic materials (reading only what is important to her personally).
Later that evening at a meetup, she shares with her friends what she discovered about tomorrow’s speakers and presentations (creating and participating in the teaching process.)
6 Nonprofit Disconnects With Our Everyday Lives
People’s everyday lives are often drastically different than our nonprofit programs and services. It’s critical that our nonprofit institutions recognize, understand and adapt to these changes.
(These six society categories were first identified by David Wiley, 2006. I’ve changed the headings to apply to nonprofits.)
Nonprofit institutions once held a monopoly on industry specific information, subject matter experts and communities of likeminded individuals.
Today, nonprofit institutions are being challenged in each of their major functional areas:
- Access to specific content and information
- Education programs
- Research materials
- Hubs of likeminded individuals
- Advocacy issues
With no monopoly position and no bailout coming, are nonprofit institutions so arrogant as to really believe they are immune to what is happening in the ubersystem?
Tomorrow: More information about these six trends and the changing context of nonprofit institutions.
Which of these six categories will be the most difficult for nonprofits to address and why? How can nonprofit leadership help staff and other leaders change core organizational value to remain meaningful to individual’s everyday lives?