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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Interview with NetSquared project manager Mark Liu: Part 1

I'm sure last week's TechSoup forum on web2.0 technologies produced a lot of interesting exchanges on a whole range of issues for a lot of people - but the most exciting for me was the message with the subject line "Are you the Michael Stein I used to know?" that got me back in touch with Mark Liu, who lived in the room directly above me in Bexley Hall in 1968.

Today, Mark is the manager of TechSoup's NetSquared initiative, a project designed to make sure the non-for-profit sector gets involved early and actively with the newest tools and trends in internet technology. And once we got through catching up, I admitted to him that I was just a bit perplexed about the NetSquared project. How do NetSquared and the NetSquared website differ from TechSoup? What exactly is their purpose?

So Mark agreed to answer a few questions for this blog.

[Me] I've not been completely clear on the nature of the NetSquared project, and I know others share my confusion. Can you explain in a couple sentences what it is all about?

[Mark] I'm not good at the elevator pitch. So here goes my own interpretation.

We TechSoup people believe that this is a moment of great opportunity for nonprofits and individuals who are interested in helping their communities and benefiting society. Some of the key changes we see are that there are new tools and techniques that allow
  • people with common interests to find each other and form virtual communities around these common interests.
  • them to share their stories, knowledge, research, analysis, and resources and build on them
  • them to reach outside of their virtual communities and have greater impact on their real world communities, through more effective advocacy, education, and service delivery
At the same time we see community-building as the core of non-profit work. Thus, we think that the new Internet technologies are a natural fit for nonprofit work.

But the problem is that most people working in nonprofits don't know about the new technologies, or how to apply them. We find that the new Internet technologists (We call them the "technorati") talk among themselves, and the nonprofit people talk among themselves, but there are few people who are conversant with both sides. That's where we think TechSoup comes into the picture. We have something like 60,000 registered nonprofits in TechSoup Stock. We have 100's of thousands of readers of TechSoup. We believe that we're in a great position to get the message out.

[Me] I see how this is a natural extension of TechSoup. Like the Web2.0 discussions you sponsored last week. But how does NetSquared fit in?

[Mark] Techsoup cannot accomplish this by itself. Our hope is to build a community of technorati and nonprofit people, who will work together to understand the new technologies and how to best apply them to social change work, and at the same time work to teach nonprofits how to use them and help nonprofits over the hurdles of adoption. We see TechSoup's role as being the catalyst for this effort. We'll provide infrastructure and support for the NetSquared community, and help to get the community's message out to the sector, but the community itself will do much of the outreach to expand the community, develop the knowledge base, and deliver knowledge, assistance and support to nonprofit adopters.

We know that other people have a similar vision and similar goals, and some had these before NetSquared was launched. We hope that we can all join together in a NetSquared community that will have the critical mass of resources, visibility, and credibility to really have an impact.

[to be continued...]

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