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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.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mark Liu from NetSquared: Part 2

(... in which I continue to interview my former dorm-mate, Mark Liu, now the project manager for TechSoup's NetSquared initiative)

[Me] What can you tell us about the April NetSquared conference?

[Mark] We have 2 main goals for the conference.

First, we hope to build a community of active participants in the NetSquared website over the coming months. This community will be figuring out how to accomplish these ambitious goals to bring the new technologies to the sector.

We'll be talking about new tools and technologies, best practices in adopting them, organizational development issues to adopt them, and infrastructural needs to support the transformation. In the coming weeks, we'll be soliciting suggestions from the community on the content, speakers, participants, structure of the conference.

Second, the conference is a fundraiser for TechSoup. NetSquared is only one of several major initiatives for us. Two other initiatives, which we hope to apply the funds to are: 1) expanding our TechSoup and TechSoup Stock programs internationally bringing the benefits of corporate philanthropy and our community's knowledge to nongovernmental organizations elsewhere, and 2) our Refurbished Computer Initiative - which is our effort to help expand computer refurbishing.

[Me] Is the NetSquared site intended to support the April conference, or do you see it having a longer life? If I was your ideal site member, how would I use it?

[Mark] Longer life, absolutely. We see this as a multi-year effort.

I don't think there is a single ideal member. Some people are programmers; others are IT practitioners; others are npo executives; others are computer industry product vendors. All can play a role. In fact, all are needed. We need more and better tools. Better understanding about how to best utilize them. Better understanding about how to deploy them. Nonprofits will need technical support and assistance. People can assist in outreach, knowledge development, tool development.

[Me] So what is the best way to partcipate via the site?

[Mark] As we develop the site, we'll be trying to offer lots of options for participation. At the moment, one of the things you can do is to help us identify great examples of nonprofit innovation, by adding a "case study" to the netsquared site An easier way of helping is by tagging sites and webpages describing nonprofit innovation or great new tools or techniques. We have a short list of ways to help at, and this page will be updated regularly as the community grows and develops new activities.

[Me] How did you choose Drupal for the netSquared site?

[Mark] Drupal has a huge development community, and has many features that we need, e.g., blogs, aggregators, surveys, wiki books. Bryght also generously offered to sponsor our work by donating hosting and consulting services.

[Me] Mark, tell us a bit about you. How did you end up at CompuMentor/TechSoup?

[Mark] I worked in the computer industry for about 20 years. When I started in the industry, I thought that I was doing good technical work that in some indirect way was for the betterment of society. In fact, I'm sure most of the technorati today feel exactly that way. The people at Google or FlickR or working on drupal should all feel justifiably proud that they are changing society in a positive way. But I reached a point where I couldn't see that benefit any more in the work I was doing personally, and decided I wanted to get more closely involved in socially-oriented work.

I found CompuMentor in 1998, where I was able to apply my technology and management background in a more socially-directed fashion. We don't provide direct services ourselves (unlike a homeless shelter or battered women's shelter) or do direct advocacy work (unlike a environmental organization), but we have saved 100's of millions of dollars for other nonprofits, and helped many, many nonprofits do their work more effectively. It's been great.

And as you can see from my previous answers, we think there's still a great need for more innovation and collective action, and a lot more social change to be made.

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For more information, check the NetSquared site at
If you're interesting in sponsoring NetSquared, check out

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