Sunday, November 19, 2017

Calling on Tech Volunteer for Long-Term Involvement

Nice article in today's Chicago Tribune under headline of "When hackathons won't cut it: Non-Profits cut longer term partnerships with tech experts."

Chicago tech leaders Derek Elder, co-founder of ChiHackNight and Adam Heckman, of Microsoft were quoted in the story.

Heckman said “It’s not just about building a solution; it’s about helping them with their processes and looking at it holistically,” 

Elder said "My experience has been proven out time and time again: You can’t do anything meaningful in a weekend. With a lack of sustainability, a lot of projects will start up and die off. Our resolution was to do it every week and make it easy to attend.

How true. My web sites have all been built by volunteers. This was the home page of the Tutor/Mentor Connection site in 1998, built by Matt Mead and his company.  Matt was a volunteer in the tutor/mentor program I led and he said "I hear you are trying to build a web site."

The current Tutor/Mentor Connection web site was rebuilt by the tech department at IUPUI in 2005 and hosted there till 2011. Now it's hosted on a volunteer in Indiana on a different server, still connected to IUPUI.

Here's another example. I've been  using maps since 1994 to focus attention and resources on tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods of Chicago. From 2001 to 2008 a volunteer from Madison, Wisconsin was my map maker. He built the first map gallery.

I've always been dependent on volunteers to help produce these maps, and one reason I've struggled is that I could never find a volunteer who could produce a marketing plan with a realistic cost estimate for what we were trying to do, thus when a wealthy tech guru once showed interest and asked "what will this cost" my feeble response was "I don't know."

The T/MC Organizational History and Tracking System (OHATS) was launched by a volunteer in 2000 and rebuilt by another team of volunteers in 2007.  However, I can't access the data or add to it since 2013 since I've not had the tech support needed. I've not had anyone summarize the information since 2002 due to lack of volunteer or paid talent.

These are just a few of my web sites. All need help to update, improve, add content and attract visitors.

If you want to take the time,  you could visit this wiki and look at the "projects stated since 1993" and see how each requires on-going tech support which I've never been able to find on a consistent basis from volunteers or support with donor dollars.

I've used this graphic for 20 years to show that youth in tutor/mentor programs should be supported by volunteers and leaders from every industry, university, faith group and hospital, as part of their own workforce development and social justice commitments. 

If this were happening, volunteers from the tech industry might be more likely to make longer-term commitments to a non profit or social enterprise, or might be part of a "relay race" of volunteers, with one volunteer passing on the project to others who follow him/her.

Without this consistent support it's difficult to build strong, constantly improving organizations, and thus it's almost impossible to solve complex social and environmental problems, or help kids born or living in poverty move from first grade to first job over 20 years of consistent support.

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