We all agree that technology is changing the world. So are nonprofits. Let’s ensure that civil society has the tools and skills to succeed in their audacious world-changing missions.
We believe that meeting face-to-face is a uniquely effective way to learn and build community. That’s why TechSoup’s NetSquared supports a global network of activists who host free technology workshops and networking events. Last year we delivered training to 17,000+ nonprofit employees, board members, volunteers, and community leaders. Event attendees build a support network and learn practical technology skills to support their programs, marketing and fundraising.
“I’m very busy and important! What’s the top three things I should know about?”
Over the last twelve months here’s the highlights:
The new NetSquared.org allows you to easily search for your closest group or event
We trained 36 Organizers in event-hosting best practices during NTEN’s 15NTC and NetSquared Ambassadors recruited more than 10 new group leaders
Organizers hosted 629 events last year (vs 468 the previous year, a 34% increase)
But if you’ve got more time let me show off on behalf of the NetSquared organizers!
NetSquared doubled down on our local focus by recruiting our second cohort of Regional Ambassadors who are offering mentorship and support to new and prospective NetSquared organizers. The current group is based in the USA, UK, Australia and Uganda. These volunteers have been very successful in expanding the amount of support we can offer our organizers. Each month the Ambassadors make several direct connections with organizers in their region and are offering personal support to organizers who are looking for new topics, co-organizers or need to puzzle through a challenge.
TechSoup invested in the Regional Ambassadors by bringing them to NTEN’s 15NTC conference for a multi-day leadership training. Ambassadors built their skills, relationships with each other and supported the other NetSquared organizers attending the conference.
We also held a one day training for 36 other NetSquared-affiliated organizers after NTC, allowing them to share best practices and build the necessary connections to increase their commitment to the network and support each other in our online peer communities.
We then invited the Ambassadors to replicate the experience in their home regions by holding mini-gatherings of NetSquared organizers. These events in Adelaide and Uganda were extremely successful in energizing organizers who attended and relaunching inactive groups.
But amidst all that good news we also suffered the tragic loss of Excel Asama, our veteran Cameroon organizer and Ambassador for West Africa. He will be missed.
WORKING WITH TECHSOUP
NetSquared has always been a core program of TechSoup, but sometimes the separate brand has led to some confusion about how the two identities are related. We worked hard this year to coordinate the community organizing of the NetSquared leaders with TechSoup’s programs so that we can create more impact together.
NetSquared organizers held 15 local events during TechSoup’s Storymakers campaign. We taught local nonprofits how to use digital tools to tell their stories and advance their mission and helped lead a global online conversation during our twitter chat.
This was the most successful NetSquared theme month ever, with 20 events and 464 attendees participating between October 1 and November 15. Our workshops trained local nonprofits on the basics of online privacy and security and distributed TechSoup’s guide which is available in English, French and Spanish (which is important because NetSquared is in 20 countries!)
Our February theme month focused on data. We worked with partners like Open Data Day and local Data for Good meetups to deliver nine events. NetSquared Yaoundé in Cameroon outshone us all with a huge Open Data Day with 5,000 attendees thanks to a micro-grant from the Open Knowledge Foundation.
Each NetSquared group maintains their own social media profiles and are have strong personal online networks. We leveraged these relationships and reach by including NetSquared organizers are key participants in three of TechSoup’s twitter chats.
This year we surveyed all of our key community participants, including the NetSquared organizers and our event attendees. The surveys allow us to see the impact of our global network.
The organizer survey showed that 83% respondents were satisfied or very satisfied. This is an increase from the previous year, so things are looking up!
For the first time ever we also surveyed event attendees worldwide. When asked how attending NetSquared event helps them the top answers were “Make Connections That Help Me Do My Job Better” (63%), “Make Smarter IT Decisions” (35%), and “Improve Services to Our Constituents” (35%). We are working to help our members make an even bigger impact next year.
Do you like numbers? Check this out!
NetSquared’s community continue to grow.
No. of active groups: 59 (vs 50 last year, a 18% increase)
No. of events: 629 (vs 468 last year, a 34% increase)
No. of attendees: 17,470 (vs 11,435 last year, 54% increase)
No. of Meetup.com members: 27,524 (vs 21,852 last year, a 26% increase)
I expect the number of active groups and events to continue growing in the coming year, but the number of events may stall since this year’s figures were skewed by NetSquared Yaoundé’s university-wide open data day event that brought out 5,000 attendees!
In just the last six months we’ve added groups in the following cities:
Colorado Springs, CO
Saint Louis, MO
Kansas City, MO
Check out all our groups and find your closest event by searching on NetSquared.org.
NetSquared doesn’t have a set curriculum, so every group develops their event topics based on their community’s unique challenges (although we do have a library of event “recipe cards”). This allows us to listen to the needs of local nonprofits globally, which informs the work of TechSoup and the entire NetSquared network. Recently the most popular topics include:
There are no surprises in that list. NetSquared tends to serve small and medium nonprofits who are looking for practical tips on using everyday technology. IT staff, coders and other technically-savvy innovators are engaging with other peer communities like Caravan Studios, Code for America, Random Hacks of Kindness, and DataKind.
When NetSquared was founded in 2005 there were very few projects that had the goal of building a community of nonprofit and tech activists. But as noted above there are a lot of players in the space now. That’s why we are building partnerships with other organizations to help our organizers deliver regular events. Last year we initiated informal partnerships with the following groups:
In the coming year we will work towards providing increasingly support for our community of NetSquared groups so that together we can serve TechSoup’s mission of putting technology tools and skills into the hands of nonprofits and charities so that they be more effective in delivering on their missions.