Posted on October 3, 2016 by Josh Tong - Theory and practice
International development organizations are full of smart, pragmatic people. But just as the rise of digital has disrupted public, private, and nonprofit organizations in other sectors, digital poses fundamental challenges to the international development community.
In the rush to implement projects and demonstrate progress, international development organizations have created a confusing ecosystem of websites, logos, microsites, apps, campaigns, social media channels, publications, e-mail lists, and knowledge portals, often in response to donor organizations’ requests.
When the funding runs out or interest shifts, it often seems easier and less expensive just to abandon the old assets and commission new ones. This vicious cycle generates financial costs, security risks, privacy risks, and legal risks while undermining the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Fortunately, we do not need to invent a solution to these problems. Organizations in other sectors have experienced similar growing pains as they’ve become more digitally mature. It’s time for the international development community to take the next step as well by embracing content strategy. Read more . . .
In the fall, I joined an international development NGO in DC to lead digital strategy. We’re a midsized NGO, with offices in twenty countries. Before the organization created my position, the communications team had only two full-time employees and an intern.
Here are some of the activities that we’ve tackled during the past nine months:
- Conducted lean research on a rolling basis
- Adopted a phased approach to renovating our website
- Drafted a digital strategy, digital roadmap, and digital guidelines
- Conducted training sessions and held brown-bag discussions
- Obtained approval to develop a digital governance framework
If we can do it, there’s a good chance that your nonprofit can, too. I’d like to share some of the steps that we’ve taken so far—and some of the resources that we’ve consulted—to better achieve our mission. Read more . . .
It seems that many nonprofits install Google Analytics but don’t know what to do with it. Fortunately, there are many things that nonprofits can do to make Google Analytics much more useful. In this post, I’ll describe how to get started with five features:
- Event tracking
- Campaigns (with Google URL Builder)
- Goals (with conversion funnels)
- E-commerce tracking
- Custom dashboards
I’ll also share some ways that I use Google Analytics at an international NGO, and I’ll walk you through the process of identifying the metrics that matter most to your organization. Read more . . .
Posted on June 23, 2015 by Josh Tong - Tools and resources
Mobile devices, cloud computing, real-time reporting, and emerging technologies all have the potential to help reduce poverty and inequality around the world. The international development community refers to this as ICT4D, information and communication technologies for development.
Compiling a list of open-source solutions could help NGOs and civil-society organizations to discover free platforms and tools, extend existing solutions, and avoid duplicating each other’s work. It could also help organizations avoid getting locked into long-term relationships with individual vendors.
Let’s create a list together. Read more . . .
Photo by John O’Bryan/USAID, CC BY-ND 2.0
Posted on February 24, 2015 by Josh Tong - Theory and practice
I’ve been thinking about a question that Sara Wachter-Boettcher recently posed:
Our web-team processes may be more collaborative and iterative than ever—we may be sketching, testing, adapting, and prototyping. But how often are the people who’ll live out our strategies and manage content for the long term . . . included in that process?
She offers great advice about how hands-on workshops can be much more effective than traditional training sessions. I agree that it is far better to build a solution with, not for, the people who need to own it. And as Wachter-Boettcher points out, there are about a million opportunities throughout a project to include other teams in your team’s process.
I believe that one of the most important opportunities occurs at the very outset of a project, before the teams have even agreed to work together.
This is the perfect time to stop and ask each other, “What style of collaboration is right for this project? How can we work better across teams, not just within them?” Read more . . .
Design thinking allows teams to broaden their perspective by learning about their users’ needs. Teams can then redefine problems from their users’ point of view, generate fresh ideas, and test prototypes with the people who will use the final product or service.
Unfortunately, design thinking makes many organizations uncomfortable. So how can we introduce design thinking in a nonthreatening way? One inexpensive but powerful method is journey mapping. Read more . . .
Posted on June 22, 2014 by Josh Tong - Theory and practice
There’s no shortage of frameworks and methodologies that promise to improve communication. They streamline workflows, they reassure clients, and they produce standardized deliverables within predictable time frames. But they can also stifle creativity, lead to cookie-cutter solutions, and even fail to ask the right questions.
It’s easy to create a plan. It’s harder to solve a problem. What most frameworks lack is room for design thinking. Read more . . .