On the road with iTaNGO

IT awareness for NGOs (iTaNGO) project logoThe pressure for social services and community organisations to do more for less is a mantra that’s not restricted to New Zealand. After being in Australia a couple of days this very phrase has cropped up many times.

More effective use of ICT is being turned to as a way of helping organisations do the more bit. It’s a little unclear if the adoption of new ways of using ICT will achieve the less bit.

Whatever the reason, here in Victoria people are lining up to understand how they can get better at using digital technology. There is a real thirst for knowledge and advice relevant to the sector.

This was really evident at an iTaNGO primmer session I attended in Bendigo on Tuesday 31 May 2011 as a guest of Infoxchange. The Melbourne based social enterprise are traveling throughout the state delivering a programme of awareness raising and training sessions.

In the first round, leaders are urged to think about ICT as a strategic asset within their organisation, and take steps to shift to greater levels of digital proficiency. Planning, budgeting, staff training are key areas for attention.

A subsequent round of training will address planning in more depth, and support the creation of locally run Community of Practices (CoP). Each of these CoPs will be offered training and allocated a $10,000 grant to get started.

The approach Andrew Mahar and his team are taking seems really appropriate to the sector. It’s about engaging people in co-creating their own solutions, particularly in terms of advice and support. iTaNGO offers a framework within which to contribute and elicit support A series of workshops might be good in the short-term, but long-term ways of providing mutual support are essential as achieving digital proficiency is a process not a one-off activity.

Hearing that everyone is more or less in same boat, with most organisations facing big challenges to increase their digital proficiency, seemed to be a reassuring message. Don’t worry you’re not alone.

People filled in a short seven question self-assessment which gets to the heart of their organisation’s level of digital proficiency. It’s great to boil things down to the essence, as a 50 page ereadiness document I saw recently would put most people off. The approach is more about being accessible that exhaustive.

Everyone was encouraged to take back the self-assessment to their organisation and invite staff, board members to fill, to get a collective snapshot of where things are at. These and other tools are available an the iTaNGO knowledgebase.

Already over 300 organisations have attended iTaNGO sessions, with the tenth one being run Friday. If the response at Bendigo session is anything to go by, the iTaNGO project will get people dancing in the aisles as they shimmy along to greater levels of digital proficiency.