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Since 2003 NOSI has provided the nonprofit sector with information and education designed to help nonprofits leverage the benefits of using free and open source software (FOSS) in their work. As the author of the groundbreaking “Choosing and Using Free and Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits,” NOSI provides nonprofit staff and decision-makers with both tools and information, allowing them to assess free and open source software’s capacity to support the needs of their organizations.
The merger will allow the two organizations to focus their collective energies on growing free and open source capacity in the nonprofit sector, working with developers, integrators, and end users. A number of open source tools, including the Firefox web browser, the CiviCRM platform, and a range of open source web publishing systems, have reached a state of maturity that makes them excellent options for nonprofits. But much work remains to be done in supporting the creation and sustainability of FOSS options in a number of other mission-critical software categories. Aspiration and NOSI welcome the challenge.
Aspiration was honored and delighted to direct the festivities at Joomla! Day West 2008, held at Google Headquarters. The event focused on building knowledge about Joomla!, a GPL-licensed content management system which is proving increasingly popular for publishing nonprofit web sites.
The event brought together members of the Joomla! core development team, the Open Source Matters team, and almost 100 members of the Joomla! community to talk about all things Joomla!, including the upcoming 1.6 release, template and extension design, and plenty of participant-driven sessions. Aspiration employed our open licensed, collaborative event methodology to drive a fast-paced agenda focused on knowledge sharing, interactivity and community building.
Matt Garcia joins Aspiration as Community Manager for our Social Source Commons platform. Matt will maintain the SSC blog, engage users to learn how we can enhance the system to better serve their needs, and oversee community outreach for the project, working with the rest of the team to make SSC a more valuable resource for those looking for nonprofit software.
Aspiration and Idealware hosted the second Nonprofit Technology Project Management event in Oakland, California.
Managing Nonprofit Technology Projects examined the tools and best practices that help nonprofits deliver successful technology solutions - whether websites, packaged software implementations, or custom applications.
Interactive sessions and demos allowed a diverse group of participants to compare processes, tools, successes, and lessons learned. Discussion topics included team collaboration, project planning, software selection, migration, and project rollout, and mapping out software tools – from project management packages to collaborative communication to issue tracking and more – that support successful technology projects.
You can check out the agenda and session notes on the MNTP Wiki
And feel free to join the MNTP discussion list, which we’re be using to continue the dialog.
Aspiration’s skill in facilitating practitioner knowledge combined with Idealware’s experience in providing mental frameworks and research based information contributed to an informal, collaborative, and information-rich event.
What Are They Saying?
The feedback from our New York Project Management event was equally enthusiastic. Just a few of the comments from participants:
- “The event was very energizing, and renewed my enthusiasm for tackling some complex issues”
- “This gathering will inform everything I do in IT from here on.”
- “I used to be super intimidated - now I feel more empowered about what I do know and how to find answers to what I don’t”
- “It was a fun, casual, open, responsive learning environment for non-techies”
- “I learned that I’m not alone, and I can learn from a rich community of people facing similar challenges”
- “I was impressed with all that happened - it was amazing”
What were the Goals?
MNTP had three primary goals:
- To strengthen the community of practice among those who identify themselves as nonprofit technology project managers
- To enhance the knowledge and capacity of technology project managers within a rich, sharing environment
- To map out the range of tools and best practices being employed in nonprofit technology project management
Participants exchanged project management tools and techniques that they could apply to the management of many projects, and discussed project management processes – from project initiation to project planning, project execution, monitoring and control, to project closure – in the context of stories and experiences. Participants inventoried resources and best practices for nonprofit IT project management, ranging from templates to trainings, and showed useful software packages as they are used in actual nonprofits.
Significant time was spent discussing appropriate practices and processes for defining requirements in nonprofit software projects to inform the “build, buy, or rent” decisions that vex nonprofit technology managers on a regular basis.
MNTP focused on the growing community of nonprofit technology project managers by providing support to those practicing as project managers, recruiting and offering support to those new to (or bewildered by) this craft, and creating a space for the “accidental project managers” to share their stories, discover their allies, and grow into more “intentional” project managers. A significant part of the event was built around mentoring relationships; experienced individuals with knowledge and stories to share collaborated with participants who wanted to learn more.
Participants were encouraged to bring real-world projects to MNTP, and were met with some real-time project management, coaching, and assessment.
What was on the Agenda?
The agenda was designed specifically to ensure participants interacted with and learned from each other, while also providing solid grounding in essential topics. The following workshops were included in the proceedings:
- Nonprofit Technology Project Management 101: For those who self-identify as new to the discipline, this session provided an overview of nonprofit technology project management. Essential topics, truths, and tools were presented, with the second half of the session employing a question-driven format.
- Anatomy of a Well-Managed Technology Project: Drawing from case studies good, bad and ugly, this session focused on key aspects of successful project management. The primary take-away was guidelines on how project managers can maintain control of their projects.
- Designing and Redesigning Web Sites: Any nonprofit that has published a web site understands the frustrating nature of the process. This session considered how best to take on the task of casting organizational identity on the web while also serving target audiences and delivering value to web visitors accordingly.
- What Should a Web Site Cost? One of the most vexing questions in any project is “what are appropriate costs for technology and labor?” This session utilized anecdotal data and participant input to explore costing for different types of web sites, from simple “brochure-ware” sites to custom, database-backed applications and points in between.
- Mapping Communication Tools to Tasks: There are a range of ways to collaborate with partners and stakeholders in any project. But which tools work best for which types of collaboration? This session will sort out appropriate times to employ email, instant messaging and chat, wikis, phone calls, file sharing, forums and other tools.
- Using Wikis for Effective Collaboration: Over the past several years, wikis have demonstrated their value as a key tool in certain project management processes. This session mapped out best practices and techniques for successfully utilizing wiki technology for project collaboration. Also discussed was when not to use wikis, and when more structured information sharing tools are advisable.
- Selecting and Recommending Tools – The Idealware Process: Laura Quinn described the Idealware methodology for gathering collective software knowledge in specific software categories, as well as their approach to assessing tools and evaluating appropriate uses. Case studies detailed past tool reports, and participants work through key steps in the Idealware process, in a software category decided by the group in the session.
- Managing Nonprofit Software Development Projects: While a best practice for nonprofits technologists is to try and utilize existing tools and services, there are invariably times when the appropriate tools and applications don’t exist. But software development is not a core competency of most nonprofits, and too often nonprofit software development efforts spiral out of control or end in less-than-complete realization of vision. This session will explore how best to get from concept to running code with out losing focus on mission.
- Managing Consultants and Dealing with Vendors: This peer sharing workshop invited participants to compare their processes and tactics for managing critical project relationships that fall outside of organizational boundaries.
- Horrific Tales of Miserable Project Management Failure: Nothing is more instructive than the mistakes of others. Participants will be invited to swap stories and cautionary tales of the many speed bumps, pot holes, and multi-vehicles pile-ups on the road to project management success.
- A Whirlwind Discussion of Project Management Software Utilities: This fast-paced session allowed participants to share the various project management utilities available, including time tracking, task management, source code control, and more.
- Software Share: Basecamp, MS Project, DreamTeam and more – Nonprofit practitioners provided a variety of 10-15 minute software demos to allow participants to see the packages in real-life situations and compare the strengths and weaknesses.
Stay informed about key dates and registration information by signing up for our low-volume announcements list
Help to shape the agenda and focus by joining the agenda discussion list.
Want more information?
As anyone familiar with our work knows, Aspiration is passionate about delivering high-quality technology events to a broad range of social change communities and sectors. But we’re usually so busy designing and facilitating the agendas that we rarely enjoy the opportunity to step back and reflect on either our methodology or the specific learnings and outcomes from the events themselves.
Thanks to the generous support of some of our favorite funders, we’ve taken the time to publish two papers about our work and learnings in the field of nonprofit/nongovernmental technology gatherings.
Creating Participatory Events: Aspiration has organized and facilitated over 60 interactive and collaborative events focused on technology for social change. These convenings have shared a common, participant-driven agenda format and philosophy that focus on maximizing collaboration and peer sharing. Shuttleworth Foundation has generously underwritten the authoring of a paper documenting this approach to the creation of participatory events. The paper is divided into conceptual and practical sections; general guidelines and how-to’s for participatory events are presented, followed by a case study based on the Open Education Track at the 2007 iSummit in Dubrovnik. We invite you to have a read, and to share your reflections, reactions, and critique!
Good to Great FOSS: Learnings from Africa details learning outcomes from the Good to Great FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2007. Several of the Open Source projects funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) were invited to come together in a workshop to talk and learn about what constitutes good practice in developing an Open Source project in Africa. This paper documents the state of open source software development in Africa from the perspective of the projects that participated in Good to Great FOSS. In addition, the paper includes an overview of best practices for open source development in the African context as detailed by event participants, as well as a summary of recommendations made at the event on how to better support and propagate open source efforts in Africa.
Penguin Day New Orleans was a grand success! Participants explored the potential and the role of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in nonprofit organizations, in sessions designed to answer questions and curiosities!
What in the world is a Penguin Day?
Are you passionate or curious about the reality, the potential and the role of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in nonprofit organizations? Do you want to learn about latest free and open web publishing tools and technologies? Would you like to meet other like-minded and passionate participants, including developers, activists, and nonprofit “techies”?
Penguin Day New Orleans will bring together nonprofit technology staff with free and open source software (FOSS) developers for a day of learning and conversation.
We’ll explore and explain open source for nonprofits, frankly address the challenges of developing open source tools for nonprofits, and celebrate strengths and successes of open source in the nonprofit sector. Leading open source innovators in the nonprofit sector will share their stories and knowledge, and focus on answering your questions!
If you are curious about open source software for your nonprofit organization, Penguin Days are for you!
Who organized Penguin Day in New Orleans?
What will I take away from Penguin Day?
Penguin Day features a packed agenda of interactive workshops, round tables, and “SpeedGeeks.” Topics include:
- Introduction to Free and Open Source Software for Nonprofits
- Local resources and who’s-who in the Free/Open Source community
- Helping techies and non-techies communicate
- Overview of Free and Open Source desktop applications
- e-Advocacy platforms
- Making sense of Free and Open Source Content Management Systems
- Healthy and Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities
- How Users Can Influence FOSS Development
- Business Models for FOSS developers and providers
- Content Management System (CMS) Crash Courses — Plone, Joomla, and Drupal
- Creative Commons and Open Content
- SpeedGeeking (a lively tour of projects and tools)
What Are Others Saying About Penguin Days?
“I had a wonderful time at Penguin Day. It was one of the best IT related conferences I’ve been to. I’m definitely in a position to help my current and future non-profits with MUCH needed tools. I thank y’all on their behalf. Keep up the good work and positive energy.” - Steve Garrison, SolarBoy.org
“Penguin Day was great - I had an excellent day - made new friends, put a lot of faces to email addresses, had a whole load of fun - and got introduced to some new applications and distributions! Thanks again to everyone who organised the day, ran sessions etc - it made my 4,500 mile trip worthwhile!” - Ian, from London, UK
“Penguin Days are a fantastic opportunity to get together with a wide variety of people and understand more about the issues that surround open source. Unlike a lot of conference/gatherings, the emphasis in these is on meeting people and making connections that you carry out of them room. And that works.” - Marnie from San Francisco
“Now on to Penguin Day… Wow. For my part I was impressed by the international scope of the audience, folks from Great Britain, Canada, Kenya, Turkey, Ghana, Chicago and all points in between. The energy was great and the range of topics on the agenda meant there was something for everyone….suffice it to say Penguin Day set the mark against which all other events will be measured in my mind.” - John from Chicago
Since 2004, Penguin Days have been held in Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon; London, England; Toronto, Canada, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Texas and Seattle.
Hundreds of nonprofit staff, programmers, and activists have attended Penguin Days. Penguin Days feature humorous “SpeedGeeking” sessions (playfully modeled after speed-dating) to bring programmers and organizations together to learn more about each other and free and open source software.
The Penguin is the symbol adopted in the early days of Linux as the mascot of this growing software movement.
To register for an upcoming Penguin Day, go to www.penguinday.org.
About Aspiration: Aspiration, connects nonprofit organizations with software solutions that help them better carry out their work. We want nonprofit organizations to obtain and use the best software to maximize their effectiveness and impact so that they, in turn, can change the world. We identify what is available and what is missing in NGO software arena, and foster relationships, delivery systems, and sustainability strategies between NGOs around the world.
About PICnet: PICnet, empowers the missions of non-profits through the use of unique open source software solutions. PICnet moves beyond the nuts and bolts of technology, rising to find new and effective ways to assist organizations in meeting their goals.
About NOSI: NOSI was formed with three goals: to facilitate and encourage the use of free and open source software in the nonprofit sector, to bring nonprofit organizations together with free and open source developers and projects in ways that both can benefit, and to promote the understanding of the ways in which the fundamental values of each are similar.