Welcome to the Nonprofits & Data CoP! We (Janice Chan and Judy Freed) are the co-organizers and we're excited to meet you! There are all sorts of smart, curious and skilled people in this group – and a broad array of nonprofits, data, and ways in which we use data to make the world a better place.
Please introduce yourself! Here are a few ideas to get you started, but feel free to say whatever you would like the group to know!
Janice & Judy------------------------------Janice ChanProgram & Curriculum Development ManagerCal Ripken, Sr. FoundationBaltimore MD------------------------------
And of course, I can't ask you without sharing a little about myself!
Feel free to reach out to me via this forum or on Twitter @curiositybone.
Looking forward to meeting the rest of you!
Janice------------------------------Janice ChanProgram & Curriculum Development ManagerCal Ripken, Sr. FoundationBaltimore MD------------------------------
Let's make it a roll call. If you haven't posted in a while, say hello! (However you like – with or without the prompts.)
Marketing Strategist, Alliance for the Great Lakes
Co-Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data CoP
Janice------------------------------Janice ChanProgram & Curriculum Development ManagerCal Ripken, Sr. FoundationBaltimore MD------------------------------Original Message:Sent: 10-08-2015 12:29From: Janice ChanSubject: Introductions
Name: Isaac Shalev
From: Stamford, CT - just outside of NYC, but part of leafy, lovely, New England
Work: I lead Sage70 a consultancy devoted making technology work for non-profits. We do a lot of work around development databases/CRMs, fundraising consulting, marketing automation, and convincing orgs to consider alternatives to Salesforce. We work with data, but mostly, we help organizations work backwards from goals and objectives to data and metrics, and help ensure that the right data is identified, captured, and analyzed in meaningful ways. I like to say we turn data into knowledge.
Hoping to Learn: I think we're all here to be able to ask and answer questions, and participate in a broader community of like-minded people. It's great to learn new techniques, new tools, and new ideas. But mostly, I like to learn where organizations are trying to get to, how they're changing their views on data, and what obstacles stand in their way to getting more out of data and analysis.
Walk-up Song: Beautiful Day, U2
Facebook Status: Data and I are in an open relationship - we both need other partners, like training, policy, process, support, strategy, budget, mission and vision to truly feel complete.
I'm a professional data analyst and software developer. Started with mainframes, then minicomputers, then PC's. Now databases.
I'm always curious how people solve their problems with data. I also continue to be astounded at the amount of menial work people accept because they do not understand there are better ways.
Here are my stats:
Hi Doug - Nice to officially meet you. The epidemiology data mining sounds so cool! I, too, am surprised at how much manual work people do when they don't understand there are easy ways to automate. In most of the nonprofits I've worked with, though, people seem very open to streamlining. And there's certainly a receptive audience for streamlining here at NTEN!
I am software engineer in a professional environment using my skills to help a local food pantry.
Welcome, Kent! Sounds like you're doing some important work for the food pantry!
Name: Nathan Gasser
Where you're from: The rolling hills outside Philadelphia, PA
What kind of data do you work with: Research data / facts & figures (global health statistics, labor market info, campaign & election data, ...)
What are you hoping to learn? We help organizations make their data available and understandable to their audience. So I'm always studying how people react to and interact with data to learn new ways of telling stories with data. I also love to see what other people and organizations are doing and how the results of these efforts support the mission of the organization.
If you had a walk-up or entrance song, it would be…"I've Got It Made" by John Anderson
If you and data were Facebook official, your relationships status would be: Married to my high school sweetheart
------------------------------Nathan GasserPresident / Owner, Rock River StarData Driven Storytelling /Content & Communication Strategy for Nonprofits, Foundations, Global & Public Health------------------------------
I've been a member of NTEN for a while but not active on discussions. I would like to do so to connect with others in a similar line of work.
------------------------------Betty McKibbenBia PartnersMarietta GA------------------------------
Wow, this is great! I just learned about NTEN when I was asked to write an article and am already loving this space!
Great to hear from you, Cindy, Betty and Nathan. I love the play list we could create from all our songs!
We're definitely going to need that playlist for our CoP happy hour at #16NTC in March...
------------------------------Nathan GasserPresident / Owner, Rock River StarData Driven Storytelling \Content & Communication Strategy for Nonprofits, Foundations, Global & Public Health
------------------------------Nathan GasserPresident / Owner, Rock River StarData Driven Storytelling \Content & Communication Strategy for Nonprofits, Foundations, Global & Public HealthOriginal Message:Sent: 10-16-2015 10:52From: Judy FreedSubject: Introductions
Started (please let me know if it should be another version): NTEN Nonprofits & Data CoP Walk-up Songs, a playlist by curiositybone on Spotify
However, it's currently not even a happy quarter-hour playlist...could we get some help filling out this list?
Hi all! New to the CoP so wanted to say hello and join in the introductions.
Hello Isaac and welcome Andi! So glad that you mentioned process and data's other partners. Also, some great additions to our playlist! :)
Name: Stacy Clinton
Where you're from: I work in Palo Alto, CA. Spent most of my life in the Bay Area, with stints in Bordeaux, Boston, and Los Angeles.
What kind of data do you work with and how: Constituent data and list segmentation, Google Analytics and AdWords data, social media data, grant data... I touch it all, but with very little strategy. I'm hoping to solidify processes and make it easier for everyone. We don't do fundraising and we don't have direct programs to manage, but we need to measure the impact of our communications and our grants. On the flip side, we have a website called www.kidsdata.org where we curate public data about child health and well-being in CA and make it available in many forms for others to use on behalf of kids. We try to advocate for data to be made open and accessible to the public, and we also try to make our site very user-friendly with lots of data visualization tools.
What are you hoping to learn? How other orgs are creating systems to track internal data. How people work with open data. How to measure the impact of our work.
If you had a walk-up or entrance song, it would be… Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin (no reason really, except I love that song)
If you and data were Facebook official, your relationships status would be... it's complicated. I have concerns about privacy and our society's over-sharing of personal information with companies who are motivated to use it for monetary gain. It's nice to be able to use it for social good, but I worry that we are giving up too much... maybe we already have?
I've been actively monitoring the NTEN goings on for years. After starting out life as a social worker, I drank the "Cloud Kool Aid" in 2005 and have since been helping folks leverage the efficiencies of the Cloud via Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) products. My initial efforts to get the non-profit community interested in Cloud Computing were not well received (I offered a workshop on it at NTEN New Orleans a LONG time ago that was attended by three folks!) so I moved on to folks in the corporate world who were more open to this particular approach to IT design. Since then, I've been lucky enough to work with folks on leveraging emerging cloud technologies and capacity. In my view, the pace of innovation is mind blowing.
I'm wondering again whether or not we can get a few folks together who would be interested in trying to give birth to a "Non Profit IT Cooperative". The high level concept is an infrastructure that is owned and operated by and for it's non-profit members. Like an apartment coop, it's a multi-tenant place where like minded organizations are pooling resources with others for the benefit of all. I see what small businesses are doing in this new paradigm and would love to see non-profits doing similar stuff. A small non-profit may not have the wherewithal to deploy something like Power BI dashboards to decision makers and case managers, as an example, but if the tool set, developers and training was included in the "rent", maybe they could. I also envision member/tenants contributing uniform meta-data for slicing and dicing by folks who know what they are doing for studies of things like clinical success.
If anyone would be interested in talking about the concept, I'd love to participate. Even if you think it's the worst idea ever, I would love to hear why.
Well, you had me at playlist. How could I not join in such a great thread? It's been such fun to get to know people...and learning more those I've met around the group. Here's me:
Hello Stacy, Paul, and Megan! Some interesting ideas, such as the co-op idea, and food for thought, like privacy concerns--both in terms of the data we might be sharing for the sake of convenience, or the data we may be collecting on others and how we use or store or share that data. If you're working with data in health care or within an institutional research setting, there are certain rules and protocols, but there's a lot of areas without such guidelines. Glad to have you all join us in this conversation!
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I know it might be hard to believe, but today's multi-tenant infrastructures are flexible and secure enough to be fully HIPAA compliant while still being able to benefit from pooled resources. It's kind of along the lines of a bunch of individual companies sharing an office park. They are each separate entities and need to be secure in their own right. Now that they are pooling resources they can, as an example, get a 24 hour security guard to watch over the place for the good of everyone. One could argue that each business is individually now MORE secure in this scenario. Now that we can easily and inexpensively build separate and distinct virtual infrastructures that pull from a dynamically shared fabric of resources, it can work the same way.
While there are monumental challenges to building a non-profit IT cooperative, I'd argue that "security" and "separation" isn't the deal breaker. The way I see it, the paradigm has changed. We can start to think about doing things with shared meta-data and non-profits that we couldn't until very recently. One of the biggest bars that historically hampered the non-profit world's ability to benefit from advances in data analysis technology, the cost of the technology itself, is now dramatically lower. Imagine if we had dozens of drug treatment centers feeding PII redacted treatment plans, counseling transcripts, etc. data to a common database so smart folks can slice and dice it to derive insights into the long term clinical success of individual programs and behavior modification techniques. If that never happens, it would be because we can't get enough non-profits that want to know and/or resources for the database developers to set up SQL, et.al. to do it. It would NOT be because we couldn't afford the servers, switches, firewalls, software, cabling, etc. in a data center that we'd need. We can get those going for nothing.
It's kind of along the lines of a bunch of individual companies sharing an office park. They are each separate entities and need to be secure in their own right. Now that they are pooling resources they can, as an example, get a 24 hour security guard to watch over the place for the good of everyone. One could argue that each business is individually now MORE secure in this scenario.
Paul, this is a great analogy that helps illustrate a concern I have. In the above example, if you had 10 organizations (businesses or non-profits) who wanted to share the benefits of an office park, it would be critical to have the team building, managing, leasing, securing, and cleaning it be a team skilled and focussed on doing that.
If one of the partners, say an office-supply store or an animal rescue shelter, took on all the various responsibilities of managing that office park -- even if they hired a dedicated team of individuals with years of experience just doing that -- that partner risks diluting their own focus and compromising their own effectiveness at their mission, trying to serve what started out as a simple cost-saving initiative.
If instead the partners created a new organization tasked solely with managing that office park, it would be important to consider whether the overhead represented by this new organization justified the cost savings returned to the partners. That is, would these 10 organizations be better off moving into existing office parks rather than undertaking the effort of commissioning and governing a new organization? There might be particular commonalities and synergies that make these 10 organizations benefit from being in the same office park, but does that limit their flexibility if -- for example -- the group initially chooses 6am-10pm security, and a year later one partner determines they need 24-hour security?
In full disclosure I must point out:
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I personally think that this is a great conversation to have and appreciate the chance to engage.
“In the above example, if you had 10 organizations (businesses or non-profits) who wanted to share the benefits of an office park, it would be critical to have the team building, managing, leasing, securing, and cleaning it be a team skilled and focused on doing that.”
That’s 100% accurate and, as I see it, a large part of why you’d want to pool resources in the first place. The “management team” performs all the “keeping the lights on” stuff so the organization can spend their IT resources solving their unique business problems. As the “maintenance team”, for example, I can reset a password for a user that’s forgotten it, upgrade everyone to Office 2016 or research and fix a failed Windows Server Update without knowing a thing about your business. Whatever time you spend doing that kind of housekeeping I think is a waste of valuabvle knowledge resources. You should be spending your time using the unique knowledge of your workflow and pain points that I’ll never have.
-- that partner risks diluting their own focus and compromising their own effectiveness at their mission, trying to serve what started out as a simple cost-saving initiative.
It’s not about saving money at all. It’s about giving smaller folks who otherwise couldn’t a chance to better leverage technology as a strategic asset. The office park analogy is OK, but it’s not perfect. On this level, I’d offer up a hipster Brooklyn “food coop” as a better one. If you join a food coop maybe it’s because you want a trusted source for organic, locally grown heirloom tomatoes. It’s probably not because you want the cheapest tomato. There’s Aldi for that.
it would be important to consider whether the overhead represented by this new organization justified the cost savings returned to the partners
That’s true. As with any cooperative, the owner/members would have to make cost/benefit decisions collectively and regularly. Do you want the Microsoft Dynamics ERP system to dynamically update your company’s Visio Organizational Chart when a new hire is made? Of course you do. Is that worth $X? That’s up to the collective.
There might be particular commonalities and synergies that make these 10 organizations benefit from being in the same office park, but does that limit their flexibility if….
There is always going to be some limit on what you can do within your “unit” I suppose, but I can’t remember many specific instances where that’s happened in practice. The question for everyone is whether those limits are offset by the benefits. Some folks yes, some no I’d reckon. If you live in a condo complex, you might get a Jacuzzi to use but you probably can’t paint your lanai railing any color you want. That’s OK with some folks, but a deal breaker for others.
A bigger problem was that it used to be much harder to bill companies individually for the compute resources that they used. One company with 20 users, for example, could be using 3x more CPU than a company with 40 users and we had no way to fairly parse that out. Now we can do that kind of stuff. In fact, I recently saved a company a lot of money because they needed crazy high resources during the day, but almost none at night. Since they had to build for peak, it meant they were buying resources that sat around doing nothing most of the time. Since the only time I can promise you that your server won’t be compromised is when it’s off, and we can now bill by the compute hour, they get something that’s more secure and costs much less. That doesn’t happen all that much!
As far as the synergies of the charter coop members, I think that’s monumentally important, especially at first. My personal vision would be a collective of several drug treatment centers that are willing to capture and share data with the hope of gaining insights into what’s working best clinically for which demographics. Most likely, very few drug treatment centers could afford to implement a system that could do that on their own. Maybe with 10 or so teaming up, though, they could.
Don’t misunderstand, Nathan, I know how crazy this sounds. It’s just that in the past even if you could get past the MONUMENTAL challenges of setting up a management structure, getting charter members on board, etc. you’d still need a huge budget just for the hardware, software, data center, firewall, cabling, etc. That last part is no longer true, but I have no idea if that matters.
Quick story, when I set up our first IaaS infrastructure in 2005, it took nearly a year and $500,000. We’re still paying that off if you ask our accountant. I recently put together a build in Azure with the exact same capacity, scalability, availability, etc. (even more of all that stuff in reality). It took less than a week (I didn’t work on it exclusively though) and my compute bill was UNDER $5. That’s because I only fired the servers up when I was working on them. I think it's a major paradigm shift that some nonprofits could leverage.
PS we should probably start a new thread if we are going to take it further. If anything doesn't make sense, please forgive me. The Mets had me up WAY past my bedtime last night.
Great give and take and some good points/food for thought both. However, Paul, I do agree with you that a new thread would be a good idea if you would like to continue the conversation.
For everyone else, if you have an idea or topic you would like to explore with the smart folks within the Nonprofits & Data CoP, please--introduce yourself here but feel free to start new threads!
Seems to me that SaaS models and other kinds of commoditized/productized sharing like WeWork are a strong model for overcoming the barriers to collaboration. The terms of the collaboration are sharply defined, so NPOs spend less time hammering out a shared structure. The hub-and-spoke model of responsibility, with the vendor at the center responsible to some SLA, matches with traditional vendor relationships. The community layer, the areas where nonprofits interact with one another, whether that's the WeWork lounge or the SaaS message boards and conferences, provide opportunities to connect and collaborate, and that's entirely divorced from the turf fights or frictions that arise from the sharing of a scarce resource in more traditional nonprofit collaborations. Are there opportunities to extend this model further in the nonprofit space?
I sure think so. What I’m fantasizing about is a shared, Enterprise Class infrastructure (IaaS) in which all data and resources are created, accessed and stored in the data center. It’s shared in such a way that it leverages economy of scale. As a basic example, let’s say we had 20 residential drug treatment centers each with 50 end users and an IT budget of $75,000. That’s 1,000 users and $1.5 million a year collectively if my math is right. As I’m sure you’d agree, you’re not going to be able to do much for your end users if you’ve got 50 of them and 75K a year to work with. You probably aren’t going to be able to be slicing and dicing unstructured treatment plan and notes data to gain insight into what mix of group vs. individual therapies are most successful given different cohorts.
My “wholesale” costs as I write this of providing a complete infrastructure - from the presentation layer (desktop) on up - for a typical non-profit comes to about $27 a month per user. In a cooperative (where nobody needs to make money), that means that the cost of a common base infrastructure equal or exceeding what many folks have today would run around $324,000 a year. That includes the licenses, backup, break fix support, antivirus, Office 2016, etc. That means we’d have, as a cooperative, $1.176 million annually to spend on other things. Those other things would (hopefully) include database developers, SQL Instances, data analysts, ERP, CRM, etc.
Hey, do you want to start a new thread? I'd love to continue the dialogue, even if it's just you and me paying attention. I appreciate your analysis and wet blanketing.
I'm still here, Paul. ;-)
I think that my dog in the race is about scale. We all agree on the premise that a way for NPOs to pool resources and lower the cost of technology maintenance is a good goal, and the cloud solutions available put that type of savings in reach. And I think that there are nonprofits that could benefit from the kind of shared private cloud pitch that you're making. But I think that most small and/or budget-constrained nonprofit can do more than just move to scalable cloud infrastructures, but also drop a lot of the technical requirements placed on them by going to SaaS solutions. It's what I'm doing with my 100 user organization. We are significantly lowering the cost and complexity of our internal technology by outsourcing everything to Salesforce, Box and Office 365. There are certainly still orgs that need traditional networks like the type that you describe, but there's liability and expense in your model that, depending on the NPOs comfort and ability to outsource to larger cloud services, will be more cost-effective and sustainable.