We are excited to welcome longtime NTEN Member, Ash Shepherd, to the NTEN team. As the Education Director, Ash will be responsible for overseeing and designing programs for the NTEN Community to help them transform technology into social change.
For many of you, no introductions are needed! Ash has been a go-to resource for NTEN staff and members for years. From a Tech Club organizer, to NTEN Lab facilitator, to NTC speaker, to Editorial Committee member, he has demonstrated his commitment for nearly a decade.
Learn more about Ash’s journey through the NTEN Community, lessons learned along the way, tips, and something that might surprise you about him.
1. Describe yourself in three words
Eager, Translator, Empathetic.
I am constantly driven to see the world become a better place with a knack for making connections as I speak both fluent nonprofit and technology. I am also continually grateful for the value I get when others share their insights and point of view.
2. How did you first get involved with the NTEN Community?
My first introduction to the NTEN Community was through the 501 Tech Club here in Portland, PDXTech4Good. I was initially asked to present but quickly worked my way into co-organizing with a couple of amazing women. After doing that for a number of years, I got the opportunity to be one of the initial members of the Editorial Committee for the NTEN: Change Journal. I was so proud to serve a full three-year term and get a chance to work with such an impressive group of folks to see that effort get off the ground and thrive like it is today.
I couldn’t just leave it at that. I jumped on every opportunity I could find to support the NTEN Community from volunteering at NTC conferences, facilitating NTEN Lab events about data, and most recently, participating in the Leading Change Summit. If NTEN was doing it, I wanted to support it.
3. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from your previous roles focusing on the intersection of technology and community?
How easy it is to forget that the role of technology in building community is that of simply a tool to support better connections and relationships. It is easy as a staff member trying to stay on top of everything, or for a member of the leadership team trying to sign off on a strategy, to simply focus on the technology, features, and cost. “Does this support our community and the mission?” should be the first question, not an unspoken one.
4. What about lessons learned from being a former Tech Club leader? Any organizing tips?
The biggest danger as a volunteer running an all volunteer group is taking too much on and burning out quickly. We tried to remember that in addition to being super fans of nonprofit technology, as organizers we were people with other things going on in our lives. We tried to always have 3-4 folks carry the main load, and some opportunities for others to have a role that was between organizers and participants. Some ownership and contribution, but not quite the same level of steady commitment.
The other main lesson learned was just to keep it really focused on the experience for the community. Sometimes the topic, presenter, or format just doesn’t work (I have been a part of a few bombs for sure) but as long as the conversation is open about what was learned and how to improve, it can remain a positive experience.
5. What are you most excited about as you transition into your new role on staff?
I am truly fascinated by what happens at the “intersections” of things. From how people interact with their environment, how they interact with each other, to how those interactions can be enhanced for social good through the use of technology. Working at NTEN is an opportunity to contribute to the amazing work already underway to evolve the intersection between building community and empowering nonprofits in their use of technology.
Put simply, there is nothing that could be more exciting than being a part of this community as my actual job.
6. Tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise people.
I can juggle.
I know, it doesn’t seem very surprising to me either, but the other day my wife walked into a room and saw me juggling for our kids. We have been together for more than a decade and she never knew I possessed that skill. The look on her face indicated it was, in fact, a pretty surprising thing to learn about me.