Tag: Leading Change Summit

I have always found conferences to be both the most exciting and a somewhat puzzling part of my professional development throughout the years. The chance to get out of “the norm” of my day-to-day work at my organization is always refreshing, as a chance to gain renewed perspective. For many years, I also found that I often had a few spark or “aha” moments at each conference. Sadly, they didn’t always have the staying power to significantly impact my work.

Over time, I came to realize that to truly get the most value out of a conference experience, I needed to put more intention into what I did leading up to, at, and following a conference event. I know it sounds obvious now, but these are not things people tell you. Usually, a supervisor would simply say, “Yah, that looks good. Go, absorb, get smarter, and come back better at your job,” and that is exactly what I would attempt to do.

As I progressed in my career, and the nonprofit technology field in general, I found that my role was more and more consistently as a presenter at conferences and less on the participant aspect. If I wasn’t running a session, I was trying to network or volunteer. While I greatly enjoy this side of things and find good value in this, I have increasingly missed a chance to grow myself and find those “aha” moments like little treasures in unexpected sessions. Professional development now usually happens by myself reading blogs, books, and participating in online learning communities. I really miss the in-person aspect of learning from and with other people.

It turns out there are other folks who have been having a similar experience at conferences—lots of other people.

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Being part of the team evolving the 2015 Leading Change Summit (LCS) has been a fantastic way to create a learning experience that gets at some of these challenges. There are three things in particular that I really like.

Come With Context

The whole premise of the LCS is to come with a challenge and leave with a solution. While I usually come to a conference knowing a few of the sessions I want to attend, they can often still be scattered across topics. Knowing that my entire multi-day experience is centered around solving one particular challenge really does help set the context in my own personal reality.

I start every one of my trainings asking people to find their working example for the day so as to help keep them focused as we move through content. This allows them to ask their most important questions and have a better chance of leaving with really actionable next steps.

Imagine the value of doing that for an entire conference and not just a one hour training. That’s the LCS.

Facilitated Flow

During a multi-day conference, it can be fun to hop around between topic areas—from mobile applications to email metrics to organizational culture. The challenge comes in successfully connecting the dots between sessions that were created in isolation of each other. Certainly connections can be found, but it often feels impossible to do so, because the time and space needed to properly digest it all simply doesn’t exist after you leave the conference and get back to your daily responsibilities. This is all the more amplified as you come back to a backlog of tasks because you know…you were gone at a conference.

That is precisely why we built that process directly into the program flow of the LCS. Having multiple touchpoints throughout each day with your hub—a time with peers and a dedicated facilitator—helps connect those dots while you are in the process. Imagine dedicated time to think. This allows you to step away from the conference with more of a finished product rather than the making of a major “homework” assignment to get to that point.

A Hint of “Choose Your Own Adventure”

Frameworks are things I talk about all the time. We want to make sure a structure is in place to set you up for strategic success, but the structure should have enough flexibility that each organization can apply their own style to meet their unique needs. By adding workshop opportunities that allow folks to step outside their facilitated hubs, attendees can do just that. Attendees can choose from select workshops on topics that fit their particular needs and help them build their ideal solution.

Taking Ownership For the Outcomes

Overall, the idea is to create a conference experience that moves those unspoken “secrets of success” out of the implied discussion and puts them front and center. Sure, the idea of “your own private strategic planning retreat” sounds great, but it also accurately describes the advantage of making the experience your own from the start.

Interested in learning more about the Leading Change Summit and how all these pieces are going to come together? Be sure to check out the summit website, ask questions in the comments, or shoot us an email (events@nten.org).

For this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

Data: the answer to my prayers and the bane of my existence. Data can guide strategy and overwhelm you to the point of inaction. If you don’t have the systems in place to mine and analyze it, all that wonderful, insightful information becomes as useful as pretty much everything Amazon had on sale for Prime Day.

Every minute, there is a ridiculous amount of new data being created—from social media posts to emails to videos and photos. I can see the breadth of the data I have access to for my organization. I know there are answers in there that will establish efficiencies and reduce expenses—in the end, making us better at what we do and allowing us to solve big problems.

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If you’re new to data, I would recommend the Getting Started With Data-Driven Decision Making: A Workbook that NTEN and Idealware created. This tool helps you cut through all of the information coming at you and helps focus your priorities into four main areas:

  • Collecting and understanding outcomes data
  • Strategies for collecting high-quality data
  • Combining metrics to tell the story of your organization’s programs
  • How to make that story relevant to different stakeholders.

In case you need a little inspiration to keep moving forward in solving your data management challenges, here’s a great recent Connect post by Oz du Soleil.

Maybe you’re organization is in the same place I am on the data management journey. We are great at collecting data. We know our click-through rates, open rates, and bounce rates. Our surveys are complete and identify impact and areas for expansion. We’re tracking our time on different initiatives and programs. We can show how we are helping our constituency and our greater community. We can tell a story.

However, for better or for worse, we don’t have a cohesive place, system, or process to house all of this information so it is easily accessible and nimble. That, to me, is the next mountain to climb, and I believe we can improve what we do and how we do it without it obliterating a budget.

That is why I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to attend the Leading Change Summit. This conference is about me—and you—and even what we could do together. I have a good feeling that my fellow attendees will understand this data dilemma. Hopefully, if you are trying to solve these same global data problems or you have ideas, you’ll join me to brainstorm the possibilities.

It’s this idea of collaboration in strategic planning that has me most excited. When nonprofit leaders and changemakers get together in one room, big things can happen: Ideas, shared learning, partnerships – the opportunities are endless. LCS facilitates attendees towards solutions, before, during, and after the Summit.

For this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

Information technology (and especially the Internet) have helped to remove geographic barriers that once defined working teams. Organizations of all sizes are finding that the benefits of distributed teams outweigh the risks and weaknesses. At Community IT, we have come to rely on distributed teams as core to our business operations. For us, this started with long-time staff moving away from the Washington, DC area. These incredibly talented and experienced staff remained committed to the mission of the company and wanted to continue working from their new location.

A decade ago, this would not have been possible, given that our primary service was on-site support of nonprofit networks. The tools did not yet exist for doing this work remotely. That limitation has since changed significantly. Some of the main technological factors behind this change include:

  • Evolution of IT specific tools for remote network management (including remote access tools, like LogMeIn)
  • Evolution of general technology tools that allow for virtual collaboration (in particular enterprise chat and video conference software—in our case Skype for Business)
  • Affordable, high-bandwidth Internet
  • Increasingly remote nature of the clients we serve

The last point is worth emphasizing. As many nonprofit organizations also move to a distributed work model, it became increasingly important for us to be able to support them remotely. The organization may be based in Washington, DC, but they might have a field office in Chicago, and three other staff working in Denver, Charlotte, and Philadelphia.

Building the capacity to work as and with distributed teams is becoming less of an option, and more of a requirement for many organizations. In order to remain competitive and relevant, and in order to work effectively with other organizations, understanding how to support distributed teams is essential.

There are a variety of specific issues to consider when building, expanding, and/or managing distributed teams. For the purposes of this article, it is helpful to think of these issues in terms of people, policy, and technology.


Not every person or every position is suitable for a distributed team. For some, it could be their temperament or work style; perhaps they need more structure than a distributed team can provide. Staff who are early in their career, or new to their positions, may require more guidance and training than is available in a distributed environment. I personally believe that leadership teams are more effective if they meet in person on a regular basis. And for some organizations, there may be positions that cannot be performed effectively in a distributed way. In my role as CEO, I try to spend as much time as possible meeting with our clients; in my experience, there is no substitute for having those meetings in person.

It is important to be clear, as early in the process as possible, which positions and roles can be performed in a virtual, distributed manner (ideally as part of a written policy.)

It is also important to understand and establish clear expectations about how distributed staff and teams are expected to work.


Labor laws vary from state to state. Make sure that your HR team is aware and has the capacity to manage employees in multiple states. Does your health insurance provide coverage nationwide? Does your payroll system allow you to easily manage state tax across the US? What about internationally-located staff? Are your staff exempt or non-exempt, and what impact will that have on expectations around working hours?

Having to address these issues can sometimes be addressed with “1099” self-employed workers rather than the standard “W–2” employed workers. In fact, as the so-called “sharing economy” starts to move into the area of labor, it is possible to do more small-scale contract-based work. This, of course, raises other questions about the commitment of staff to the mission and the ability to establish and foster a strong working culture. At Community IT, we have resisted the industry trend to outsource our help desk overseas. Although the cost savings could be significant, commitment to mission and customer service are core to our business. So we have a strategic imperative to maintain an in-house help desk.

How does your organization’s strategy impact the approach you should take to your distributed teams?

There are no easy answers or one-size-fits-all answers. Some trial and error is probably also inevitable for any organization looking to build up its ability to work with distributed teams.

Who provides the bandwidth connection? What about equipment and office supplies? We originally had our employees provide their own equipment. A few years in, as the number of distributed staff started to grow, our management team expressed some concern about this policy. After studying more closely, we realized it would be more effective for us to provide and manage the computer for most of our distributed staff.

There is a wide variety of issues resulting from working in distributed teams. It is vital to involve the operations team throughout the decision-making and implementation aspects of this approach. I strongly advise developing a solid written (though living and evolving) policy pertaining to all relevant issues. Having a well-written HR policy that outlines expectations and requirements for both the distributed staff, as well as the organization, is not just a best practice—it can help organizations be more deliberate in getting ahead of these issues.


There is an unprecedented number of tools to pick from for facilitating the work of distributed teams. Our primary tools at are special-purpose applications, such as our ticketing system and our endpoint management software. Your organization will likely benefit from a few special-purpose systems as well.

There is also a variety of more general productivity tools that will prove important for organizations looking to foster distributed teams.

By way of a brief survey of what is out there, following are just a few examples by category.

  • Communication
    • Email
    • Skype for Business
    • Google Hangouts
    • Slack
    • Yammer
  • Video communication and desktop sharing
    • Skype for Business
    • Google Hangouts
    • GoToMeeting
    • Adobe Connect
  • Project and Task Management
    • To do lists: Basecamp, Asana, Todoist, Wunderlist (now MS)
    • Kanban Board: Trello, Jira
    • More advanced: Smartsheet, Podio, SharePoint Online
  • Document collaboration
    • Office 365 SP Online
    • Office 365 OneDrive
    • Box
    • Dropbox
    • Google Drive
    • Use a dedicated purpose tool
  • Note-taking and tracking
    • Office 365: OneNote
    • Evernote
    • Use another solution for note-taking

I am not endorsing any of these tools for your organization or situation. I will be surveying the entire sector at the upcoming Leading Change Summit in my session on Working with Distributed Teams, and helping to lead attendees through the process of making decisions around their IT solutions.

For this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

In regular life, it’s hard to find time and space to plan new projects. That’s why I’m so excited about going to the Leading Change Summit again this year.

For quite a while, I’ve been wanting to start a podcast focused on marketing and communications for nonprofits. There are already some great podcasts for nonprofits which talk about a variety of topics, sometimes touching on communications. And there are quite a few podcasts about communications more broadly, but not specific to nonprofits. There used to be some at the intersection, but there haven’t been for a few years.

So I’ve been thinking about it—specific topics I could talk about in each episode, whether to have a partner or do it alone, how often to have special guests, and so on. What did the previous podcasts about nonprofit marketing do well, what could they have done better, and why did they stop? But there are so many interruptions that I haven’t been able to get very deep into any of the planning.

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Spending a few days at the 15LCS won’t just let me get deeper in the planning—it’ll actually help guide me through the process. As the amazing Amy Sample Ward explained, the Summit is designed to walk me through the steps of a strategic planning process. I’ll get enough guidance to steer me along the path, but enough leeway that I can tailor it to the particular project or problem I’ve chosen to work on.

Here’s how I envision myself using the time to plan my future podcast.

On Sunday, kick things off with the opening keynote. Start to get to know the other participants in the Summit at a reception afterward.

On Monday, I’ll roll up my sleeves and start walking through things in detail. Over the course of the day we’ll all walk through the first three stages of planning. In each stage, there are four different workshop options, so you might choose different ones, but this is what I’m thinking for me.

  1. Community. Already a tough choice between these four workshops! But I think the one that will help me most is Community Needs Assessment, which will help me understand how to get a high-level view of the world of communications at nonprofits, and identify what needs are not being met. This will help me understand how my podcast can play a role in filling the gap.
  2. Collaboration. I’ll learn about Strategic Partnership Structures, and consider who might help me with my podcast, how we can all get on the same page with expectations, and work out a win-win arrangement.
  3. Creativity. After doing some initial discovery work in the morning, I’ll frame my ideas in more detail and get feedback from peers in my hub. I know it’ll also be fun to hear what they have been thinking and planning, and to give them feedback and encouragement!

On Tuesday I’ll start looking at the technology side of things.

  1. Tech 1. Another tough choice. I think I’ll go to Impact Evaluation, to help me think up-front about how I’ll measure the success of the podcast, and what kind of systems I can put in place at the get-go to help me monitor progress.
  2. Tech 2. Continuing Engagement will help me think about how to gain, engage, and keep listeners over the life of my podcast.
  3. Sustainability. I love that this is emphasized. How do I keep going once the excitement and newness wear off? I’m not thinking that my podcast will be a source of revenue (at least, not directly), so the funding-focused workshops probably don’t make sense for me. I am really interested in Staff & Resource Planning, though. Even though it’ll mainly be me and my time, I want to have some kind of plan in place for avoiding burnout and making sure that I leave myself enough time to do well at the work which does pay the bills.

Wednesday is the Idea Accelerator! Last year, this was one of the funnest things about the LCS. I didn’t accelerate an idea myself, but I joined a team and helped solidify plans for a tool that would help North Carolina residents understand and navigate the state’s complicated mental health care system. I loved immersing myself in something different for the day and, to be honest, I was really surprised how much more creative I felt when I wasn’t emotionally attached to the outcome of the project! So I’m not sure yet whether this year I’ll accelerate my podcast idea (in hopes of rounding up a team to help me take my plans to the next level), or join a team and help someone else. Either way, I’m really excited about it!

So… Do you have a big project that could use this kind of guided focus to get it off the ground? Please bring it to the LCS, and let’s bounce ideas off each other!

Start-up diagramFor this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

Starting a start-up was the last thing on my mind when I pitched the Say This Not That (STNT) idea at the 2014 Leading Change Summit’s Idea Accelerator. But taking home the top prize and the Community Choice Award, as well as the continual positive feedback after the 14LCS, were strong indicators that it’s an idea worth pursuing!

So here I am: I’ve jumped on the start-up bandwagon. The path of this bandwagon has a lot of twists, turns, and potholes! Here are some of the ways I’m learning to ride this bumpy path.

Put the Idea Accelerator Prizes to Work

The Idea Accelerator offers amazing prizes, so take advantage of them. I have gone as far as where I am today because of LimeRed Studio’s “Fixie Dust” consultation package. Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad of LimeRed Studio guided me right from the get-go with his expertise in strategic communication, technology, and community engagement. Other prizes have also helped kick start STNT, from the web services by Pongos Interactive, to the Microsoft Surface tablet.

Embrace the Potholes

LimeRed Studio and I worked on a competition proposal for six weeks. We felt hopeful, so we were disappointed when we didn’t get into the competition. While this pothole may seem like a failure, in the scheme of things, it wasn’t. The exercise of proposal writing within a due date helped us to refine STNT concepts, develop talking points, and create content for the website.

It was also a humbling experience. All the start-up people I’ve spoken to took months, if not years, to develop their concepts and to pitch and get funding for their ideas.

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Work Your Network

I continue to lean on several people that I met at the Leading Change Summit for moral support. I also set weekly networking goals—reach out to at least one person I haven’t connected for a while and ask someone in my network to introduce me to someone else totally new. Working my network has paid off in several ways—from receiving invitations to speak to having a prototype made.

This month, a group of diverse people in my network helped design engagement activities at an upcoming activists’ conference in Portland. Through our collaborative process, we developed the “STNT Pursuit” (based on Trivial Pursuit) game to spark conversations with conference participants that will help expand the STNT lexicon.

Get Out There

Opportunities to speak about STNT not only generates interest, it is also a good feedback loop that strengthens the STNT concepts and talking points. I’ve sought out opportunities through conference open calls for proposals and by asking friends who are teachers to speak to their students.

Set Aside Ego

Getting out there involves being vulnerable, since I’m bound to come across people who may think STNT is a bad idea. Just like the potholes, I’ve learned to embrace negative feedback with open arms. The start-up sweet spot diagram has become a constant reminder to not only tolerate negative comments, but to welcome them. Setting aside my ego isn’t easy, of course. It takes practice. However, every time I let go of a specific view, I am surprised by the new things I learn from someone else.

Image credit: Sam Altman

For this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

This year has been one for the books for national social movements, and behind the headlines for each of the historic victories that we have seen this year is an effective network of people. Lessons learned from these enormous, powerful movements can be easily translated into smaller networks as well—such as among project teams or within organizations—and can help foster a culture of collaboration.

Networks can be particularly powerful structures, because they grow in value and usefulness as they scale up resources and participation. They allow resources and needs to flow among the nodes and create new alignments driven by the demands of the users. A key part of the strength of networks is how well they foster collaboration between participants due to the general lack of a top-down structure.

However, just because a set of people or a movement fits the general structure of a network or calls itself a network, doesn’t mean it is one. And if it is a network, it still may not be especially functional or effective. When a network lacks one or more of the seven elements that tie the people together (see below), it can experience cascading failure―collapsing quickly, completely, and spectacularly. However, by building network capacity intentionally and with a bit of discipline and clarity, risks can be mitigated, and the focus can stay on fostering a culture of collaboration.

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Within each of the networks behind social change victories, there are seven essential elements that make them functional, collaborative, and effective. The following seven elements comprise a framework that should be integrated into any advocacy network: social ties, a communications grid, common language, a clear vision, shared resources, actors, and feedback mechanisms. Each of these elements is important and crucial in its own right, but it’s the combination of these elements that create the ties among the people and give a network genuine capacity―and strong network capacity creates the most effective environment for collaboration.

Reinforcing social ties between people helps create a sense of trust – key to meaningful collaboration – and helps create relationships capable of withstanding the stress of natural disagreements. People also need various ways in which to communicate; some people prefer different methods, and not all methods are right for every situation. For example, a listserv is great for quick communication but not as good for in-depth strategic planning. There also should be a focus on different modes of communications: one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many. All methods of communications among people make up the communications grid of a network.

As members of a network work together more closely, a common language starts to develop. It is important to make sure that everyone is on board and understands the terms and phrases being used in order to minimize confusion. Similarly, another needed element of any network is a clear vision for what the group has set out to achieve. Sharing this vision with everyone helps to create clarity and focus around goals and tasks. And speaking of sharing, one of the many benefits of a network structure is the ability to share resources. For example, sharing email lists, technology, or trainings saves participants money and time spent on what would otherwise be duplicative work.

Much like traditional workplaces and organizations, each network must also have a variety of actors— people who drive the activities of the network by monitoring resources, creating messaging, outlining participant responsibilities, receiving feedback, and more. Generally speaking, there are four different types of actors: drivers, who participate in networks specifically to tap into the resources they need to organize change; weavers, who serve as both the welcome committee and those who help reconnect people across the network; supporters, who are there to be a resource to others―adding voice, sharing resources, and being willing to contribute to efforts to create change; and operators, who make sure the lights stay on and the rules of the network are followed.

These roles are fluid, and actors often shift from supporter to driver or step in to help make connections, moderate a discussion, or plan a major campaign. Each role is essential. The key to sparking collaboration when integrating the elements into any network is to give everyone an opportunity to participate in the way they fit best.

Finally, any network must have solid feedback mechanisms in place to help leaders and other participants understand the trends, resources, and needs of the entire network. The ability to gather feedback that will help a network grow and refine activities is crucial to transparency and success. In turn, a network’s members can be motivated when they see their successes and trends. The network’s leaders must also be able to respond to feedback and effectively readjust network actions and priorities based on this information. Without feedback, organizations can be blind to critical information that can help improve it.

These seven elements can be used in a variety of situations to help create ties so collaboration can flourish: advocacy networks, among staff of an organization, or even in your own personal networks. (If you’re interested to see how your network stacks up, our team is working on a rapid network assessment tool to evaluate the strength of each element within a network. Note: it’s still in beta.)

Over the years, we’ve also learned that this framework can be just as crucial to building the capacity necessary for fostering a culture of collaboration within our own organization and Board of Directors. In the session called “Building an Organizational Network to Foster a Culture of Collaboration” at the Leading Change Summit in September, we’ll talk more about each of these elements in depth and discuss the best practices and technology that make each of them fall into place. We will work together to lift up the practices we all use to build network capacity within our organizations already, and leave with new ideas to put into practice to help our organizations and the networks we work in grow, create, and flourish.

Hope to see you there!

It’s been a busy Spring, to say the least. We just launched our new website, kicked off a new program with Google Fiber, and welcomed new team members Leana and Dan, on top of announcing key opportunities for our upcoming Leading Change Summit and 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference.

NTEN's office dog, LuluDid you miss the news because you were out on a well deserved vacation? We won’t hold it against you, although our office dog, Lulu, is exhausted from jealousy over reading your out-of-office responses.

Here’s a recap of opportunities and deadlines for you to get involved in. It wouldn’t be the same without you. Know someone that might be interested? Looking for that right moment to get on your colleague’s good side? Share these opportunities with them. We’re always looking for new voices to keep growing our smart network of nonprofit techies.

  • 15LCS Scholarships: We have 25 available for individuals that work in nonprofit organizations. If you know someone who’d be interested in attending this Summit, please encourage them to apply. The 15LCS will take place in Washington, DC on Sept. 13-16.
    Deadline: June 30 
  • 16NTC Session Submission Process: Submit your session ideas, or just submit ideas for sessions that you’d like to see! The 16NTC will take place in San Jose on March 23-25.
    Deadline: June 26
  • Tech Staffing Survey Bonus! If you take the Tech Staffing Survey, you will be entered to win either a free 16NTC registration or a $500 Amazon gift card.
    Deadline: June 30
  • Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program: In partnership with Google Fiber, we’re launching a nationwide fellowship program in eight Google Fiber metro areas – Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Kansas City, Nashville, Provo, Raleigh-Durham, and Salt Lake City – where they’ll spend a year expanding, designing, or building digital inclusion programs. Do you live in one of the eight metro areas? Apply for a Fellowship!
    Deadline: June 10 
  • NTEN Labs: Are you in Portland (OR), Miami, or Chicago? We have three in-person Labs coming up in June, July, and August that focus on Project Management and Campaign Planning and Management. They’re being offered at a really good rate (even better if you’re a NTEN Member!). Check them out!

The 2015 Leading Change Summit is coming up, and we want you to attend! We understand the financial commitment to attend the summit, and thanks to our amazing Community Champions who helped to raise funds for registration scholarships, we are able to offer 25 of these opportunities.

Scholarship applications are now open. Please review the eligibility requirements, and apply today!

Eligibility requirements:

1.   Applicants must be able to describe a technology project or strategic goal related to technology that they plan to design and develop further at LCS and implement in their organization.

2.   Following the LCS, applicants must be willing to be featured in an NTEN case study on how organizations are using technology to improve their work.

>> Fill out the short online application for LCS scholarships today!

Applications must be received no later than June 30. Notifications will be sent no later than the second week of July.

Know someone who might be interested in participating in the Leading Change Summit? Please share this scholarship opportunity with them today!

We kicked off September by launching the 2014 Leading Change Summit…and we couldn’t have done it without you.

All of us all NTEN are amazed (but not too surprised, really) by the degree of engagement at the 14LCS, and by the movement of individual ideas into actionable projects during the Idea Accelerator. We’re grateful for the articles, blog posts, videos, photos, and more from the 14LCS community. Relive the experience and learn what attendees absorbed during the four days at 14LCS through this content round-up.

Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments.

Also, check out the #14LCS experience on Twitter and Instagram, along with the hashtags for each track: Impact Leadership (#14LCSImpact), Digital Strategy (#14LCSDigital), and Future of Technology (#14LCSFuture). Also, check out the #14LCS community discussion forum.

Blog Posts

Media Articles




  • 14LCSPhotos, Trav Williams, Broken Banjo Photography (Official 14LCS Photos)


[Photos from left: Yee Won Chong; Ann McAlpin; Jeric Kison; Ashish Sinha. Check out their videos on NTEN’s Instagram: @NTENorg]

On September 6 in San Francisco, over 250 attendees at NTEN’s Leading Change Summit (14LCS) convened for its finale event: the Idea Accelerator. After three days of exploring ideas, gathering feedback on projects and concepts, and thinking critically amongst nonprofit peers, the Idea Accelerator gave participants the chance to switch gears and think about how to put their ideas into action.

“When we were planning for the inaugural LCS, the key outcome from our perspective was that it should be a unique space for people to connect and share ideas, of course, but also to feel like those ideas weren’t simply a conversation at a conference reception – that those ideas could turn into real projects, programs, campaigns, or applications,” said NTEN CEO, Amy Sample Ward. “In order to ensure the work and concepts that emerged throughout the workshops had a launch pad, we created the Idea Accelerator as the final day’s focus, pushing those ideas into possibilities.”

Designed by Emily Lonigro Boylan, Owner and Creative Director, and Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad, Director of Strategic Design, both of LimeRed Studio, the Idea Accelerator offered the chance for partners who might not have met otherwise to connect on common ideas, and work with coaches to refine the project to meet shared goals. The goal was to surface ideas to create real, world-changing impact that make people’s lives better.

“We wanted to give nonprofits a chance to propel their world changing ideas, especially as they are often overlooked in the tech community,” said Emily. “We wanted to create a fun and collaborative environment to pitch an idea, help them think strategically, and find like-minded individuals to work through their ideas together.”

Out of the 24 ideas that were pitched at the Idea Accelerator, only eight could advance to the final round. The final eight pitched their ideas onstage to three judges — James Rooney, Microsoft; Deena Pierott, iUrbanTeen; Sonya Watson, Tides Foundation — and attendees, who scored the pitches across five categories: Community, Creativity, Technology, Collaboration, and Sustainability.

Yee Won Chong took home both the Community Choice and First Place prizes, which included a Microsoft Surface Tablet and passes to both the 15NTC and 15LCS events, for the project: “Say This, Not That.” Supported by teammates Zenzel Lewis, CSRA EOA Inc. Head Start, and Kristen Thompson, Center for Reproductive Rights, this project aims to create a platform that will identify harmful phrases and words in order to avoid perpetuating harm onto others. Yee Won, a Strategist, Trainer, and Consultant for social justice, and former Development and Communications Director at the Western States Center, was inspired by a conversation at 14LCS, which led to the initial project pitch.

“I wanted to connect technology to my interest in nonviolent communication and to educate people about how our words can cause unintended harm,” said Yee Won. “Words matter, and it’s surprising how certain acceptable, everyday words convey violence. This platform we pitched addressed topics such as violence, racism, classism, sexism, and ableism.”

The second prize went to “Connections – Aged-Out Foster Kids and Caring Adults,” a concept put together by Ann McAlpin, Executive Director of CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County, and teammates Jill Beasley, Aptify; Ken Goldstein, Benevolent; and Kait Steele, 826 National. The project aimed to support people who came of age in the foster care system after they turn 18 and are declared “independent,” to point them to resources and to measure the results of their work with court-appointed special advocates and other mentors.

The third prize went to “Campus Light,” a project by Ashish Sinha, Program Director at the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, and Jeric Kison, Digital Marketing Specialist at the Canadian Cancer Society, that aimed to deploy a website that facilitates peer-to-peer communication & resources for specific colleges, and provides support for students struggling with depression & psychological disorders.

The concepts that were pitched for programs, platforms, and more—from a centralized control panel that would revolutionize the way that nonprofits issue phones and numbers to frontline workers, to a networking app that acts as a matchmaker to conference goers with similar interests—demonstrate that if social change professionals are given time and space to incubate new ideas, they can come up with innovative approaches to meet needs that have not yet been met by technology. Each winner was asked: “How does your project transform technology into social change?” To learn what they had to say, check out the link to the Instagram videos via the @NTENorg account. All Idea Accelerator participants will be encouraged to continue to refine their pitches, work on their projects, and document their progress going forward on NTEN’s blog.

For the full list of project pitches, visit: http://www.nten.org/article/14lcs-idea-accelerator-pitches-onward/.