Pro Bono Referral System
FROM: Jason Gorman
What NEED does this meet?
Every year more than $2.4 trillion is spent on IT, mostly by large corporations and government agencies who can afford to invest huge sums in new technology that gives them a significant competitive advantage over no-for-profit NGOs. This creates a massive imbalance in the power of these - often quite amoral - organisations over organisations that are trying to do some good in the world. As an IT consultant and trainer I would really like to give some of my time - maybe a couple of weeks every year - to help and advise these organisations and offer them some of the kind of "big IT" advantage that my usual clients are getting from people like myself. Unfortunately, I am just one person and my efforts alone don't go very far to redressing the balance if "Information Power". To make a real difference, a large percentage of people working in IT consulting - and doing very well, thank you very much - must also give some of their time.
What is the APPROACH?
I propose a system for putting the best IT consultants in touch with the worthiest causes that would allow organisations like Greenpeace, Oxfam, Amnesty International and many, many other worthy causes to find top quality systems advice, training and even development (like this web site, for example). Not only would the systemn hold details of thousands of senior IT consultants in the UK and abroad, but it would also keep details of when these people are available and what causes are closest to their hearts - helping people to find a good match and then schedule small consulting projects or training courses more effectively.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
With better advice and training, NGOs could be better placed in the "information food chain" to effectively compete against global corporations and be heard above the noise of information overload that IT generates. Just as it has in industry and commerce, better use of IT could help NGOs make their money - and their message - go further and maybe do just that little bit of extra good. C'mon, guys! We've earned our money and now its time to give something back.
What is the COMPETITION?
For lawyers, maybe. For IT professionals - not that I know of (we're a pretty selfish bunch...)
What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Effort and cost would depend on how sophisticated the system was. A simple consultant's database, with the ability to browse and search for consultants by technology/skills/experience, location and availability would probably not cost more than a few thousand pounds to build. But this could be a bootstrap proposition. Maybe the first consultants to offer their services for free wouyld be the ones who designed and implemented the system. Maybe it should be funded by donations from IT consultants (?) Even if the software development was undertaken by well-meaning folk in the industry, there would still be the cost of hosting etc. Also, the idea only works if enough GOOD consultants and enough WORTHY causes take it up, so their will need to be some kind of campaign to make the right people aware that the system exists.
Excellent idea but sounds very similar to www.it4communities.org.uk
Posted by: PDH at Nov 1, 2003 1:44:26 PM
Two types of ideas keep being posted, which maybe could be combined to make
The first idea is of online payments, which has the problem of
how anyone gets the funny money so they can spend it, and how anyone accepting
it in payment can expect to purchase goods or services with a real world value.
The second idea is that we need a way of matching the skills of volunteers
with the needs of charities. Maybe volunteers and sponsors could donate funny
money to the organisation of their choice, and display a sign that they accept
funny money. The charities would use the funny money to buy the services they
need whether that is an unskilled teenager for addressing envelopes, or an
accountant to certify their books. The funny money would be spent at businesses
which accept it to cancel the debt which they have made by donating, or know
that members of staff or their lawyers or plumber will accept it. In this
way volunteers can donate the thing which they do best and charities can
receive the best at what they need.
Posted by: Ian at Nov 1, 2003 9:17:08 PM
This sounds like an extension of what we already do at www.it4communities.org.uk
and also has some parallels with the Circuit Rider movement in the UK (albeit
that one uses paid or otherwise funded consultants).
I'm interested in talking further if you want to email me directly at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The important things to consider are (1) project
definitions are fundamental and charities are often weak at working out what they
want and (2) the logistics behind all this can be a bit of a nightmare.
Interesting that you seem to be focusing on large NGOs when most of the interest
we see from volunteers is aimed at supporting smaller organisations with clear
You might also want to check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/results/?radius=virtual&submit=y&category=Computers+%26+Technology. There's actually a lot
of 'volunteer coordination' programmes out there but maybe some of them need
better marketing and there might also be scope for sector consolidation?
Posted by: Dr Simon Davey at Nov 2, 2003 1:02:07 PM