Many Pies

Many Pies

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What would an IT entrepreneur look like in a mission organisation?

A few years ago I was at the conference for IT people in Wycliffe worldwide. There was someone there who had written a really neat program that enabled you to produce a dictionary. (Stop me if you've heard this, but I can't find it elsewhere on my blog.) Someone else stood up and was conflicted by what he'd seen. Whilst tools that do one thing well are great in themselves, there's also a need for getting a group of people together to develop a series of integrated tools. I'm guessing the guy who stood up was somehow involved in, or had a stake in, the team developing integrated tools. I'm all for the consensus and teamwork approach, even though it's painful and slow. However if it's too painful or slow people just get on and develop their own system, like this entrepreneurial person.

I've just been in a meeting planning an IT event next year, and we touched on IT entrepreneurs. It got me thinking about what would a good IT entrepreneur look like in a Wycliffe context?

I can tell you what we don't want:
  • We don't want people to come in and set up servers or systems and not leave any documentation behind.
  • We don't want people to come in with loads of ideas, and not listen to why we think they won't work, and who give up and go away.
That's not to say that you can't have people who come and do good stuff. I hear good things about the people behind Lightsys.

Here's what an IT entrepreneur might look like:
  • They spot a need across several organisations.
  • They develop a prototype system that meets the need and open it up to the users.
  • The users get on board and nag their management to make this system an official part of the organisations strategy.
  • Crucially, they make sure the system is sustainable and now that people are sold onto it, that it continues to adapt to meet their needs.
Just thinking out loud. 

Update: Tom Lucas has posted a thoughtful reply on Google+.
Update 2: This post got picked up on my company blog: IT entrepreneurs in a mission organisation
Update 3: Tom has written a blog post on the subject himself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LASA Charity Digital Summit

("Summit" is a bit grand.) Yesterday I was in London for the LASA Charity Digital Summit (#lasadigsmt on Twitter).

Update: slides and audio are of the digital summit are now available.

The first session was about the Future of Social media, though most of the discussion was about where we are now. One of the predictions was that location would become more important. This ties in with Robert Scoble's latest book idea about "context", i.e. your devices being helpful because they know where you are and other stuff about you. If Robert's interested in something like that he's usually worth following.

My take on location is that apps have to be really smart with it, and give you the warm feeling that you're in control of your data. This isn't new, look at Yahoo Fire Eagle which has been around since 2007, but I've heard no mention of for years.

Then I went to the session Light up Your Digital Campaign. Lucy Buck from Child's i Foundation talked about how she started the charity. Right from the start she was videoing and sharing stuff - she's a TV producer by background. Jude Habib talked about pitching your photos and audio to the media. As they get increasingly short-staffed they are more willing to use your stuff. Peter Gilheany is from an agency and talked about old-fashioned planning of your whole campaign (what are your objectives? who are you trying to reach? what are the best routes to reach them?). It was good down-to-earth stuff. Digital is just one of those routes to reaching people and he made the observation that people use a different persona online to what they might in other circumstances.

After lunch I went to the session on Digital Fundraising lead by Rachel Beer from Beautiful World agency. I have a lot of time for them as their blog is really good at highlighting what you need to know as a charity about online stuff. After some general points she focussed on banner adverts and took us through some good and bad points of some adverts and donation forms from various charities that I won't mention.

It was a good day, and worth the price of a train ticket (as entry was free). I got to meet Paul Webster for the first time, who I've been following on twitter for years, as well as Louise Brown who I've met once before.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I don't get out of the office much, but in the last couple of days I've been out twice. The first time was on Saturday when I was involved in Pray101112. Many Wycliffe organisations around the world have a day of prayer around 11 November, and this year we chose to invite the UK church to join us.

Fortunately the whole UK church didn't join us, as it would have been a bit crowded. We had three venues, Belfast, Coventry and the one I went to in St Albans. We were hosted by Spicer Street church and it was a good venue for the meeting. There were around 30 people, half Wycliffe and half visitors, which was a good balance.

I was doing sound and projection and fortunately it all went fairly smoothly. You can see the videos and powerpoints used here.