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Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

IfPeople made it to the SJF Summit on the New Economy in Durham, NC this September and found it

to be a truly inspiring conference. It was a strong showcase of how diverse and robust the new economy is. There were really incredible solutions in every area of clean tech from energy and waste water treatment, to irrigation and air filtration.  Counter to many misconceptions about green solutions, these businesses were showing the energy and water savings from these solutions is so great that the payback is often less than a year! 

Stop Leaving Money on the Table!
Companies that are using traditional means of addressing this issues are literally leaving money on the table. If installing a green air filtration system costs you a $100,000 investment up front, with a 1 year payback, your future savings after that first year are $100,000 a year before calculating in inevitable rises in energy costs.

So why aren’t these solutions already the norm?
Systems change is always on our mind…and our work is about giving companies that are bringing breakthrough solutions with a solid business model the sales and marketing tools and processes to succeed. So we hate to see good opportunities for going green go to waste! Here’s some of the barriers we see to that:

1. Resistance to change
We are resistant to change even when the dollars and cents add up. Take, for instance, a new approach to maintaining good air quality. Air quality in most factories is maintained by constantly turning over the air inside a building. Forcing air from inside a building to outside requires a tremendous amount of  energy. Not only that, but the air brought into the building must be climate controlled which also uses up energy.  A company we met at the conference has a different approach. Instead of moving air in and out of the building, they focus on changing existing air into something breathable and environmentally friendly.  They attract indoor pollutants into a bio-digester, which breaks down the compounds into inert particles.  It’s a completely different approach that doesn’t just require a cost-benefit analysis, but calls for a paradigm shift. 

People are resistant to such shifts. If we are going to meet the challenges of climate change, peak oil and water and other challenges, we will need to be ready to embrace the new paradigms required to make these shifts a reality.

2.  Poor sales process
Even if there’s a great opportunity to save money with a product, if the sales force behind that product is not effective in selling, there won’t be product uptake. People make decisions for different reasons depending on their role in the company, their interests, and their priorities. It’s important to understand what is relevant to the various parties in a sales pipeline and to make sure your company can systematically engage decision makers until they make the sale. Having strong systems for automating your marketing processes can make a huge difference in how many prospects you convert to customers. Without these processes it is even more challenging for innovative companies to bring their constituents along and help the masses embrace the changes you are bringing to market.

3.  Poor Key Messages
Different decision makers have different concerns that must be met before they invest.  The person concerned with compliance wants to know that your air purification system is going to work, and meet all regulations and standards.  The CFO wants to know that your ROI numbers are real and reliable.  And the maintenance staff who took care of the old system wants to be secure that they are not being put out of a job. Make sure that the messaging is right at the right time based on where you are in the sales process and who you are working with!

Alright green product and service companies…we hope that’s helpful insight from our takeaways from the SJF Conference. Hopefully we’ll see you there next year! And in the meantime, contact us for help on marketing and sales for your green products!

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On October 20-22, the Independent Sector is hosting a conference called “Forging a Stronger Future Together”. One part of the conference is the NGen series, a schedule of programming events that focus on the next generation of nonprofit leadership.  The subject of nonprofit leadership is a contentious one in the sector.

As Baby Boomers cycle out of their positions as Executive Directors of some of this nation’s  prominent organizations they are looking behind them and often finding there is nobody there to fill their shoes. According to Bridgestone’s 2006 report “The Nonprofit Sector’s Leading Deficit”, nonprofits are looking to fill an estimated 640,000 senior managers in the next 10 years. This places a pressure on nonprofits to find ways to engage younger nonprofiteers in the sector who could start filling this leadership gap.

As younger leaders take more prominent roles in organizations, new trends are emerging in how organizations are run. Below are three trends that are largely being driven by shifts in generational values and represent an opportunity for organizations seeking direction for evolving to also attract younger talent:

Using More Technology- Nonprofits can (and should!) leverage the best tools available for running efficient, effective organizations. Technologies continue to evolve at an accelerating pace across desktop, Web, and mobile devices. In the age of iPhones, texting, and skype, technology has fostered in a new era of interactivity that nonprofits can gain from tremendously. More than 30 million dollars was raised through mobile donations for Haiti. Technology is not just offering new ways of raising money, it’s also creating more efficient ways of meeting. Instead of flying to a new city, or using time to commute to a client, software like skype can be used to facilitate meetings online.

More relationships oriented – Facebook and Twitter are not just work distractions – they are indicative of how much more social our world has become. Your organization’s growth will have a lot to do with how well you manage your presence in many of (online) social spheres. It will also require more closely cultivated relationship with your constituents in order to stand out in their mind. As a result, CRM systems like Salesforce become increasingly important to having an edge on your business.

Hybrid Models-  The future of nonprofit organizations challenges the very premise of its structure. Many who are motivated to do good are willing to use market forces to do so. As a result, hybrid organizations that blend business with social causes are building momentum behind Social Enterprise, and the BCorporation.  To encourage new leadership to step in, it’s important to be open to considering new models for achieving your organization’s social aims. Consier how your organization (or new ventures) could work on revenue-generating models such as the L3Cs, Social Entrepreneurship, or BCorps.

In considering what your nonprofit needs to do to engage a new generation of leadership, consider how these trends can be applied to your existing structure so that you can move in a more progressive direction.

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On September 1st, the latest version of Plone was released and a lot of innovation from this leading Content Management System is now available to new and existing Plone users! Plone 4 is more intuitive, more visually appealing, and faster. We’re so excited about this new version that we’ve been buried in working on it and launching new sites (check out the latest launch: SEEC) to get the news out for the last six week! Below are some of the key upgrades on Plone 4 that you may like:

ploneNew Look: Plone4 has a new template included when it is installed that is sleek, minimalist, and functional. After nine years of using a staple design, Plone 4 uses a modern table-less formatting and simplified CSS.

Performance Improvement: Plone 4 has a number of improvements that help it run fasterand more efficiently. It’s twice as fast as Plone 3 representing accelerating advances in performance for the platform (while many other systems are getting slower and more complex!). Plone 4’s capacity  to handle very large files has improved drastically since all file data is now stored on the file system rather than in the database. This enhances the ability of Plone to scale to handle huge content repositories out of the box!

Intuitive Visual Editing: The HTML editor in Plone 4 has been changed to a Tiny MCE which offers Plone users more ease and flexibility in design. It offers much stronger support of html tables and better support for embedded flash content. This visual editor is also widely used in other systems outside of Plone as well, meaning that it will have greater support and improvements over time. Overall Plone 4 provides better tools for creating the site you want with less of a headache.

Improved user management: Plone 4 has also streamlined the process of creating and managing users for your website. It is faster to create new users and place them in groups.

User Experience Improvements: You’ll notice several improvements in the way Plone leverages AJAX technologies in this version. The result is fewer page loads necessary to use and manage a website. Navigating to the back end administrative area of the website has been improved. Even small changes like allowing users to sign in with their email or username lend themselves to an improved user experience.

Other things we are excited about from this release:

  • Easy upgrading from Plone 3!
  • New version of the User’s Guide to Plone book!
  • The XDV templating tools that make it easy for designers to use html and css to create custom look and feel for Plone sites!

Plone 4 is a system that surpasses other CMS’s – open source and proprietary options – in terms of usability, security, community, and scalability. This latest release represents a lot of great work by the community and we congratulate and thank all those who have contributed to Plone 4!

If you’re interested to learn more about Plone, we invite you to:

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Every year, Techbridge partners with one local non-profit organization, helping them develop the essential information technology they need to succeed in their mission of service. TechBridge has just announced the 9th annual Technology Innovation Award! Want an extreme technology makeover?

TechBridge and Accenture are seeking deserving nonprofits with an innovative vision for using technology to increase capacity to deliver on its mission for the award.  Entries are due by February 8, 2010. All applicants must electronically submit an award application form, available online.

Three award finalists will be selected in March 2010 and invited to deliver a live presentation to the Technology Innovation Award Judging Panel. The winner will be announced at the 2010 TechBridge Digital Ball on May 8, 2010.

The winner of the 2009 Techbridge Technology Innovation Award is The Tommy Nobis Center (TNC). The two runners-up were Habitat for Humanity – North Central Georgia and Open Hand.

Have a look at the eligibility information and make an application online today! http://techbridge.org/tia/application.aspx

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In case you haven’t heard, the NTC, put on by the amazing folks at the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) was a raging success. With over 30% growth in attendence over last year, the organizers had to reorganize the space a couple times to be able to accommodate as many as possible. So what made it so hot? Well, in part, it’s kinda the only game in town that can address technology in the nonprofit on a comprehensive scale. And what’s more, NTEN does a smashing job at community organizing – it isn’t just a fly-in-and-out kinda event, it’s more like family.

Soft stuff aside, you say, what was hot on the technology front? Here’s a couple things I thought were innovative technology and knowledge showcased at the conference:

  • SMS text-based evaluations: rather than the typical carpeting of colored papers with rating scales and comment boxes, NTEN went paperless for session evaluations. To fill out an evaluation, all you did was text a code for the session to a number and then you were walked through a process to fill out evaluation. Not sure what overall uptake on this system was (last I heard was half way through event and about 400 had been filled out). I found it hard to have the info I need (ie code and number) when I had a spare moment to fill it out. Sweet idea though!
  • Google Moderator: Not revolutionary – and occassionally annoying (ie having to lug around laptop, finding working wifi, remember the address, log in…), but still a cool way to promote collaborative dialog/questions between an audience and speaker. We used it in our session (~60 people) and it was even used in the keynotes (1,000+ people).
  • Twitter everywhere! We were trending in Twitter for the #09ntc and there was an overwhelming amount of traffic and conversation! Was great to watch people from beginner-level Twitter through very experienced rockin during the conference (those without computers could jump on one of many laptop workstations around the conference).  You can follow me here 🙂
  • The Social Actions folks (an in particular @engagejoe) ran an awesome campaign that climaxed during NTC. Here’s the scoop: Social Actions has an API to all the big volunteer sites around the web (wicked!). They had a contest to give away $10k to the coolest app created that leverage their API. They got some amazing entries! Have a look at the 24 finalists here. Very cool stuff! Highlights include CauseSense, which replaces Google Ads with volunteer opportunities and the Take Action button (but it with your content and watch it suggest actions!). Nice job everyone – go crowdsourcing for a cause!

Clearly that’s not all, but that’s a taste. I’ll be going through notes a bit more thoroughly soon, so expect some more posts, including one on Eben Moglen’s talk!

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The last couple months have included some very intense conversations on innovation. In particular, we are concerned about the urgent need for large scale learning and adoption of innovative solutions. Tirza and I have been working on synthesizing what we have learned about enabling online collaboration around solutions that make the world a more just, sustainable place. We are talkin’ systemic change here, so you know the systems nuts over at ifPeople are getting excited…

Well, finally had a chance to convert what has been an ongoing conversation with several people, carried on over thousands of miles, into a written explanation (finally!). That was due to the Knight Foundation’s Nothing like a deadline for motivation!

Please check out our proposal. We hope you will vote and that we have earned your high rank 🙂 We need the votes to help our proposal get to the top of the pool of nearly 2,000!

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