What's the role of technology in change?

Members of NetSquared—a project of TechSoup to bring the benefits of technology to nonprofits—are considering the question of what technology issues will affect change.

Hmm…it seems to me there is so much change going on—and a lot of it is the direct or indirect consequence of technology—that it’s hard to get very specific. Here’s a list of socio-technical phenomena I see in the US and in the world environment in other flavors:

  • Unprecedented information resources—data, documentation, and social networks
  • Leveling the playing field between “professionals”—previously empowered by exclusive access to information—and the general populace
  • The “Flat Earth” as Tom Friedman called it
  • Unprecedented communication tools and distribution channels—messaging, graphics, audio/visual—in the hands of everyone at low cost
  • Political and social dialogue on a global community level as never before
  • The first “internet” president who’s also a global celebrity
  • A changing sense of who we are, what we are capable of doing, and what our relationship to authority is, driven by the information and communication tools mentioned above

All of the above are systemically related. Much, much more is on the way. Our challenge isn’t to stir  up more forces of change but to inflect the existing forces—again, largely technologically enabled—to broaden and speed the possible benefits to as many as possible.

To my way of thinking nonprofits must not only apply technology operationally in accomplishing their missions, but they must also perceive the vast currents of social and personal change that go with technological evolution deeply enough to contribute to channeling its power for positive ends and the benefit of their constituents. Nonprofits can no longer be the last ones to latch onto technology, they must be among the first. And that starts with perceptive leadership.