Technology Assessment for Narrowridge ELC

Narrowridge Earth Literacy Center is a non-profit organization that works in coordination with an environmental land trust to demonstrate and teach a more sustainable way of living.  The center includes the library, community meeting facility, and retreat center on 500 acres.  Some of the programs include social ecology classes for groups of college students and Vision Quest retreats for people all over the U.S.  Our organization also has education classes for the local community on sustainable gardening, green building, and other basic environmental education.   The mission of the organization is to provide experiential learning of Earth Literacy based on the cornerstones of spirituality, sustainability and community.

Narrowridge Earth Literacy Center has lacked many of the technologies that other organizations are readily using.  We have not even reached the first benchmark of having a written technology plan at least not in the way that most people think about technology.  Our organization is much more interested in solar/wind power and sustainable building technologies than on social networking or the latest software.  We are up-to-date with the best hot air collectors and efficient composting toilets, but we only have one computer in our office.  That computer is not even functional (think late 90s speed) and runs on solar power (no sun/little sun equals no office computer).

Most work requiring technology is done from personal computers at home. There is minimal access to any software or hardware that is actually owned by Narrowridge.  Our committees, Board of Directors, and staff very rarely use the office computer; we are always toting our laptops. It is doubtful that we are going to improve our hardware situation in the near future.  The computer and printer we currently have in the office were donations, and there has been little focus on the role of technology within our organization.  Outside of our hardware situation, only recently has the organization started considering using some technologies like social networking tools, new software, and a functioning email system.  In the past, Narrowridge’s only online presence was a poorly updated website.

Thanks to some prodding from the younger crowd (that’s me), we have formed a committee that will start to develop a technology plan and implement technologies that publicize the organization.  The organization is moving toward this benchmark and is slowly considering the role that technology will play in the future of the organization.  Those involved with the organization are becoming increasingly aware of our need to make use of the Internet and available software.  People within our organization have seen the benefits other non-profits have reaped from using online tools.  Using these technologies could improve the efficiency, productivity, and support of our organization.  As we work toward incorporating these technologies, I believe that we will reach all of the technology benchmarks prescribed by NPower.org.

First, we will need to actually develop a technology plan for the next three to five years.  Our organization has only considered how “green” technology fits into our plans and goals; we have not yet considered Internet, web resources, social media, or specialized software.  This plan should focus on our immediate technology needs while incorporating some long-term goals for technology.  I have my own goals for the organization, but the staff and committee will need to work together to develop a plan that fits our organization’s capacity.  The plan will also need to be low-budget; at least until the board of directors sees the benefit of technology at Narrowridge.

Our staff and volunteers do not have access to much software or hardware through our organization, but we do have accounting software that meets our needs.  All staff have access to this software, and the one office computer does have the anti-virus software. There is not enough staff to need a peer-to-peer network.  However, just a couple of weeks ago I started to setup an email account via Gmail.  The organization is working toward having a functional email for everyone.  We are also working toward some of the other benchmarks like having an interactive website where people can give to the organization and can be updated on a regular basis.  Even though we are extremely rural, we have a dependable Internet.  So, we should be moving toward using technology and meeting the technology benchmarks.

When the organization moves toward using new technologies, we must consider likely problems.  In the past, the introduction of new technologies leads to the loss of information.  “As an organization increases its use of technology, it runs an increased risk of losing or damaging valuable data through error or misuse of technology tools” (NPower.org, p. 20).  We are missing financial information from a few years in the late 1990s, because the organization moved from a paper-based to computer-based system – and that computer crashed with no backup files.  Another possible problem is a lack of knowledge on how to use the technological tools; there are only a couple of people within the organization that understand the few technologies that are already in use.  Therefore, more people within the organization need to be trained on how to update the website, use Quickbooks, or edit the newsletter.  Once people are trained on these technologies then we can incorporate new technologies and train staff and volunteers on how to use those.

It will be a task to move this organization toward becoming technologically advanced, but I see hope for the future.  The staff and Board of Directors are open to many of the suggestions I make about new technologies and new software.  They are even more open about these technologies if they are free and if I will volunteer to set-up/update them.  Once they see the benefit of the technologies I present, hopefully more volunteers will be willing to take on the task of keeping everything up-to-date.  I have found that it is very easy to get technological initiatives going, but it can be difficult to keep them current and functioning

Another assessment for my organization is linked below.

narrowridge – technological assessment

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