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Technology Plan for Narrow Ridge ELC

Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center

Technology Plan: 2010-2012

1. The Vision

The overall vision of Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center (NRELC) is one of justice for human beings, animals, and Earth and sustainability in the way we live our lives and the way we create our institutions and technologies. NRELC’s vision is one of education and leadership by example in creating alternatives to the present society and culture. Because of this vision of sustainability, technology is a double edge sword for the organization.  Technology will benefit NRELC by recruiting more participants in our programs and spreading the ideals of environmental sustainability.  However, each piece of technology that is introduced should carefully be considered.  The technology NRELC involves in the organization should promote environmental and community sustainability.

Your organization’s technology vision statement:

The technology vision of Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center is one in line with the tenants of community, sustainability, and spirituality.  While it is important to understand and incorporate new technologies, each one should be accepted cautiously as to not conflict with the overall mission and vision of the organization.

Technology Goals

  • Goal #1: Update computer and printer hardware in the office.
    • Buy the most sustainable hardware possible (i.e. hardware built to last)
    • Replace the current desktop with a laptop computer
    • Purchase external hard-drive to store NRELC documents
    • Recycle current electronics
  • Goal #2: Provide email addresses for all staff, committee chairs, and board members
    • Create a Google Apps account (already accomplished)
    • Train staff, committee chairs, and board members on how to use the technology
  • Goal #3: Build an electronic database of history and documentation
    • Compile historical documents
    • Compile board and committee decisions and policies
    • Upload files onto Goggle documents or other database
  • Goal #4: Have a easily updateable website
    • Change to a new domain host
    • Create a group of technicians who will update the website on a regular basis
    • Create a policy for updating the website
  • Goal #5: Create online donation system
    • Research various donation systems
    • Purchase a donation system for the website
    • Make the donation button assessable from various pages on website
    • Promote online giving
  • Goal #6: Update and create profile on non-profit networking sites
    • Create a group of technicians who will update sites on a regular basis
    • Decide which sites should feature NRELC’s profile
    • Create a common profile that can be used on all networking sites

Philosophy

The following are some of NRELC’s philosophies when it comes to integrating technology:

  • If NRELC does not need the technology, it should not be bought or used.
  • Technology should contribute to true community, not take away from it.
  • A committee will carefully consider each piece of technology before it is integrated into the organization.
  • NRELC will not promote any technology that directly goes against the mission or vision of the organization.
  • NRELC will explore ethical and sustainable technologies.

Integration with strategic planning

Technology has been integrated at a basic level in the strategic planning of the organization.  As the organization grows in capacity, technology will be integrated to help maintain this capacity and to recruit participants into programs.  As part of the strategic plan, the organization will only take on enough technology for its capacity.

Board members are made aware of all new technology decisions in the form of committee recommendations.  This involvement will continue into the future

A committee, with recommendations and guidance from the executive director and volunteer staff, makes all technology decisions.

The group of technicians charged with maintaining and fixing technologies will be included in committee meetings dealing with the function and role of technology.

2. Programs and Services

The programs of Narrow Ridge fall into a few different categories:

  • Earth Literacy Education – This program has mainly been for college students in the past.  Narrow Ridge is trying to include a summer camp for children that would be similar to the current program for college students.  In this program, students learn the basics of Earth Literacy such as: green energy, organic gardening, sustainable living practices, vegetarian cooking, and animal/insect/plant identification.  Program fees are the main source of funding for these programs. Grant funding is sometimes available for these programs.
  • Vision Quest – Vision quests are spiritual retreats for adults.  This program is modeled after the many cultures that send individuals out into the wilderness for fasting and soul searching. Scholarship donations and program fees fund this program.
  • Community Education – Narrow Ridge’s community education programs differ based on the current needs of the community and staff availability.  The current programs that fit into this category are film night, community music jams, Hogskin History Day, seasonal celebrations, and book group.  These programs are both social and educational.  For film night, people from the community come together to watch a film, usually dealing with environmental issues, and then the film is discussed.  Community music jams (perhaps the favorite program of community members) entail people from the surrounding areas coming together and playing music.  This program was created after some community members expressed a desire to traditional music alive in our region, and there was a need for a social event on the weekends.  Hogskin History Day is an annual festival that celebrates the history of the Hogskin valley (where Narrow Ridge is located) and the surrounding Washburn area.  Seasonal celebrations are held with each solstice and equinox. These celebrations usually entail a community potluck dinner and a hike to look at the stars.  The book group is a new program that meets to discuss books about environmental issues in East Tennessee.  Individual donors fund all community education programs.
  • Demonstration rental facilities – Narrow Ridge ELC offers off-the-grid buildings for rental and demonstration purposes. These buildings are solar powered, have composting toilets, heated by wood stove, and cooled by passive solar technology.  Rental fees fund this program.
  • Earth Knows Book Publishing – Narrow Ridge’s smallest program is its publishing company.  This publishing company is funded by a donation made 10 years ago to establish a publishing company that specializes in Earth literacy education.  However, no books have been published in the last few years.
  • Land Trusts – Narrow Ridge owns over 500 acres of land.  Much of which is leased to land holders who must keep certain agreements to uphold the environment and conserve the land.

When these programs were developed, technology integration was not considered as part of the planning process

Online technologies will enhance the delivery of NRELC’s programs and services by publicizing these programs and services to a much larger audience.  With more participation, NRELC will be able to increase its capacity, since program fees fund most programs.  Also, these technologies will make communication more efficient, and staff will be able to retrieve documentation and organizational policies from the online database.  The programs themselves will not change drastically with the introduction of the new technologies, but the preparation for the programs should be more efficient and cohesive.  This will free up staff to complete other tasks.  An online donation system should increase donations for our programs to the community and will allow NRELC to provide more scholarships to those wishing to participate in Earth Literacy Education and Vision Quests.

3. Operations/Administration

The integration of technology is very new to NRELC.  Most research of technology tools has been on a one-on-one basis.  Interns from local universities have research various technologies and made suggestions about technological possibilities.  Also, when committees see a need for a certain technology, the committee members will research that technology and present it to the board for approval.

The newly integrated technologies should make transitions on staff and with volunteers more seamless.  The online database for NRELC’s history and documentation will help staff and volunteers to understand precedent within the organization.  The database will also allow for staff to access documents offsite.

Benefits to the following business systems:

Contact Databases

With the addition of Google Apps, staff and volunteers will now be able to access the database of contact information.  This will make sending out updates and publizing an event much easier.  Currently, the executive director is the only person with an email address on the email account.  So, it is up to her to send out all emails about upcoming events and programs.  When all committee chairs, staff, and board members have access to the contact database, the executive director could delegate the task of sending out these emails.

Fundraising

The online database will contain previous grant proposals and donor information.  This will make applying for grants and contacting donor much easier.  The fundraising committee handles all fundraising events.  However, when the members of the committee change it is difficult, the new members often do not know the fundraising history.  Therefore, new members will waste much time researching grants and funding opportunities that have already been researched.  With access to the online database and donor contact information, new and old members could access previous grants or fundraising opportunities.  The online database would also make it easier for all committee members to access the donor list.

The biggest technology improvement to fundraising will come through the addition of a online donation system.  This makes soliciting money easier and more streamlined.  Committee members could direct donors to the website instead of taking a check.  This would allow anyone who came to the website to donate to the organization.  Currently, only those people for whom NRELC has current contact information are asked to donate.

4. Infrastructure

Connectivity

The current internet system cannot be improved.  The most updated system (the only available carrier in the area) is installed.

By replacing the current desktop with a new laptop, staff will have access to the software and hardware that they need.  Also, staff will now be able to travel with the computer.  This is important, since the office is mostly out of use during the winter months.  The current Internet setup allows for anyone with a laptop to connect while in the office (up to 5 computers, and there are rarely more than two staff in the office at a time).

Equipment Life Cycles

Hardware will only be updated when it can no longer be easily updated.  Electronics should be repaired if possible before they are considered obsolete.  Attention should be given to purchasing hardware that is sustainable (i.e. equipment with a long life, equipment made from recycled materials, refurbished equipment, etc).

The to-be-established group of technicians will perform scheduling for maintenance of equipment. Currently, there is no leased or rented equipment.  The committee will oversee technician group to insure that all maintenance is done a on regular basis.

Software Standards & Upgrades

Software will be updated as needed to perform the basic functions of the organization.  Software will only be updated after careful research of out and new software.  Software should be purchased online, if possible, as to minimize packaging waste.

5. Professional Development

Not digital literacy self-assessment was completed.  However, discussions with staff and volunteers within the organizations reveal that technology training is highly needed within the organization.  The group of technicians will be charged with training board members, committees, and staff on all technology to be used in the organization.  Training at all levels of the organization will be needed to insure that the technology plan is completed.  All staff should understand the online database and how to add to that database. Also, staff should have knowledge of how to operate the online donation system, and staff should be knowledgeable of the Google Apps email system.  The group of technology technicians will train staff on these technology systems.

6. Staffing

The executive director and volunteer staff will work together with the Outreach Committee to determine personal responsibilities with implementing the technology plan.

No new paid staff should be required to implement the technology plan.

A volunteer team of technicians will be developed to do regular maintenance and to fix any technical problems that might occur.  This team will also educate staff, committees, and the board on new technologies that are introduced to the organization. This team will report to the Outreach Committee on any problems.

Technology Policies:

  • Internet use in the office will be restricted to staff only, unless the executive director gives permission.
  • All staff will be trained on how to use the Internet safely, so that computer can stay virus and problem free.
  • All staff must have permission from the executive director before downloading any new software.
  • Online resources are ONLY used if deemed appropriate by appropriate committee.
  • Website updates should come from committees, not from individuals.
  • Environmental impact should always be considered when using technologies.

7. Funding Strategy

Technology needs will be built into the annual budget.  To fund the online donation system, givers will be asked to off set the donation system cost every time they give to the organization.

8. Implementing Change/Keeping Current With Technology

Implementation will only happen if everyone in the organization is educated on the proper use and purpose of the new technology.  All staff and volunteers will be trained on the technologies and will be expected to use the technology on a consistent basis.  Technologies will be phased into the organization as finances and staff time allows.

The technology plan will be reconsidered annually to insure that the “best practices” are being implemented within the organization.

9. Timeline/Budget

This year is budgeted for technology improvements.  This amount will be increased, as funding is available.  The timeline for will depend solely on funding.

Goal 1) Office hardware will be updated over a period of 3 years.  Printer will be updated in year one.  Computer will be updated in year two, and fax machine will be updated in year three.

Goal 2) The Google Apps email system has been setup.  In the first year, the executive director will start using this email system.  In the second year, committee chairs and staff will be trained and start using this email system.  In the third year, board members will be trained and will start using this email system.

Goal 3) During 2010, information for the database should be compiled. In 2011, documents should be uploaded onto the online database. By 2012, the database should be updated with new documents, and all email users will be trained on how to update and access the database.

Goal 4) In the first year, new domain hosts will be researched. In the second year, a group of technicians will be developed, and the new domain host will be launched.  In the third year, the technicians should be updating the website on a weekly basis or as needed.

Goal 5) The online donation system should be researched and launched over the course of this year.  By 2011, the online donation system should be up and running on the website.

Goal 6) Once the technician group is assembled, they should start to update online networking sites.  This updating should be a continual process.

10. Evaluation

Indicators for Success

  • Office hardware is updated
  • Increased fundraising from online donation system
  • Increased inquiry into programs
  • Developing new donor
  • Staff know past policies and can easily assess documents
  • Staff and volunteers make use of their email accounts
  • Communication is easier for staff
  • Website can be easily updated
  • Policies exist for updating website and non-profit networking sites
  • New committee members can easily transition onto committees

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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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