Announcing the 2007 Nonprofit Software Development Summit

The 2007 Nonprofit Software Development Summit will be a first-of-its-kind convening to bring together the range of developers, technologists, managers, eRiders, users and other practitioners who self-identify under the umbrella of “nonprofit software development”. The event will provide an opportunity both to gather as a community and to take stock of the field, building both community and capacity.

The Summit will be hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area from February 21st to 23rd, 2007. Additional code sprints and collaborations may be scheduled in the days following the event.

Register Now for the Summit!

And check out the Preliminary Agenda!

The Summit will have as its primary goals the following:

  • To convene and strengthen connections between the networks of stakeholders in the nonprofit software spectrum, providing a fun and creative environment for celebrating successes and leadership in the field.
  • To share skills and knowledge in a highly collaborative, peer-to-peer fashion.
  • To map and discuss what is available and what is missing across the nonprofit software landscape, and to posit solutions for addressing the latter.
  • To offer a point of entry for software developers interested in offering their skills to nonprofit sector.

Event partners working with Aspiration to design the agenda and sessions include Blue Oxen Associates, Brattleboro Technology Collective, CivicSpace, CiviCRM, DemocracyInAction, DotOrganize, Drupal, Floatleft, Fund for the City of New York, Idealware, Leland Design, Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI), ONE/Northwest, The Open Planning Project, OpenID, PICnet, Project Zero, Radical Designs, and Salesforce.com Foundation. More partners are being added every day, and we welcome more involvement!

The agenda will take a concrete and hands-on approach to topics and challenges, focusing on transferring skills and process knowledge in interactive and fun ways. Panels and slideware will be in short supply, supplanted by participant driven collaborations and small-group formats.

Please have a look at the preliminary agenda on the Event Wiki and offer your input on how to improve the agenda!

Background

Software tools and technology that empower nonprofit and non-governmental organizations to carry out their mission have come a long way in the past 5 years. The advent of hosted solutions for donation, membership and project management have reduced IT costs while increasing capacity and reach. Powerful open source content management systems have put dynamic, affordable web publishing in the hands of a broad range of grassroots organizations. Platforms to support online campaigning and advocacy are plentiful, feature-rich, and accessible to a majority of budgets. Office productivity suites have continued to gain utility, and email tools continue to revolutionize the way organizations communicate and collaborate.

But even as these tremendous advances enable and magnify the operations and programmatic work of social change organizations, a range of gaps, discontinuities and incompatibilities continue to daunt those tasked with developing, deploying and supporting software tools in the nonprofit context. Donation and membership management tools rarely “play well” with campaigning and newsletter tools. Nonprofits are often forced to use “business” software where nonprofit-oriented alternatives fail to exist. Web site development and technology selection are still opaque arts. Where tools do offer appropriate functionality, training, support, usability and documentation are all too often unsolved issues.

And there is the issue of community. Few would assert that there is anything resembling a well-connected “nonprofit software development community”. Those who engineer tools for social change organizations often labor in social silos, working solo or only collaborating with those in their immediate field of practice or technology discipline. NPO and NGO developers are often an understated constituency at technology gatherings targeted at IT professionals, managers and end users in various subsectors, and they rarely enjoy event agendas focused on the topics at the center of their work and passion. Lack of appreciation for the complexities and subtleties of software engineering leaves nonprofit-focused developers under-appreciated and overworked. And “outside” developers and other technologists wishing to offer their skills to the nonprofit community have few well-defined ways to plug in and contribute. An event to convene, celebrate and connect the broad swath of players who have a stake in the development of software for NPOs and NGOs is long overdue.