Sometimes good things take time. Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. So better late than never, here are my 23NTC Field Notes for all three days of the conference.
With my partner sick, me less sick, and one kid home unexpectedly from daycare, my 2023 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) was scattered and, admittedly, not really the experience I had hoped for (through no fault of NTEN‘s!). Because of that and the delayed timing, I’m posting all three days of notes in one go.
These notes are made for browsing more than reading. Ignore the length and just pick one or two sessions that look interesting! They were taken on the fly during presentations, so I make no guarantees about typos and confusion. But I think you can still get a lot from them if you have any interest.
My morning at Not-NTC
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We had a lot of sick people at home right now, so I spent my morning at the doctor instead of catching the keynote, morning session, and birds of a feather sessions. Blah.
My presentation! “Don’t use accessibility overlays (Do this instead)”
I was so excited to be giving my first presentation at NTC on a topic I strongly care about. This was the same information as my two-part blog series on why I won’t install accessibility overlays and how to make websites accessible.
It seems like a lot of people left excited to do more accessibility work on their websites, and the silly metaphor about duct-taping an engine to a car hood was quite popular 🤣 Two weeks removed, I was happy to see that the 6 session survey reviews were quite positive! (And I fully acknowledge that the session was a bit too fast and I should have applied for a 60-minute slot. Lesson learned.)
Making accessibility part of your workflow
John Harrison and Emily Ladau
Collaborative notes for “Making accessibility part of your workflow”
Props to John and Emily for giving a hybrid presentation with one speaker in person and one remote. There were technical difficulties and I’m sure they learned a lot. But they had a good go of it and shared some great info.
I loved this definition of disability:
Disability is a natural part of the human experience.Emily Ladau
A classic truism:
If you have met one person with a disability, you have met one person with a disability.Emily Ladau
There is culture, community, and history for people with disabilities that is important to know. People with disabilities fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is the “floor, not the ceiling”. The act was implemented in 1990 and technology has changed so much since then.
Disability cuts across all identities.Emily Ladau
Ableism is essential to understand when we think about disability. Disability is so often relegated to the “margins of marginalization”. Ableism is attitudes and actions that discriminate against people with disabilities. Ableism can be systemic, interpersonal, and individualized.
When it came to workflows, they broke down the work of nonprofits in this way:
If you need help convincing people accessibility is important, there aren’t a shortage of reasons!
- 1 in 4 people have a disability
- Meaningful allyship
- True inclusion
- Legal compliance
- Better user experience
- Increased reach
- Ethical responsibility
- Complements mission
- Contributes to diversity
Being a meaningful ally requires ongoing action. Lean into accessibility knowing that it makes things better for everyone. We must bake accessibility in to technology from the outset.
Emily took a moment here to call out accessibility overlays as not the way to make website accessible. Tell me about it! I know that between Emily’s callout, my presentation, and other chatter at NTC we spread a lot of good information and convinced a lot of people to authentically work on web accessibility.
Emily talked about the “curb cut” effect and how so many accessibility features benefit folks who aren’t the specific target of those features: talking to our phones and smart speakers, captions on videos, text messaging, and so much more!
I really liked the model and worksheet (PDF, 96KB) that TKOParsons offered for equity & inclusion in outreach. Here’s the details from one section showing all the different places where accessibility should be a consideration:
Drawing out stakeholder requirements with workflow diagrams
I started my day watching my friend Janice’s presentation. The subject was something I really wanted to learn about. Janice’s presentations always end up with me writing a lot of alt text because her slides are so great!
I’m going to include a bunch of stuff verbatim off the slides since they were clear and concise!
Good technical requirements:
- Define the desired outcome
- Allow flexibility in how it’s achieved (doesn’t over-specify the solution!)
- Are testable (you know can tell when it’s met)
Janice interestingly talked about how visual diagrams can walk the line between specific and not-too-specific.
- Make things explicit and visible
- Abstract enough so that people don’t anchor to the details too early
Examples of diagrams Janice shows:
- Business process
- Data flow (a user flow interacting with data going to and from member database)
Janice recommends we get started by making a list. (I LOVE LISTS!) Your lists might include:
- Steps in a process
- The people involved
- Systems/physical touchpoints
- Decision points or points where workflows diverge
You then arrange your lists in order, use arrows to connect them, and label items or create a key, as needed.
Key ways to keep diagrams “in scope”:
- Define your start and end points
- Name your assumptions
Diagrams can be a great way to get information out of one person’s head (when they hold lots of institutional knowledge). But you can also co-create diagrams as a way of visual collaboration. Diagrams are so flexible!
Apps, Tools, & Tactics to Automate & Accelerate Hybrid Work
Meico Whitlock and Jason Shim
Collaborative Notes for “Apps, Tools, & Tactics to Automate & Accelerate Hybrid Work”
I loved Jason’s intro that this presentation would be: “Quick bites you can take with you with commentary from us.” They came through with that promise!
Meico is putting together a list of free tools for hybrid productivity.
When working remotely, it’s important to be clear about what tasks need to by synchronously (real-time conversation) and asynchronously (exchanging information). It’s good to have an intentional balance between the two.
What is urgent? What is important? When that’s turned into a four-quadrant table, it’s sometimes called an “Eisenhower Matrix”.
Some interesting tools they mentioned:
- Otter.ai – Automated note taking on digital meetings (people were very excited about this in the chat and a few people are already successfully using this)
- Microsoft Power Automate – Set up custom email workflows
- Reclaim.ai – For support in “time blocking” tasks you need to complicate (an interesting way of holding yourself accountable)
AI disclosure recommendation:
Make sure your use of AI is a tool to effectively achieve your mission and you think about ethical uses of it.
“All Things WordPress!” Digital Birds of a Feather
I set up an “All Things WordPress!” session for the mid-day Birds of a Feather and we had a great conversation about:
- How to switch to using the Block Editor: It’s hard and there are lots of ways to do it from starting from scratch to migrating page-by-page within an existing site.
- How every WordPress site can be a little different which can make it hard to learn. Someone asked for good beginner resources and we shared the official WordPress documentation, Easy WP Guide, and (I had no choice!) Nonprofit WP. A few people very smartly recommended getting a copy of your site for experimentation to learn from experience. “Staging” sites are a great tool for this.
Co-Creating Collaboration Agreements (That Center Equity)
Collaborative notes for “Co-creating collaboration agreements”
This was my absolute favorite session of NTC. Thanks, Bettina! I am constantly seeking ways to make collaboration more authentic with my clients, so that we both have the space and trust to speak honestly with each other. When this happens, there is no doubt in my mind that the project outcomes are better. And bigger picture, I think if more organizations and consultants work this way, we will all be happier, more connected, and more “in community” with each other.
I have no doubt that I have a long way to go on this goal. I’m a younger, straight, white man, raised in material comfort, who enters into nonprofit spaces with additional positional power as a consultant. This presentation helped me think that through on newer and deeper levels and gave me excellent ideas for new ways to work with organizations in the future.
“Further equity through feedback and recognizing harmful habits”Bettina Sferrino
The goal is to be thoughtful and intentional about partnership and the vision we’re working toward together. It can be used internally within an organization or just between two people (or anything in between!). The exact format, length, and content will have to vary depending on who is participating, the length of engagement, and more.
An open question I have is how compact can this be while still be authentic and “creating space” rather than “dictating norms” (the latter won’t work). How much value is there is sharing my own values, even if I don’t have the time to fully discuss them with the other party. (For instance, I am entering an extremely limited 5-hour engagement with a client. We literally do not have any time for anything besides my work on their website.)
Don’t forget to be clear about why you want to use a collaboration agreement! When asked to share why we were interested in the chat, I wrote the following:
As a consultant, I am often aware of the uncomfortable amount of power I have when I enter into an organization’s space, as a white man, but also as an outside “expert”. I want to be able to acknowledge that and make sure my work is equitable with my (amazing!) collaborators.
Bettina makes an amazing point: Accountability requires feedback.
Congratulations to Dani Faulker for receiving the NTEN Community award this year! I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with Dani at NTC and some post-NTC-friend Zooms. Dani is one of the many leaders and organizers within the Community-Centric Fundraising movement while doing great work as the Chief Development Officer of Baltimore Corps.
Keynote: Abolish the Internet, Evan Greer
In order to use technology to shape the world for the better—when it is frequently being used to automate subjugation and discrimination—we “need to learn from the principles of abolition” fighting the carceral state. Importantly, this work has been pioneered by the work of black women. We want to move beyond using technology to try to reduce the harms of society. We want to use technology to empower people.
Evan founded the organization that helped organize the SOPA blackout and also organized other protests supporting net neutrality.
To be clear, Evan believes that we need to “make the internet worth.” (Yes!) The problem is that we are seeing data collection increasingly used to police people’s bodies in the new anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ laws. But it feels like every win is followed by two new problems.
The point here is that many “reforms” are in tension with changing the root causes of the problems themselves.
Evan is also a musician and so sang a song she has written about surveillance capitalism from the album “Spotify is Surveilance” (not available on Spotify!):
The ABCs of data privacy
Allison Jai O’Dell, Director, Data and Information Technologies, The Funders Network
- Personally-Identifiable Information (PII): Information which can be used to associate content with a specific person – e.g., a name, email address, or social security number
- Data Processing: The collection and manipulation of data to produce information
- Data Controller: Entity that determines the purposes for which and the manner in which personal data are processed
- Data Breach: A data breach is a security violation, in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen, altered or used by an individual unauthorized to do so.
Employees are the biggest data security risk! If you pay attention to the definition of “data breach,” it’s easy to imagine that well-intentioned staff are the most often people making “data breaches.”
A few interesting notes about data:
- People must be able to opt-out of any marketing emails from nonprofits, regardless of how that email is sent.
- GDPR (the European privacy law) says your organization must state how you plan to use data and then can’t use it for new purposes without notifying people of that change.
- Good reminder: If you store less data, then it’s easier and more secure to manage privacy. Unsurprisingly, it’s easier if you’re doing less by acting with intention. For example, GDPR requires that everyone has a right to have you erase their data. If you can’t even find all their data, how can you delete it!?
Commonalities between Data Privacy Regulations:
- Security: Duty to secure and safeguard access to PII and PHI
- Access: Right to request access to and inspect personal data
- Correction: Right to request that errors be corrected
- Portability: Right to request that information be transferred
- Erasure: Right to request data deletion
- Consent: Right to decide what PII may be collected, held, sold, transferred, or
- used for advertising
- Appeal: Right to appeal a denial of an above request
Her key takeaway: Your organization’s liability is not primarily what matters. Your constituents trust, safety, and privacy is what really matters.
“All Things WordPress!” Birds of a Feather Online Session
Reminder: The online NTEN WordPress community is open to everyone, even if you’re not a member. You should join if you’re interested!
We talked about pressure from bosses to use Drupal, our frustrations with cookie popups (we want informed users but cookie popups are terrible!), and enjoyed connecting. It’s always helpful to see how similar the challenges we all face are, despite the participants being spread out across the country and in wildly different roles.
You should go to NTC 2024 in Portland
Put it on your calendar May 13-15. Sign up for email announcements on the NTEN newsletter list! It’s a great conference, and I’d love to see you there.