4 conferences doing it right

Hey, there’s a lot coming up in terms of conferences this year. A lot of social change events, innovation get togethers, and ways for groups to get together and really make a difference.

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Here are some conferences that are coming up this year, with an excerpt of their description. You should check them out, if you’re able:

Nonprofit 2.0 – June 26 in Washington, DC. 

Nonprofit 2.0’s more than just a conference on the next generation web. It’s a next generation conference in format. NonProfit 2.0 features sessions led by the most innovative nonprofit campaigners, thought leaders, and strategists in the space.

It’ll be done in an unconference way with no PowerPoint, 15 minute leads for keynotes (folks, I’ll be keynoting this with Majora Carter and Michael Smith), and open questions and dialogue for fantastic conversations. Then from mid-morning forward, NonProfit 2.0 shifts into a full-on Unconference with DC’s brightest minds strategizing for social good.

Summit on Social Media and Online Giving – July 1-2 in New Delhi, India.

This Summit is GlobalGiving’s first two-day, in-person event designed to equip organizations with knowledge, skills and resources to engage supporters and raise funds online. This Summit’s produced in partnership with Social Media for Nonprofits, the premiere global event series on social media for social good.

The 2014 Summit on Social Media & Online Giving will bring together fundraising practitioners from India and South Asia to learn how other organizations are using online tools and social media like email, Facebook, and GlobalGiving to tackle their funding needs and collaborate to find ways to further their causes online.

Through panel discussions and hands-on workshops, organizations will explore:

    • The latest trends in online giving;
    • The future of corporate social responsibility in India;
    • Best practices in storytelling, donor engagement, campaign planning;
    • Valuable techniques for online measurement and analysis;
    • and more…

Silicon Valley Innovation Summit  – July 29-30 in Mountain View, CA.

The Silicon Valley Innovation Summit is an annual gathering of the brightest minds and top entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate players in the Global Silicon Valley.

The Innovation Summit has featured dozens of break-out companies before they became household names, including Pixar, Google, Salesforce.com, Skype, MySQL, YouTube, Tesla, Facebook, and Twitter.

This two-day exclusive event treats attendees to a high-level debate and discourse on top trends and opportunities in the booming digital media, entertainment, on-demand and cloud computing sectors. The Innovation Summit is produced in an intimate and social setting, where participants can easily meet up, socially network, and make deals happen.

Leading Change Summit – September 3-6 in San Francisco, CA.

Join NTEN for the inaugural Leading Change Summit in San Francisco. Exclusively for nonprofit leaders, this event offers three tracks to accelerate your career development: Impact Leadership, Digital Strategy, and the Future of Technology.

Engage with diverse voices to ignite new ideas, activate your strategies with expert advice and planning tools, and change the way you create impact.

 

What conferences will you be attending this year, folks?

Net neutrality, TV, and what the smart people forget to tell you

People are rightly concerned about recent FCC statements about Net Neutrality. A lot of people, way smarter than me, discuss the regulatory and technology issues much better than me. My focus is on some of the basics which are pretty much always forgotten in Washington, even by some very smart people.

net neutrality

(Folks, please note I speak only for myself, not for any org that I started or anything else.)

Personal bottom line: I love TV, and looking forward to getting the good stuff via Internet services like Netflix and Amazon. Looks like a big ISP has already messed around with that, and I don’t know if we can trust the big ISPs to keep their promises.

That’s the big forgotten issue: can we trust telecoms, cable companies, and big ISPs to do what they promise to do?

You probably know the answer to that, considering broken promises, and that ISPs and telecoms often think it’s okay to break promises.

For that matter, the big guys seem to have forgotten that they make money using public property, like radio airwaves and rights of way, like where they bury cables or provide cell phone service. I feel that the American people expect the telecoms to embrace basic American values, like playing fair, like being trustworthy.

Sascha Meinrath says it well “we are the landlords and we have expected norms for the tenants of our property.”

We’re not really talking “regulation,” just enforcing the terms of the social contract between Americans and the telecoms who have the privilege of using our stuff for big profit.

Please remember that The Internet has worked really well for around thirty years with a Net Neutrality-based social contract.

If it works, don’t break it.

Bonus: an Internet-based movement emerged, a few years ago, to defeat some really bad law, SOPA. I’ve been quietly pushing the idea that we need that movement to emerge again, and become a permanent part of the US political landscape. This is the time.

Craig

Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference is back for social change

Folks, the Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference is back, and I’m keynoting this year alongside Majora Carter, who’s the real deal. Nonprofit 2.0 is DC’s only Unconference dedicated to the social cause space.

Here’s some info about the conference according to co-founder, Allyson Kapin, who also happens to be part of the craigconnects team:

Nonprofit 2.0’s more than just a conference on the next generation web. It’s a next generation conference in format. Have you ever gone to a conference just for a keynote, but the workshops weren’t up to par? Nonprofit 2.0 delivers the best of keynotes and workshops, offering keynotes led by innovative nonprofit campaigners, thought leaders, and strategists in the space, but in an unconference way, with no PowerPoints, 15 minute leads, and open questions and dialogue to give a voice to everyone.”

Following the keynote sessions, Nonprofit 2.0 shifts into a full-on Unconference with workshops facilitated by DC’s brightest minds strategizing for social change.

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What’s an Unconference? Well, you start with a blank wall and, in less than an hour, with a facilitator guiding the process attendees create a full day, multi-track conference agenda that is relevant and inspiring to everyone in the room. All are welcome to put forward presentations or propose conversations that you’d like to have with others and:

  • questions you want answered;
  • information you want to share/present;
  • a project you would like help on;

As people register, the conference organizers will be posting proposed topics on their blog.

Last year’s event sold out pretty early, so get your tickets now, if you’re able, and don’t miss out.  You can use comp code nptech for 10% off registration fees.

As I mentioned, I’ll be keynoting this year with Majora Carter, one of the biggest activists and disruptors tackling urban revitalization in communities that are often ignored. The smart Craig Newmark will be talking about the non-traditional business philosophy of “doing well by doing good,” and my belief in the advantage of “bottom-up” grassroots action.

I’ve heard that Majora will discuss her journey, message, and vision to revitalize communities that are forgotten. Her TED talk on Greening the Ghetto is the important stuff.

Join us on June 26thth at SEIU for what promises to be a 4th sold out unconference. Folks, this is the real deal, and tickets are just $45. Plus, I can get you 10% off with the comp code nptech. It’s not altruism, it just feels right.

And, please note that any net proceeds will be donated to a local charity.

 

Bearing witness: Shinseki does right for vets

Sometimes people in Washington do a really good job, but take a lot of crap unfairly. Sometimes it takes a “nerd-in-residence” to start to set the record straight. This is the short version; every topic below deserves longer treatment.

In 2009, Eric Shinseki took over the Department of Veterans Affairs, with the mission of doing right for vets. Back then: VA didn’t have the right software to process disability claims efficiently. Vets with Vietnam era-Agent Orange illnesses had a hard time getting claims judged properly. Some Vets and Vet Service Orgs (VSOs) felt they faced an adversarial attitude. VA line workers got a lot of unfair abuse. (Note to self: as a customer service rep, I get a lot of that also, almost every day, so I can identify.)

More and more Vietnam vets file disability claims, to get the benefits they deserve. However, it was really hard to get properly compensated for Agent Orange herbicide-related issues. Long story, but the bottom line is that Shinseki designated several Agent Orange-related diseases as “presumptive” conditions, and allowed claims to be made on that basis and approved fast.

However, that inflated the disability claims backlog, not only the current “inventory” of claims but also the “backlog.” For that matter, in the effort to do right by vets, Shinseki insisted on faster processing overall, and imposed stricter standards on quality and what counted as backlog. That made the existing backlog jump in a huge way, creating major perception problems for Veterans Affairs, which have been widely reported.

So the good news, not so much reported, but the bad news got a lot of attention. By doing right by vets, the VA looked bad. For whatever reason, the press has largely neglected good work, and emphasized bad news. (A while back I wrote a thank you note for VBA workers.)

Here’s the history of the claims backlog (courtesy of Brandon Friedman),

USE!!!

Most of the current backlog reduction is attributed to efforts like a lot of dedication and overtime on the part of VA line workers. (Thanks!) However, what VA has needed for a long time, at least since 2003, is an online system to expedite claims processing.

In 2009, Shinseki brought in Peter Levin as VA *Chief Technology Officer and others to make that happens.

Cutting to the chase, they started building the Vets Benefits Management System (VBMS.) The deal with VBMS is that claims could be processed online by VA workers, and entered by vets or VSO claims professionals. If entered by vets, the model is do it yourself, like TurboTax. If entered by a pro at a Vets Service Org,they can get to VMBS directly, or enter documents for the Vet via the Stakeholder Enterprise Portal (SEP). Pretty soon, if they have their own claim system like VetPro, they’ll be able to send from their system to VBMS. It’s like going to get help from H&R Block, or Earl, my CPA.

The first big task is to get the paper claims inventory converted to digits and put into VBMS, which involves scanning huge amounts of paper into the system. That’s about 75% done. Here’s before and after at the Winston-Salem VA RO:

(Before…)

W-S files

(After…)

W-S clean

The big shift to VBMS is just happening right now, and it also means first getting VSOs onboard with either the Portal or indirectly via a gateway called Digits to Digits (D2D).

Big software projects take time, but it looks like all this is happening very quickly for a large organization. At this point, the effort is in agile software development mode. I’m not using “agile software development” in the doctrinaire sense, rather, it’s like I started for my own stuff:

1. ask people what they want and need

2. do it

3. ask people what to improve

4. go to 1

That’s to say, people tell either their local VBMS coach (like Shannon who I met in Oakland) what’s going on, or they tell Allison (that’s actual Brigadier General (retired) Allison Hickey, who runs this part of VA) during her weekly calls with VBMS users. Then stuff gets fixed or deferred. (Note to VSOs: you got suggestions, tell Allison, or if you prefer, tell me, I’ll get ’em to the right place.)

Shineki got lots more going on, like an Employee Innovation effort in 2009, where I helped judge entries. My favorite effort resulted in Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), which turn what doctors say into numbers that can be automated via disability rate calculators. DBQs need work, that’s happening, largely due to the efforts of Beth the Enforcer. (I’ll tell that story another time.)

Claims processing can also be delayed while Service Treatment Records are transferred from places like Department of Defense storage warehouses. (The Raiders of Lost Ark Warehouse is actually the VA warehouse…)


However, efforts are proceeding to get Defense to scan in and electronically transfer treatment records to VA. (More later.)

VA is a very large organization, maybe over 330,000 people serving around 22 million potential customers.

Whether private or public, large orgs are normally dysfunctional. Me, I’ve worked at or with large orgs, like IBM, GM, and Bank of America, and seen from the inside how bad things can be; however, public orgs are normally way more transparent than private orgs. I bear witness that Veterans Affairs does really good, with exceptions.

As a nerd, I’ll help make the good better, and I’ll stand up for good people getting a lot of unfair crap flung at them.

A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

 

Government Shutdown Resources for Vets & Milfams

Hey folks, with the government shutdown happening I felt it was real important to share resources for military families and veterans.

We’ll try to keep it current.

If you have resources that you’d like to share, please note them in the comments. As we get new resources, we’ll update this post.

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