Product teams: The next wave of digital for NGOs?

The era of the re-launch is over. How orgs can apply "product" principles to continually deliver the best technology.

We’ve reached a fascinating point in the evolution of technology within nonprofit and social change organisations: everyone we work with at Greenpeace and beyond seems to agree that digital has a critical role to play, but many struggle to find the staffing models and structures that enable their technology to truly thrive.

Sam DormanSo we asked Sam Dorman to speak with us about his experience helping the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) put a digital “product team” in place. Sam, a technology consultant who has worked closely with IAVA for years, reflected on how the product team approach transforms the relationship between technology, organizations and the people they serve.


You’re sitting down for your first meeting with an NGO’s digital, comms and tech leads — how do you explain a product model to them?

This is about putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to technology. It’s saying, we know that technology is essential to delivering our programs and having the impact we want to have. So we’re going to have a skilled team here that knows how to deliver it.

A digital product team is there to make sure your organization is using great, high-quality technology that is fully aligned with what you’re trying to accomplish, and really delivers the experience you want to create for people. Both internally and externally. It uses methods of “product management” that have emerged as best practices in the tech world, and acknowledges that we need to be just as sophisticated about how we manage technology in the social sector.

I think people have learned to have such low expectations when it comes to technology. Everybody kind of assumes it’s destined to be an area of frustration. But your technology should be great! It should be helping you. It needs to be reliable, it needs to be trustworthy, it needs to be easy to use, it needs to have great design, and it needs to deliver real value, consistently. That’s what this structure helps deliver.

How does the product team work? Who does what?

Well, one key point is that we’re actually not talking about a “tech team” of developers or IT specialists. We’re talking about people who understand how to drive and manage smart investments in technology. It’s more of a tech strategy role than anything very technical. You’re still working with external specialists when it comes to designing and developing things.

Read the rest now…

Measure your Mission: Beyond vanity metrics

Beyond Vanity Metrics

This guest post by Jackie Mahendra, Director of Strategic Collaboration at Citizen Engagement Laboratory, first appeared on Medium. How do you know if your work is working? For those of us at mission-driven organizations, this is a … [Read more]

Pay attention and win: Lessons from Brasil

How Greenpeace Brasil is adapting Big Listening to its needs to become an opinion leader
March for forests in Brasil

In 2013, Greenpeace Brasil realised it was having trouble turning it's fast-growing social media audience into the kind of active and vocal supporters needed to help influence public opinion on its issues. In mid-2013, they connected with MobLab's … [Read more]

Learn how 3 years of Big Listening (and testing) may change your campaigning

A MobLab interview with Upwell's Rachel Weidinger
Upwell conversation

The crew of innovative campaigners and online strategists at Upwell, led by a core team of Rachel Weidinger, Ray Dearborn and Matt Fitzgerald have done their best to change how campaigns listen to, use and test online campaigning since 2012. Their … [Read more]

Kosovo youth set agenda (and gather data) for change

How replicable citizen science programs propel environmental policy
Kosovo youth assemble monitors

The Republic of Kosovo has a pollution problem. During the winter, when the local lignite power plants are working over time, the air becomes visible. Particulate glistens in the streetlights, everything is covered in a grey film. Kosovo is … [Read more]

It’s all just organizing

How small organizations can punch above their weight in a digital world
Digital Forest

“I am not saying ignore what’s working for large organizations,” writes ActionSprout CEO Drew Bernard, “they often provide great inspiration. But don’t mistake what they are doing as a path to success.” His email came in response to a call for … [Read more]

How to run a campaign Hackathon

Real talk about building lasting relationships with the developer community
Hackathon for Oceans

Can you track vessels in open sea when they switch off their tracking system? What do they do when they don't want to be found? How can people actively take part in our actions from their computer? That’s the opening of an invitation to … [Read more]

How the Web Was Won

Ten lessons from the underdogs’ victory
Citizen protest

A year ago, if someone said an upstart coalition fighting for net neutrality would beat Comcast and Verizon, most would have laughed or just rolled their eyes. On January 14, 2014, we’d just lost a major lawsuit and were up against the most … [Read more]

How Direct Response TV scales emotional stories for a new audience

Behind the curtain of DRTV projects in Italy and New Zealand
Greenpeace NZ homeless polar bear video

Email response rates got you down? Online petitions not reaching new people? Looking to talk to new people that are busy at home -- but may have a TV on and a phone or tablet in their hand)? Greenpeace offices in Italy and New Zealand … [Read more]