Because Every Team Needs a Superhero

You may be wondering who you’ll be working with should you partner up with HumanIT Project. To introduce our team members, we’re launching a mini-blog series. Each month, a team member will introduce themselves.

Tina Traini was instrumental in standing up HumanIT Project and has led every HIT project and working engagement thus far. Who is this person YOU could be working with? Read on to find out!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Wonder Woman. Admittedly mostly for the fancy costume but the idea of helping others and fighting for good was also a draw. As I grew up, I followed a typical path: get good grades, achieve a professional degree (I am an Electrical Engineer with a Drama minor) and get a good job (working for Accenture for nearly 15 years). I can say I was very successful at all of the above but, in my twenties, I started to remember the draw to the superhero and longed for something more. Some way to give back.

During my time at Accenture, I was fortunate to be selected for a special program that allowed me to engage with Plan International. Through this program, I spent time in England, Sierra Leone, Kenya and India helping Plan design, build, test and deploy a new global system to support child sponsorship. One day, sitting in an office/trailer in Freetown, Sierra Leone, writing test conditions for User Acceptance, I realized that it was possible to combine my education and experience to help make this world a better place. I was hooked.

It took a few years distracted by delivery of numerous client programs but eventually I made my transition to the development world. My departure from the consulting giant came with a unique opportunity to work with an organization I had been in love with for many years: Right To Play (RTP). Thanks to a donation from Microsoft, I was able to help RTP build technology solutions to support their business and field activities and to establish a strong IT basis across their global office network. I am still unsure of who learned more during my time at RTP but I was happy to share my knowledge and teach the team all about IT, technology programs and project management while being a sponge for all things program development and delivery, sponsorship/grant management and monitoring and evaluation.

As with all good things, that experience came to an end in 2016 and I found myself back in the IT consulting world once again. I was happy to be back but I kept my eyes open for the next Wonder Woman opportunity. That’s when I found HumanIT.

I am ecstatic to be a part of the HumanIT family bringing my unique perspective to the team and our partners. Having been on both sides of the equation, I understand the unique context and constraints of dealing with donors and delivering programming locally and globally and I know the path to successful and useful technology projects.

Stay tuned next month for team member Shan Gu’s blog. In the meantime, we look forward to helping you and your organization increase their superpowers!

Upcoming Presentation: Social Impact as a Platform for Innovation

HumanIT Project partners with Right To Play and Foci Solutions to deliver this thought provoking presentation to the Women in Communications and Technology professional association.

Here is the synopsis:

All around us, the democratization of information through technologies, such as social media, has created an environment in which our workforce is increasingly purpose-driven; the citizen demand for action on social and environmental issues is growing; and a highly technology confident generation is launching innovation at an unprecedented rate.

Therein lies a unique opportunity for social innovation. Where fully exploited, this opportunity will instigate a level of social change not yet experienced. The resourcefulness, dedication and mission-focus of non-profits combined with the ingenuity of private-sector technology expertise, supported by the mass of useful data made available through Open Government initiatives will drive cross-sector progress:

  • progress for non-for-profit organizations tackling these social and environmental problems;
  • progress for the private-sector firms creating more innovative and sustainable solutions; and
  • progress for government organizations pursuing increased public impact and engagement.

Join this presentation to hear how the strengths of three sectors can be leveraged to develop and apply sustainable, scalable and useable solutions to immediate social and environmental problems. Come and learn how the integration of three sectors will ignite the kind of innovation and tangible outcome capable of deep social impact.

For information on how to attend this presentation, visit WCT.

 

HumanIT’s Year In Review

This time last year, we were six people doing our thing. We were building businesses, advising government, and playing with technology. Now, we’re six people leveraging our knowledge and experience to advocate for bigger and better: bigger impact, better uses of technology, better uses of funding dollars, all to solve social problems we, as world citizens, can no longer ignore.
So what was 2015 like for The HumanIT Project team?
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  • In the midst of reading tech articles, case studies, project documentation, financial reports, we read the Gates Foundation Annual Letter.
  • Compelled to join a movement of leveraging tech for good, we developed our social innovation model
  •  We formed a team and got to work
  • We secured and delivered our first project with Right To Play International (Stay tuned for the Case Study!)
  • We used every opportunity to promote our model in private, public and nonprofit sector networks
  • We built our online presence leveraging social media to gain the interest of awesome people like YOU!
  • We put our corporate hats on to develop foundation documents including our Strategic Plan, our annual business plan, our communications and marketing strategy
  • We incorporated as a nonprofit on November 22, 2015 and formed our Board of Directors
  • We have a pipeline of projects for the new year and exciting speaking opportunities coming up (Stay tuned for details!).
  • Most importantly, we met FANTASTIC people along the way willing to give us their time, their ideas, the perspective, and their opinions, all of which has helped guide our efforts.

Where would we like to be this time next year? By the end of 2016, we’d like:

  • A growing community of cross-sector, multidisciplinary community builders who see the advancements in technology as an enabler to unprecedented progress in social problems
  • A published annual report including our projects, our advocacy work and their impact
  • A growing relationship with universities, charities and technology companies
  • A formal launch event in the form of a Social Good Hackathon
  • A growing list of speaking engagements allowing us to promote the paradigm shifts in the private and nonprivate sectors we’re working to drive
  • Advancements we can point to in terms of how cross-sector partnerships makes change happen FASTER and with greater IMPACT.

And some funding to make all of this possible would be alright… !

We’re still building businesses, advising government, and playing with technology. Our time with HumanIT has been a highlight of 2015. Our greatest hope is for some of you to say the same come December 2016.

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Development for Good, an insider’s perspective


In a software shop, all development projects take on a narrative.  This narrative is the story told over and over around the water cooler or at social gatherings on the weekend.  When someone asks us “How was your week?”, we become storytellers. Modern-day Homers, we describe poorly written requirements, bad tool documentation, and that inevitable bug that snuck passed testing into production. The pieces might change, but the stories stay the same.
Recently I had the good fortune to work on a project with a different story.
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Right To Play runs programs all over the world using play to engage kids in their education, to teach them health lessons and to show them how to build peaceful communities.  They ran into problems measuring the progress of children.  Surveys were being administered with pen and paper and manually entered into Excel, all of which had a high risk of data loss and error.  The solution was a mobile application to administer the survey that would sync the data to a central repository.
I could tell you about all the technical achievements of the project.  How it was our first native mobile app, or how we used open-sourced technologies to work within a tight deadline.  These details weren’t the most interesting parts of working with Right To Play.  The features that make up the story I tell are those that come from working in a field distinct from my usual work.
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For instance, the app had to be bilingual.  Multi-lingual applications aren’t anything special in Ottawa; however, when the second language is Arabic instead of French, there are new challenges.  I had never even thought of working with a right-to-left language, and that simple requirement had a big impact.  It’s not enough to change the characters.  We had to flip enumeration and navigation elements as well.  This challenge wasn’t particularly technically difficult, but it forced me to think differently and redefined many common practices like testing.
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Then there are bugs.  The last month of development is often spent repairing bugs and for this reason most developers remember the negative aspects of a project.  It’s different when you’re trying to help kids though.  One night the development site went down.  Bleary-eyed, I poked and prodded into the early hours of morning not because I was being told to, but because I knew by doing so I could help people in the field better accomplish their work.  I understood that a large part of Right To Play’s objectives meant engaging with the kids during school, and that meant getting things working on time.  I may not have been doing their work, but every day it felt good knowing I was doing work for them.
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It’s different when you’re working for a global non-profit.  Your narrative becomes theirs.  You stop talking about the key requirement that was overlooked and instead describe how you had communicated across a seven-hour time difference with people in the field.  When the client asks you to change the interface, you don’t perceive it as questioning your expertise, you think of how it will help them to better engage children in classrooms.  This describes my first experience with a HumanIT project and honestly, I can’t wait for another.
Joseph Pound is a software developer with Foci Solutions, an Ottawa-based technology firm providing technology advisory and system integration services. 

How can Technology Help?

 

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I entered conversations about HumanIT with a simple problem statement: How do we make charities do more with less and have that be better.

How do we move away from needing an army of volunteers, which takes loads of energy to track and manage? How do we reduce the number of hours an administrator spends tracking donations and costs in an excel spreadsheet? How do we put knowledge and information at their fingertips so they’re not constantly seeking the advice of people “in the know”?

And how do we do the same for the social problems these charities grapple with? How do we gain greater access, treat more people, reduce levels of poverty, increase health and wellbeing? How do we do good… better?

The answer is technology.

For example:

imagesMBFBOOQFKids and adults in remote areas are often underserved by the education system. Online teaching and learning platforms offer viable alternatives. Geospatial mapping of schools and school zones along with education level statistical data can further help nonprofts target the right areas for these platforms.

It’s logistically difficult for medical practitioners including nurses working in remote areas to carry reference material or tools to help them diagnose health problems. Equipping them with mobile technology provides them with easy access to knowledge and information without the logistical burden of carrying books or binders. Questionnaire type mobile applications may even allow community staff with minimal medical training carry out common diagnosis in the field with the remote support of doctors and nurses.

mobileFarmers in remote areas often lack access to critical weather information which would significantly impact their crops. Weather data can be synthesized into farming advice such as recommendations on irrigation or when to harvest. This advice can be communicated via text message to mobile phones. Farmers are then better positioned to make informed decisions regarding their crops, which ultimately increases their yield.

Also think of how social economic data can be used to target hunger and poverty programs; analytics and geospatial information to identify the sources of disease outbreaks and target treatment resources; mobile surveys and data collection to tailor program needs to children in areas where computers aren’t accessible.

While these are innovative solutions, we can also use technology to help managers of charities come out from under the burden of paperwork. If you’ve spent any amount of time with a charity, you’ve seen the excel spreadsheets and word documents used to track everything from budget, volunteers, staff hours, billing, event schedules, donor lists, action item lists, etc. etc. Imagine a centralized and integrated tool to manage all of this information? “Charity in a box” if you will. It’s an easy solution from a technology perspective, but the potential for positive impact within an organization is huge.

It sounds wild and complicated, I know. And if you’re involved in a charity, you’re probably thinking this sounds great but I have a program to fund and technology is expensive.

Here is where our skills come into play. Creativity extends beyond technology into measures to create access.

And so here is our CALL TO INNOVATE.

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We’re seeking technology companies oozing with ingenuity to tackle a social problem. We’ll create the structure and provide you the ground for innovation, you develop the solution.

We’re also seeking forward thinking charities to give us their most pressing social problems. We’ll strike up a project to provide you with a sustainable and scalable solution.

Contact us to get involved in a humanity project. info@humanitproject.com

Why The HumanIT Project?

Message from Shan Gu, HumanIT’s founding executive member.

icon-darkThe HumanIT Project was born out of a simple and random act roughly eight months ago. My wife, in her ongoing efforts to make me a better person, sent me a link to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2015 Annual Letter.  Reading through it, I was struck by how simple and widely available technologies can be applied to address fundamental developing world problems.

Example? Crowd-funding platforms can be re-purposed to provide micro-financing to farmers in Africa.  Mobile learning solutions can be adapted to help nurses in remote South American jungles diagnose illnesses. Knowledge collaboration and distance learning software can help provide education to areas in need of experienced teachers.

Yet, when I look at non-profit organizations, at least those that collectively as a team we’ve been involved in, most don’t have the resources to make meaningful investments in technology.

What followed? A chat with my business partner over Google Hangouts, a kitchen conversation with my wife, and some brainstorming over beers in a pub. Within months, our cross-sector group of tech, business, and non-profit leaders developed a sustainable, scalable, and game-changing model.

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What now drives us to implement? Our beliefs.

1) We believe simple technologies can solve big social problems;

2) We believe people working in technology want to, above all else, see their work solve problems and have an impact;

3) We believe constraint and motivation provide the best breeding ground for innovation. This ground is found in the non-profit sector. Tech companies are positioned to both contribute and benefit from it.

We’re excited to embark on this journey. We’ll be leveraging the amazing talent and energy that exists in organizations we’re involved with.  Through this website, we will share our efforts, our successes, and all the things we learn along the way.

Keep an eye on this space.  There are tons of exciting things coming!

Community Builders Launch Social Innovation Model

Impact-driven and attuned to the opportunity to generate social innovation, a group of community builders have launched The HumanIT Project, a consortium of like-minded organizations working to apply technological solutions to social problems.

Having partnered with a major global charity to develop a mobile survey application, HumanIT has effectively put their stake in the ground.

Moving forward, the team will actively engage with socially minded technology companies and forward thinking non-profit organizations.  In so doing, this growing consortium will leverage the passion of nonprofits and the ingenuity of technological companies to ignite social innovation.

For more information, please contact Christine Pothier, christine.pothier@humanitproject.com