Last month, the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation published a study entitled "The digital transformation of NGOs". The study was carried out as part of the ESADE-PwC Social Leadership Program, a joint initiative with the PwC Foundation. The results of the study, conducted by Emilia Caralt, Ignasi Carreras and Maria Sureda, were presented on January 19 at the PwC headquarters. Co-author Maria Sureda, a researcher at ESADE's Institute for Social Innovation, comments on the main conclusions of the study and its potential impact for NGOs: EK: How have NGOs changed due to the digital transformation we've been experiencing over the last few years? Maria Sureda: Digital transformation is a trend nowadays. People are talking about it in many sectors and many companies are moving in this direction. The NGO sector has not yet seen the arrival of transformative, disruptive agents, as has happened in other sectors. However, we believe it is necessary to transform and adapt to new technologies and society in order to offer better services and have a larger impact. It is true that some entities created in recent years were born into a digital environment and are able to take advantage of new technologies and the channels they provide in order to offer more innovative services. But there are still many traditional entities that are not incorporating the full potential of digital transformation in their activities and services. With this guide, we want to provide some guidance to these entities so that they can adapt to new trends before other disruptive actors come in and threaten the role of NGOs. What challenges are NGOs facing? Many NGOs say that their primary challenge is a lack of resources and knowledge about technology. This is also part of the problem with considering that the digital transformation is based only on technology. In many cases, it's actually about thinking about other ways of doing things; technology is just the way you do it. But the first thing is always to reflect on how things are being done and how they could be improved. We shouldn't just implement the technology that other entities are using because it's fashionable. We have found that people tend to be much more digitalized on a personal level than on a professional level We believe, in fact, that training teams is the biggest challenge. Many entities have very stable teams based on seniority, and not everyone is accustomed to working digitally. Interestingly, we have found that people tend to be much more digitized on a personal level than on a professional level, where they usually work in a more analog way. Existing teams require training. It may even be beneficial to hire new, younger people to help the rest of the organization incorporate a more digital mentality and gradually adapt the global organizational culture to this new environment. How can NGOs embrace change in a digital world? They can incorporate people who are accustomed to the digital world, but they can also take advantage of people in their environment - collaborators, volunteers and even donors - who know the potential of the digital world and can give them ideas. Above all, they can help to rethink how things are done and determine whether there are more efficient ways of doing them through technology, for example, in management, communication, etc. What we see, for example, is that many NGOs have started this transformation in the areas of marketing and communication through social networks, yet only because everyone is using social networks. But they don't always use these networks to get to know the public and interact with them. Instead, they tend to use them as an alternative to traditional communication, maintaining the unidirectional style. However, there is a lot of potential to gather information and improve projects and recruitment campaigns, for example. You identified a few NGO success stories. Can you tell us more? We believe that digital transformation is integral and should be a part of all departments within an organization. However, there are actions that we can place in specific areas of action. For example, in marketing, I'd like to highlight the case of Save The Children Spain, which saw the need to change the way they communicate with their social base and expand it. They adopted a very powerful digital communication strategy that allowed them to double their number of partners and donors, and above all to control the analytics to decide which actions had the biggest impact. To do this, they hired experts from outside the sector who, working with their own team, were able to develop the strategy. Many NGOs have started this transformation in the areas of marketing and communication through social networks Another prominent organization that has worked with digitalization - in this case internally, to improve management - is the Arrels Foundation. This organization implemented an internal management tool that greatly improved project management and reduced the number of unnecessary emails. They also created a database that updates automatically and is accessible at all times by the team, allowing them to make decisions more efficiently. What feedback did you receive during the presentation of the study? The assistants were very interested in hearing about examples of initiatives that are being developed in the sector. Many companies are afraid of digital transformation because they think it requires great resources. Seeing that there are ideas that do not require experts makes it easier for them to go deeper. Training teams, hiring outside people and seeing examples from small entities allows them to see that large NGOs are not the only ones that can enter the digital world. As I mentioned before, the key is to start with internal reflection on how you are working, what the needs are, where you can improve. Never try to start implementing tools or technology that others are using without first identifying what is going to be useful in your case. How did you carry out the study? For this study, we reviewed the existing literature - especially the English-language literature, since this issue had not been addressed in the Spanish NGO sector - to see how this issue has been addressed in other countries. We then contacted the sector directly, talking with entities and NGOs that have interesting initiatives, which we highlight in the publication. We also spoke to experts, and finally, we surveyed the sector to obtain quantitative data. The survey was distributed to the executives in the ESADE-PwC Social Leadership Program as well as other executives of entities in the sector.

ESADE

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"NGOs must rethink whether there are more efficient ways of doing things through technology"

05/2018

Last month, the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation published a study entitled "The digital transformation of NGOs". The study was carried out as part of the ESADE-PwC Social Leadership Program, a joint initiative with the PwC Foundation. The results of the study, conducted by Emilia Caralt, Ignasi Carreras and Maria Sureda, were presented on January 19 at the PwC headquarters. Co-author Maria Sureda, a researcher at ESADE's Institute for Social Innovation, comments on the main conclusions of the study and its potential impact for NGOs:


EK: How have NGOs changed due to the digital transformation we've been experiencing over the last few years?


Maria Sureda: Digital transformation is a trend nowadays. People are talking about it in many sectors and many companies are moving in this direction. The NGO sector has not yet seen the arrival of transformative, disruptive agents, as has happened in other sectors. However, we believe it is necessary to transform and adapt to new technologies and society in order to offer better services and have a larger impact. It is true that some entities created in recent years were born into a digital environment and are able to take advantage of new technologies and the channels they provide in order to offer more innovative services. But there are still many traditional entities that are not incorporating the full potential of digital transformation in their activities and services. With this guide, we want to provide some guidance to these entities so that they can adapt to new trends before other disruptive actors come in and threaten the role of NGOs.


What challenges are NGOs facing?


Many NGOs say that their primary challenge is a lack of resources and knowledge about technology. This is also part of the problem with considering that the digital transformation is based only on technology. In many cases, it's actually about thinking about other ways of doing things; technology is just the way you do it. But the first thing is always to reflect on how things are being done and how they could be improved. We shouldn't just implement the technology that other entities are using because it's fashionable.


We have found that people tend to be much more digitalized on a personal level than on a professional level


We believe, in fact, that training teams is the biggest challenge. Many entities have very stable teams based on seniority, and not everyone is accustomed to working digitally. Interestingly, we have found that people tend to be much more digitized on a personal level than on a professional level, where they usually work in a more analog way. Existing teams require training. It may even be beneficial to hire new, younger people to help the rest of the organization incorporate a more digital mentality and gradually adapt the global organizational culture to this new environment.


How can NGOs embrace change in a digital world?


They can incorporate people who are accustomed to the digital world, but they can also take advantage of people in their environment - collaborators, volunteers and even donors - who know the potential of the digital world and can give them ideas. Above all, they can help to rethink how things are done and determine whether there are more efficient ways of doing them through technology, for example, in management, communication, etc. What we see, for example, is that many NGOs have started this transformation in the areas of marketing and communication through social networks, yet only because everyone is using social networks. But they don't always use these networks to get to know the public and interact with them. Instead, they tend to use them as an alternative to traditional communication, maintaining the unidirectional style. However, there is a lot of potential to gather information and improve projects and recruitment campaigns, for example.


You identified a few NGO success stories. Can you tell us more?


We believe that digital transformation is integral and should be a part of all departments within an organization. However, there are actions that we can place in specific areas of action. For example, in marketing, I'd like to highlight the case of Save The Children Spain, which saw the need to change the way they communicate with their social base and expand it. They adopted a very powerful digital communication strategy that allowed them to double their number of partners and donors, and above all to control the analytics to decide which actions had the biggest impact. To do this, they hired experts from outside the sector who, working with their own team, were able to develop the strategy.


Many NGOs have started this transformation in the areas of marketing and communication through social networks


Another prominent organization that has worked with digitalization - in this case internally, to improve management - is the Arrels Foundation. This organization implemented an internal management tool that greatly improved project management and reduced the number of unnecessary emails. They also created a database that updates automatically and is accessible at all times by the team, allowing them to make decisions more efficiently.


What feedback did you receive during the presentation of the study?


The assistants were very interested in hearing about examples of initiatives that are being developed in the sector. Many companies are afraid of digital transformation because they think it requires great resources. Seeing that there are ideas that do not require experts makes it easier for them to go deeper. Training teams, hiring outside people and seeing examples from small entities allows them to see that large NGOs are not the only ones that can enter the digital world. As I mentioned before, the key is to start with internal reflection on how you are working, what the needs are, where you can improve. Never try to start implementing tools or technology that others are using without first identifying what is going to be useful in your case.


How did you carry out the study?


For this study, we reviewed the existing literature - especially the English-language literature, since this issue had not been addressed in the Spanish NGO sector - to see how this issue has been addressed in other countries. We then contacted the sector directly, talking with entities and NGOs that have interesting initiatives, which we highlight in the publication. We also spoke to experts, and finally, we surveyed the sector to obtain quantitative data. The survey was distributed to the executives in the ESADE-PwC Social Leadership Program as well as other executives of entities in the sector.

More Knowledge
La transformación digital en las ONG: Conceptos, soluciones y casos prácticos
Caralt , Emilia; Carreras Fisas, Ignasi; Sureda Varela, Maria
Madrid (Spain): ESADE. Instituto de Innovación Social, 11/2017
72 p.
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