Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Editor's Note: Our thoughts are with those impacted by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. While it may be some time until the full impact has been assessed, we will continue to work with our nonprofit partners to determine where our support can be of the greatest benefit. More on our efforts supporting relief in Japan can be found here.
The Leadership View
Guest Post by Tom Mara, Station Director, www.KEXP.org
KEXP is an arts organization with a mission to enrich your life by championing music and discovery. We operate a non-commercial radio station in Seattle where our DJs have the responsibility -- and the authority -- to curate and select the music you hear from a wide and deep array of music genres: from indie rock to world music, from hip hop to country, from reggae to the blues, among many others. We stream this service and provide a great deal of archived music, podcasts and video casts, all at no charge to the public.
We also invest a great deal in recording and distributing live performances. Last year we produced about 500 live in-studio sessions, a terrific way to bring the artists as close as possible to our listeners.
Technology has enabled us to build upon our traditional modes of public service. For example, our website enables you to recall any radio program from the past fourteen days, to connect to more than 30,000 photographs of artists and bands we've captured though the years, and to download video of in-studio-sessions. These have been terrific advances for our listeners over the past few years. But what about the future and our never-ending obligation to uphold our mission?
Perhaps I'm thinking too simplistically here, but I think there are two ways of approaching how technology can uphold a non-profit organization's mission. A lot of us focus on >buying< technology: it's an expense that rests within our profit and loss statement, and it's a strong way to drive greater efficiency or increase a capacity of a business system. But how many of us in the non-profit world step back and challenge ourselves to envision how technology could significantly drive greater public service impact. Is technology an expense - or is it an agent to generate impact? Better yet, can it be both in our organizations?
Photo courtesy of KEXP: Photo "Trombone Shorty" taken by Ken Roeder Photography
Microsoft recently committed to supporting KEXP's mission which is to enrich people's lives by championing music and discovery. Simply put, its commitment over the next three years is amazingly generous and will do wonders. But as we contemplated in recent months how Microsoft could support our non-profit, and as we had a series of planning sessions with their experts, we were encouraged -- challenged really -- to figure out how KEXP should prepare itself to optimize Microsoft's investment. Had we fully contemplated how technology could directly move the community impact needle? Had we considered new modes of public service? How would a greater investment in technology drive our economic engine and increase and improve our capacity to conduct business and generate greater revenue in order to become a more effective steward of our mission. Stunningly beautiful questions, really, in my view with this one being the most focusing: How could our constituents be better served with technology?
As we worked towards answering them, we transformed ourselves. I believe we became a stronger organization, one with greater clarity of opportunity and risks, greater understanding of vision, keener strategies, and a more sophisticated technology philosophy, for example:
The KEXP-Microsoft initiative has already been transformative to our organization. And we are giddy about how it will generate even more progress. However, perhaps most importantly, it has caused us to better understand how technology can - and should -- be a powerful agent in pursuing our public service mission, in addition to how it can improve efficiency and increase capacity.
How could technology amazingly drive public service impact for your constituents?
If you'd like to share some ideas, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck and keep up the important work!
For a deeper dive on the technology story of KEXP and Microsoft's partnership, check our PART 2 of this blog, written by Microsoft Sr. Director of Developer & Platform Evangelism Group, Eric Schmidt.
(read part 1: The Leadership View, by KEXP's Tom Mara)
Part 2: The Technology View
Guest post by Eric Schmidt, Sr. Director, Developer & Platform Evangelism Group, Microsoft Corporation
Photo courtesy of KEXP; "Yo La Tengo" Photo taken by Renata Steiner / Nataworry Photography
For the past decade KEXP has been a visionary in pushing the limits of technology to serve the music community. In late 2010 Microsoft and KEXP entered a multi-year partnership to evolve the core technology platform that powers the KEXP. This partnership focuses on the three areas: the "Play", supporting infrastructure, and the listener.
Play in the Cloud
The life blood of KEXP is the "Play". DJ's select the play and listeners receive the play. Each play contains a wealth of information: title, artist, release, genre etc. Today this information is surfaced online via the real-time playlist . KEXP is investing in new cloud based technologies via Windows Azure to extend the value of the "Play". At the station this investment is called the "Music Service Fabric". The Music Service Fabric is a set of cloud based services which run on Windows Azure. These services normalize all play data throughout the station and will be used to power the real-time playlist, streaming services and will enable new features like contextual social sharing.
Contextual social sharing will enable the KEXP community to share and syndicate KEXP play information in a manner that provides attribution for KEXP as the source of the play. For example - Rebecca is at working listening to KEXP online, she hears a new song she enjoys. She scans the real time playlist and "Likes" the song. This triggers a "Like" against that play - which is really a "Like" for the artist, the release, the track as well as the show and the time it was played. If Rebecca has enabled authentication via Facebook and or Twitter she can seamlessly promote her "Like" to her social network. As the "Like" is shared traffic and promotion is tied back to KEXP, this in turn provides a mechanism to promote further information about the play or related content.
KEXP is utilizing Windows Azure to host the new service fabric. The service fabric is built with .NET Framework 4.0, leveraging the ADO.NET Entity Framework and is exposed with standards based REST services. The implementation supports a multifaceted relational model that bridges external meta-data schema with KEXP specific meta-data which is ultimately stored in SQL Azure. With Windows Azure and SQL Azure, KEXP can dynamically scale processing and storage needs as demand and complexity of related services fluctuate.
In late 2010 KEXP finished their migration from Pine email and Oracle based calendaring to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Specifically KEXP has adopted Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Office Communications Online. This migration has created new efficiencies and more effective communication for KEXP's full-time and volunteer staff.
Internally KEXP operates on average with 150 staff, of which 60~ staff is volunteer based. The volunteer pool is constantly changing. Efficiently on-boarding new volunteers is crucial as KEXP has limited IT administration resources. Once rolled into a BPOS account volunteers have access to the mainline discussion groups and collaboration tools required to support their duties.
KEXP's full-time staff now enjoys unified calendaring and email through Microsoft Outlook backed by Microsoft Exchange Online. Staff can now also stay connected via Active Sync mobile devices like Windows Phone 7, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.
Net-net Microsoft BPOS has bridged the communication processes for KEXP's full-time and volunteer staff. BPOS provides a cost effective mechanism to on board new resources as KEXP's staffing needs grow.
KEXP is truly listener powered; roughly 80% of KEXP's operating income comes directly from individual donors also known as KEXP members. As a non-profit organization KEXP is faced with the ongoing challenge of motivating existing members to renew their membership while at the same time attracting and converting new listeners into members. Currently KEXP utilizes six separate systems to manage its membership and gift processing workflow. These systems operate in an autonomous manner and in most cases cannot be extended to implement new business processes. KEXP is challenged with the need to have a highly flexible technology foundation for its CRM workflow.
In early 2011 KEXP made a commitment to adopt Microsoft Dynamics CRM online as a means to implement a more unified CRM workflow for both member management & underwriting management. This initiative will model new automated workflows for new member on boarding, existing member account maintenance, gift processing and donation management. Ultimately these workflows will be integrated with applicable data flowing in and out of the music service fabric. For example, the station strives to model geographic listening/usage behavior with donor behaviors.
Another benefit from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online implementation will be streamlined interaction with new workflows via Outlook and existing collaboration tools. This will provide KEXP staff the means to drive long running workflows in a more consistent manner.
The net impact from this new architecture is that KEXP will have a more extensible CRM technology platform to both improve existing workflows as well as extend new workflows to their collaboration tools and within the music service fabric. Ultimately these investments will provide a more meaningful and transparent connection between KEXP and its global listener and member community.
The technology partnership between KEXP and Microsoft focuses on three most important pillars of the station: the core staff, the play and the listener. Innovation around meta-data management, combined with new CRM workflows layered on top of unified knowledge worker tools will take KEXP into the next decade of leadership and to further drive their public service mission.
Listener powered, technology powered - where the music and technology matters - KEXP.org.
We have all been shocked and saddened by the images and reports coming from Japan.
It is a human tragedy on a massive scale.
To help support ongoing relief efforts, Microsoft is making an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions such as software.
We already have a range of support efforts underway including:
There are many opportunities to help. We invite you to consider supporting any of the following relief organizations in the work they are doing to help the people in Japan:
We will continue to monitor the situation in Japan and do what we can to help.
It is with great concern we are seeing the images from Japan. The scene of the devastation is quite amazing. It will be a while for all of us to get a full sense of the disaster and its impact.
Our team in Japan was in fact hosting a conversation with 30 NGO representatives from our Community Technology Skills Program partner the National Council of Women who were in the building for a training event. Some of the representatives are from across Japan including some of the worst hit areas of the disaster. This was their annual review of the program. The Japan team has been working hard to supply food, drinks and blankets to all those remaining in the building.
Our team is working to determine the best response and is working with the Red Cross in Japan and other key local NGOs to determine the level of assistance they may require.
Microsoft is also putting in place a range of services and resources to support relief efforts in Japan including:
The Disaster Response team will be connecting with our colleagues from the Microsoft Japan Subsidiary over the weekend to get the latest information on where/how Microsoft may be able to lend support.
Several organizations are offering support to help victims of the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief. Here are a few ways you can help:
This week, 1,500 nonprofit IT professionals and advocates will gather in Washington, DC at the Nonprofit Technology Network's annual Nonprofit Technology Conference. In celebration of this gathering and the amazing work of nonprofits, we will be showcasing five partner organizations and the impact they are having with the help of technology. (Starting March 14, visit www.microsoft.com/citizenship daily to learn more about how these organizations are embracing technology).
A significant and noteworthy shift is underway in how people and organizations are using technology thanks to the widespread availability of powerful, convenient, and increasingly-affordable Internet-connected computing devices and major advances in software and cloud-based services.
This convergence of innovative hardware, software, and services is changing how people communicate and interact, share information, learn, do business, and get things done.
As recent world events have shown, technology is democratizing the flow of information as never before, enabling individuals to not only consume information, but create it, share it and distribute it. As mobile phones and cloud-based social networking services like Facebook become increasingly pervasive, the "conversation" can now start from any point, or many points, and travel the globe in a matter of minutes.
Today, we are seeing three "disruptive" technology shifts that can help nonprofits operate more efficiently, improve service delivery, and strengthen relationships with donors and volunteers:
1. Widespread access to affordable mobile phones is making technology ubiquitous, which is especially important in addressing development needs in emerging markets.
2. The advent of affordable technology is transforming the global economy, broadening access to global markets, even for people in remote locations and enabling developing countries to drive economic growth .
3. Individuals increasingly are at the center of the information flow and knowledge creation, rather than simply passive observers or consumers of information
At Microsoft, we are playing a role in each of these areas with a strong commitment to support nonprofits in the adoption and use of these technologies to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness. Keeping up with technology can often feel overwhelming, even to the best-prepared organization. But we also know that ignoring these changes puts nonprofits at a disadvantage.
Technology has the potential to transform and invigorate how organizations function internally, how they deliver services, and how they interact with contributors and volunteers. For these reasons, it's important that organizations understand and embrace the opportunities available now and anticipate those that will make sense down the road.
I would particularly like to underscore the importance of technology innovation in the nonprofit sector. Although the private sector continues to drive advances in hardware, software, and services, the pace of change and the availability of so many free, affordable, and easy-to-use technology tools means that nonprofits can-and must-act to innovate.
Mobile technology and devices are revolutionizing the creation, collection and use of information. In emerging markets, mobile phones are being utilized as a secure mobile wallet, for banking, and for healthcare diagnostic and data collection. We will see this trend continue as more relevant applications are developed-commercially, by university researchers, and by non-profits-for both feature phones and smart phones.
Social networking is another amazing opportunity to reach out and engage new audiences. For nonprofits, the ability to share and exchange information in creative and powerful ways can lead to effective community building and increased transparency. Added to this, we are seeing the increased use of technology by non-profits to bring information to life, using video, photos, stories and other data in visually rich and contextually engaging ways.
Finally, we are seeing how the creative use of technology is enabling organizations to more effectively connect donors, volunteers and beneficiaries in ways that lead to increases in financial support, volunteer engagement and service delivery. Historically, this has been a time-consuming and difficult task. The challenge is how best to create a dynamic database of opportunities and match that with volunteers' interests, skills, location and availability.
At Microsoft, we are working in partnership with a number of organizations to help drive creative solutions around technology innovation, the creative use of mobile devices, increasing connections, and unleashing the power of the people. We have a strong history of supporting the technology needs of nonprofits. In fact, every day Microsoft donates software valued at an average of more than $1 million to nonprofits worldwide, along with help building their capacity to utilize the software effectively.
In future blog postings, we will share examples of innovative uses of technology in the three areas discussed above. My hope is that by sharing examples of how other organizations are adapting to the rapid pace of technology changes, nonprofits will feel more comfortable embracing this disruption and harnessing it to reimagine our world.
You can download my white paper on "Innovative IT" here.
To learn more about how five of our partner organizations are embracing technology and the impact they are having, visit www.microsoft.com/citizenship
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