Revue: Pathways to Change at #15NTC

So, I spent most of last week in Austin at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (also known as #15NTC). I’d been working with NTEN (the host organization) for a while on their Editorial Committee, and I was very grateful for the invitation to link up with the community live and in person.

Here are a few of my observations and take-aways:

  • Change means Investing in People
  • Change > Marketing > Technology
  • Self-care is the First Duty of the Changemaker

Change means Investing in People

Ivan Boothe‘s Ignite talk on the Technology of Social Change (link to slides) hit a nerve with me on Friday morning, arguing passionately about how we need to complement our communications and advocacy work with community organizing strategies in order to have lasting impact.

hahrie-book-cover-200x300Molly Brooksbank and Mary Nicol from the Sierra Club and Greenpeace US followed this up with a brilliant session titled Giving the People What They Want from Online Activism (link to session notes). I loved hearing about the strategies and approaches behind the new and Greenwire to connect volunteers, and I’ll need to follow up by reading Hahrie Han’s How Organizations Develop Activists.

Change > Marketing > Technology

Even though NTC started as a very tech-oriented conference, the topics have since widened. I went to sessions on storytelling, community building and organizational development. My final workshop – an open space session for content creators, co-organized with Lacy Baugher – started off with the frustration of needing to implement someone else’s badly conceived communications plan, explored how we can make change by linking our community’s needs with our own purpose and philosophized why this work is so important, quoting Guy Debord: “Boredom is always counter revolutionary. Always.”

And apparently my gestures are epic when I talk about things I’m passionate about.

#15NTCopenspace on audience segmentation for content strategy. #15NTC

A video posted by Preston (@prestonrhea) on

Self-care is the First Duty of the Changemaker

How can we thrive in life and at work? According to Kerala Taylor, Kivi Leroux Miller, Leili Khalessi, Stephanie Bowen, we need to:

  • Learn how to say no
  • Ask for what we need
  • Own our schedule
  • Assess our strengths

Check out the excellent session notes for their conversation on Paradox but Possible: Hardcore on Work AND Life.

After too much powerpoint, Beth Kanter’s and Ritu Sharma’s session Walking is Work: Don’t Call It a Break was a great reminder to get off our butts and keep moving. I came out of it (and the subsequent networking walk) with a bunch of new contacts and the firm resolution to a) incorporate regular walks into my day, b) hack myself a standing desk and c) invest in a headset that doesn’t tie me to my desk. Check out the resources on Beth’s Wiki.


For me, #15NTC was all about pathways to change. Yes, this included a few walks in the Texas sunshine, but also the reminder to look up from whatever tool or tactic we’re currently using and consider a) what is the change we’re looking for and b) who do we want to connect with – not just in the short run. Organizing, building capacity and empowering future leaders and changemakers is essential so that we can build a world in which our current nonprofit organizations are no longer necessary.


Revue: Pathways to Change at #15NTC
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4 thoughts on “Revue: Pathways to Change at #15NTC

  • 11 March 2015 at 00:50

    Wiebke, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the organizing and social change sessions you attended. I would have loved to have attended the Giving the People What They Want from Online Activism session, and will eagerly digest the collaborative notes. For me, the netwalking lunch and subsequent walk after was a highlight. It was invigorating, and so pleasant to network while walking. I look forward to seeing you again at another NTC.

  • 11 March 2015 at 14:16

    Thank you for sharing these fantastic insights and information with those of us who weren’t there. It all feels exciting to read, in terms of where tech can support social movements and change around the world.

  • 11 March 2015 at 19:33

    Thanks for this excellent recap, I really like how you organized this with your key takeaways – especially leading with “Change means Investing in People.” It was so valuable to have you at the conference in Austin, hopefully the first of many. Personally, as someone who got my bearings in nonprofit communications from experts like you that were kind enough to take me under their wing, it was so satisfying to see you connecting with the rest of the community to keep spreading the good work of nptech. Thanks Wiebke!

  • 17 March 2015 at 00:46

    Wiebke, thank you for this awesome write up! I am always thrilled with others write up their notes, like Debra. At least I get read a little bit about some of the sessions that I wanted to attend, but didn’t select.

    I hope we can walk together in Amsterdam next October.


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