Monday, April 18, 2005

ICT, its challenges to organizational practices and nonprofits

Just today I found in my emailbox the Nonprofit Times newsletter. One of the articles in it was a book review of Carol Barbeito's Human Resource Policies and Procedures for Nonprofit Organizations.

I did NOT read the book. However, I care to comment on the rendition of it that was in the newsletter because:

  1. it might be what the book actually says
  2. even if the book says something different, the attitude that shines out of such review is revealing of something "more".

Quoting the NPT newsletter:

"Among the items that Barbeito said should be spelled out:

  1. Use of the Internet is for nonprofit use only, and the organization may monitor members' use of the Internet to ensure that it is being used for stated purposes only.
  2. Users must abide by all existing federal and state laws regarding electronic communication. This includes, but is not limited to, accessing information without authorization, giving out passwords or causing a system to malfunction.
  3. No advertising, either for profit or for campaigns for political office, is allowed.
    Users must not use language that is abusive, profane or sexually offensive.
  4. Email is not guaranteed to be private."

Point #1. This create a legislative problem, ie: definition of organizational purposes. Plus, I am not sure AT ALL that personal communications can be PROHIBITED, being them a human right (that cannot be violated by any person, policy or even law -- See Universal Human Rights Declaration, Article 8). Personal communications could be restricted, in space and time, to something like "no more than such and such minutes (or percentage of time) a day/week", but not prohibited (this is illegal even when done to people in jail!).

Point #2. Organizations must abide to all laws as well. And especially a nonprofit, if not for reason of ETHICS at least for reason of convenience, should not violate Human Rights Declaration.

Point #3. The first lines only apply to those nonprofit whose tax-exempt status would be jeopardized by "siding" with a political candidate. As far as the rest of it, referring to abusive language, it is already a law and need not be re-stated as a policy (I suspect this reiteration is put in place in the perception it could avoid lawsuits... false twice, first because some stupid people will always sue another even when having no grounds to, second cause it is the actual breaking of the law that puts you at risk, and your statement of compliance does not change this fact).

Point #4. Email IS private and failing to consider it as such is in overt violation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, Article 12.

But aside from the legislative aspects, from these suggested policies we can see how the new technologies are dealt with through OLD paradigms: prohibitions, limitations, negative rulings. NO mention of exploiting existing and newly formed social networks for organizational purposes, NO mention of fostering trust among staff and volunteers through new ICT management solutions, NO mention of organizational change due to a more open, networked, organization.

NO WONDER there are only TWO academical works on knowledge management applied to nonprofits EVEN IF the field (KM) is old of at least a decade!!!!

As in the article I commented about yesterday, we can either try to "improve" old practices with as less change as possible OR we can try to make our organization innovative and sustainable. We can legitimately decide to go for no/few changes, but without forgetting how it is adaptability to change that not only denotes intelligence but also overcome challenges, ultimately.


Blogger Unknown said...

Under no circumstance should you or anyone else consider email to be private. To do so is folly and indicates a complete misunderstanding of the underlying technology involved. It makes me doubt the credibility of the document you cite and the technological naviete of the issuing organization.

5:17 am  
Blogger Rosanna Tarsiero said...

Please, before being so sure that what you say always applies religiously and to everybody all over the planet, remember that not the whole world is the US (may I say thank God) and while what you stated might be true in the US legislation (mainly because people are used at selling their rights for money and it is allowed to) it is NOT true, for example, in the rest of the world: where human rights are considered UNALIENABLE (ie: you can NOT give them away, even if you want to) and therefore are a little (even if just a little) more protected.

5:54 am  
Blogger Rosanna Tarsiero said...

As a follow-up on the topic, from today on, Italy has outlawed such practice. Italian NPO managers reading Barbeito's book, consider yourself warned.

2:41 am  

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