Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How are frogs like processes?

Both can make amazing leaps. You can too if you don’t needlessly weigh yourself down.

Let me begin by quoting a portion of a blog by Aleem Walji, Head of Global Development Initiatives,

“Mobile is growing faster in Africa than in any other part of the world. While levels of internet penetration are well below 5% for the continent, nearly 40% have access to mobile phones and Nairobi sends more text messages in a single day than New York (a statistic frequently quoted in the region).”

You see, because land-line telephones have not typically reached rural Africa, there is no legacy system in place to act as a boat anchor – nothing to hold them back from adopting something new and better.

I have been aware of this phenomenon for some time, but it resurfaced in a very real way for me while presenting at the Asia Pacific Regional IAVE conference this past weekend. My presentation was on the Mission Points model of measuring the Return On Investment of volunteer engagement. The Mission Points model looks to supplant the outdated Wage Replacement model of measuring ROI, with something more aligned to the needs of today’s volunteer sector.

What fascinates me is that, although there were some concepts in the Mission Points model that the Asian participants will want time to digest, there was no sense of struggle with – or resistance to – the ideas presented. I can’t help but to think that the reason for this is similar to cell phones taking off in Africa. The Asian participants have not adopted the whole Wage Replacement model in the same way that the volunteer sector has in parts of the western world. Without an anchor to hold them back, they were free to look at something new and judge it solely upon its own merits; and they did not have to be concerned about what might be left behind in order to get it. (More information on the Mission Points ROI model can be found here at:

So the point is, be very cautious of the “that’s-not-how-we’ve-always-done-it” attitude. While it is certainly true that not everything new is necessarily good, we should always be on the lookout for old processes that prevent us from looking forward.

Cloud computing is certainly one of those things that many people are wary of because it is a software model that they are simply not used to… yet. The writing is on the wall, and while I would never make a silly claim such as “it will be with us forever” (because nothing is these days), it is clearly the direction we are headed in for the next while.

At Volunteer2 we asked ourselves questions around this ten years ago, when we chose not to develop a desktop version alongside our cloud based software. In retrospect, I am thankful to my team for convincing me that generating a desktop model would have been our own boat anchor – slowing down the development of what we know today as Volunteer Impact.