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Digital philanthropy: Part 3 – Digital currency – Valuing ideas, change, teamwork

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By Todd Cohen

The currency of our new economy is information, which technology can convert to knowledge that people can use to be more productive in their lives and work.

Technology, in short, can help us teach and help ourselves.

Some critics bemoan what they view as technology’s isolating impact – separating people and segregating groups.

Technology can indeed divide, driving an expanding wedge between those with access to technology and those without access.

But technology also can be a powerful tool for innovation and collaboration. It can transform the nature of work and community. And it can put education and jobs within reach of groups traditionally denied the American dream.

Individuals and organizations can use technology to share, learn from and adapt to knowledge — and to cooperate based on common interests.

Technology connects and changes people and organizations. Tech-savvy nonprofits can work more efficiently, find new ways to serve people and find enterprising and collaborative ways to thrive financially.

Change, however, takes hard work. Using technology productively requires significant investment in equipment, staff and training – and a willingness to adapt an organization to the technology it uses.

The challenge, for example, is not simply to learn how to use a database to better manage information about donors – but also to figure out how to use that database to build stronger relationships with and among donors.

If charity feeds fish to the hungry, and philanthropy teaches the hungry to fish, digital philanthropy prepares the hungry to build, market and own stock in the pond.

The future lies in the hands of those who seize the opportunity that technology offers to learn, grow, build and change. The challenge for the philanthropic world is to fully embrace technology, integrate it into the practice of philanthropy and help get it into the hands of individuals, organizations and communities with limited resources.

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