Boats, kiosks & mobile phones: Nonprofits using technology to serve people remotely

Boats, kiosks & mobile phones: Nonprofits using technology to serve people remotely

Are you thinking about how your nonprofit might extend services beyond your physical location? Ready for some inspiration? Recently I participated in an Idealware webinar, Service Beyond Geography: Using Technology to Serve People Remotely. It was full of examples like these:

  • Kiosks set up by Montana Legal Service Association, at courthouses and other community/partner sites, featuring online document assembly and live chat with staff.
  • A boat based clinic operated by the Maine Sea Coast Mission which brings medical specialists to remote islands via two way connections, including video conferencing and data feeds.
  • TXT4life, a suicide counseling service delivered via text messaging.
  • Mindblown Life, an iPhone app that teaches financial literacy.

What did the examples have in common? If you’ve seen the research on technology innovation that MAP did with Idealware last year, then your ears will be tuned to this familiar refrain: innovation can be low cost; innovation doesn’t have to be futuristic; many nonprofits are innovating with everyday technologies.

I also heard two themes that expanded the conversation and added new insights. Service professionals often express concern over reduced quality when delivering services remotely, and this can be a barrier. A question to wrestle with is whether it is better to provide lower quality services remotely, or none at all. An important success factor in several of the examples was having strong community partners, in the location where the service is happening.

What examples do you have of using technology to serve people remotely? Please share in the comments!

Photo CC Ben Spark

Karen Graham
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