Introduction to the Women's Technology Consortium
In 2000 the Nokomis Foundation founded the Women’s Technology Consortium (WTC) with the focus of helping partner nonprofit organizations improve their use of technology because they found a large number of nonprofit organizations serving women and girls were using outdates software and hardware and having difficulty managing and maintaining equipment. The WTC is comprised of ten organizations serving women and girls in West Michigan. The original purpose was three-fold: provide members access to technological information, advice, techniques and training provided by both peers and an outside tech advisory panel; leverage the power of aggregated purchasing of hardware/software and contracted services; and create a web site highlighting activities of the consortium members.
The Nokomis Foundation was able to achieve the first of these three original purposes. Since 2000 the Nokomis Foundation has provided financial support to the WTC members with an average grant of $6,500 and the facility and facilitation for the WTC to meet on a monthly basis to discuss technology and exchange ideas. As noted by a WTC member being involved in the WTC is like “being a part of the team. Knowing I have 12-15 people I can email or meet with and ask questions. In this community, I don't think I could have built that support system.” The value of the WTC goes well beyond the funding, although that cannot be overlooked. Another WTC member said “I don’t think we’d be keeping up with our equipment rotation, keeping them from becoming obsolete” and was not alone in that opinion. Most members said they felt that being a part of the WTC helped them to not only keep up with the technology, but to begin to see the value in having technology in their organizations as noted by another member “we’ve gotten to a point where we have been up to date and have been keeping up to date long enough so that it is like part of what we do so we wouldn’t think of not doing it. I just don’t think we would have gotten to that point that quickly at all without the help of Nokomis.”
The Nokomis Foundation, by its own request for proposal (RFP) guidelines (see Nokomis Request for Proposal), provides funding for: contract services related to technology; database or website design; expanded e-mail and Internet access; hardware, including printers and other peripheral equipment; networking; software; telephone systems; and training . The RFP also requires answers to questions: organizational and contact information, IT budget information, commitment to the WTC through individual participation and board support, and current technology plan.
The WTC is comprised of ten nonprofit organizations of which eight were included in the research. One organization was entirely excluded from the research as they are a funding organization; two other organizations are excluded from parts of the research and as such are noted in the areas in which they are excluded.
WTC organizations are located in Michigan, and although the initial goal of Nokomis Foundation was to work with organizations in West Michigan (defined as Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan Counties), there is one organization located in Petoskey (Emmet County).
Participation in the study was voluntary, but strongly encouraged by the Nokomis Foundation, so individuals were highly motivated to engage in the research process through to completion. The individuals interviewed comprised of a single executive level staff such as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer, President, Executive Director and Assistant Director. These staff members were all female and have worked at their organizations for 10 or more years each having a deep working knowledge of the organization.
Three methods of data collection were used: face to face interviews (see Interview Instrument), emailed survey (see Survey Instrument) and review of request for proposals (RFP) and response narratives since 2000 (see Organizational Overviews).
Reviewing the RFPs and response narratives began the data collection process. The researcher spent time organizing and creating overviews for each organization (see Organizational Overviews).
Face to face interviews were conducted by the researcher with questions (see Interview Instrument) and the organization’s overview (see Organizational Overviews) were sent prior to interview allowing interviewee an opportunity for preparation. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed by researcher with each session lasting about two hours. Some organizations required two visits while others were completed in just one.
Emailed survey closely mirrored the 1999 survey sent to a larger group of nonprofits only omitting questions related to year 2000. All surveys were returned to the researcher and included in the results for all nine organizations (these results included the organization which was unable to participate due to illness).