Google just announced a new national technology service corps, in partnership with the HandsOn Network and AmeriCorps*VISTA—not unlike the Digital Arts Service Corps I have managed for the past 4.5 years and will be shutting down this August as our funding expires. Google describes their program thusly:
These AmeriCorps*VISTA members will work full-time for one year developing introductory seminars and involved in-person trainings for smaller nonprofits that are working to lift people out of poverty. The Tech Corps will start in September with a one-week training at our campus in Mountain View, learning about both our nonprofit tools and cloud-based offerings from other technology companies like Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Once they are armed with tech know-how, they’ll spend the rest of the year in three-person teams serving nonprofits in the Bay Area, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh and Seattle.
Google’s commitment is certainly a step in the right direction. However, we wish Google and HandsOn would place the particular needs of organizations at the forefront of their new initiative. Google mentions that its Tech Corps members will be trained in its own nonprofit tools. Although familiarity with these tools may prove helpful to some, the solutions its Corps will be able to offer organizations after this kind of training are still highly prescriptive and techno-centric. Nonprofits need and deserve to have a voice in determining the nature of the project that will presumably transform their organizations. For Corps members, much more important than technology skills are the skills to collaborate with organization staff and work toward a solution. For organizations, a technology solution that is well planned-for and has the support of staff is more valuable than a predetermined set of technology practices. Rather than prescribing specific practices, the Transmission Project serves as adviser during the project design process, so that organizations are prepared to maximize the impact that the addition of a Digital Arts Service Corps member makes.
The above was written by Howie Fisher and the top collage created by Billy Brown—both Digital Arts Service Corps members serving with the Transmission Project whose value far exceeds any training seminars they can deliver.