This should sound familiar to anyone who's either been to a consulting recruiting presentation or lived through the tech frenzy of the last couple of years: "To help organizations leverage technology's potential, we offer a wide variety of consulting services, including technology planning and budgeting, databases, networks, Web sites…" Though it may sound like the standard tech consulting pitch, this sentence actually refers to the work of the nonprofit organization NPower New York. Another big difference between NPower New York and other consulting firms: NPower is actually looking for consultants. And on April 4, NPower is coming to Uris Hall to find them.
To mark the launch of a new partnership with Columbia Business School students, NPower representatives will be present on campus and speak about volunteer consulting opportunities with the organization. Student consultants will be selected to execute NPower's mission of, "helping other non-profits use technology to better serve their communities." This translates into a host of opportunities for students to hone their consulting skills, by designing and delivering IT solutions and providing relevant training and technical assistance to NPower's client organizations.
Founded in Seattle in 1999, NPower's goal is not only to help nonprofits access current technology, but also to plan, budget for, and implement emerging technologies that enable them to more effectively achieve and communicate their goals. With support from Microsoft and several foundations, NPower has been able to achieve this goal through the application of Technology Life Cycle analysis. Its varied projects have included implementing a new IT platform that enabled an international adoption agency to match more children with prospective parents; training an environmental justice group to use geographic information systems (GIS) to identify cases of environmental discrimination; and developing a client-tracking database that releases social workers from administrative duties and frees them up to actually work with their clients.
NPower New York was established in 2002 as the first part of a national rollout of NPower's model. Despite its recent birth, NPower New York has already launched a variety of technology consulting, training, and support services aimed at area nonprofits. Its clients include agencies like the Sunset Park Family Health Center, which helps underserved communities access health insurance. In order to facilitate the dissemination of information to Sunset's target audience, NPower New York developed a website for the agency. But recognizing that this disadvantaged audience was likely to have particular difficulties accessing information via the Internet, NPower New York's "technologists" also equipped various community leaders with computers and Internet access, and trained them to help their constituents access this vital information via the Web.
Columbia Business School organizer Matt Wong said that Columbia Business School students would be able to get involved in this type of project at a variety of levels. "We envision the first projects being one-off, or relatively short-term assignments," he explained. "But as the partnership deepens, we want to explore regular once-a-week-type assignments that could last half a semester or longer." In order to institutionalize the links between Columbia Business School and this innovative nonprofit, organizers will also be looking for a permanent structure, such as a student club, to house the partnership.