Penguin Day and eRider Workshop
Submited by Rudi von Staden
The NTC was a wonderful experience and well worth attending, but I have been blown away by what has come out of the post-NTC events. Sunday was Penguin Day, aimed at bringing together Open Source developers and nonprofit technology implementers, similar to what happened in Croatia at the SummerSource camp last year. Monday and Tuesday were specifically dedicated as a workshop for the eRiders attending the conference. Even though it was the end of a long conference, all the participants were amazingly enthusiastic.
Penguin Day attracted many interesting developers working on a broad range of projects, most of which were focused on or at least relevant to the nonprofit community. What was significant from the discussions through the day was how central eRiders are in the development of effective Open Source software for nonprofit organisations. We are the connection between the developer and the nonprofit community. The developer cannot be expected to know what is needed on the ground in remote places, and relies on us as eRiders to give them this information. Developers and eRiders committed themselves to communicate more with each other, though it was still unclear how to bring these independent communities closer together.
There has been a lack of clarity on what an eRider is, and what we share as individuals and as a community. The eRider workshop was largely focused on what it is that makes an eRider, also looking at some tools and strategies that can help in our work. There were participants from all over the world – Poland, Kenya, Slovakia, Georgia, United Kingdom, Ghana, Azerbaijan, United States and South Africa. Most were eRiders, but there were others who support the work of eRiders through their tools or as facilitators of eRiding efforts.
As a group we wrote down a list of things that motivate us to do eRiding. As the reasons were written down, we realised increasingly how much we actually have in common - that there is far more that draws us together than keeps us apart. This sense of community developed through the workshop as we learned about evaluation, sustainability and looked at how other organizations are doing their eRiding. It was encouraging to see the successes of the US-based organizations, and to realise that they all started in the same situation as we are now and still share our passion.
TechSurveyor Offline was demonstrated on Tuesday, a success story that highlighted how much we benefit from collaborating with each other. The developers of the software relied on eRiders to provide them with user requirements and give feedback from actual testing situations. The result is a piece of software that is perfect for the in-the-field work of eRiders around the world.
The tragedy of the event was that not all eRiders could be there. We were all energised by the spirit that we share in eRiding, and I hope that the rest of the community can also take heart in that. It would be wrong for me to talk so positively about the event without saying a big thank-you to those who organized and sponsored it, and also everyone who participated so wholeheartedly. Collin from LASA put it well when he said he came to Philadelphia expecting the NTC to be the main event and left realising that it was in fact the after events that had the greatest value.