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Events / Nonprofits

At AWS IMAGINE, local nonprofit leaders described what they seek from tech. Here’s what they envision

Amazon Web Services’ nonprofit-focused conference brought organizational leaders, technologists and innovators to Washington DC for discussions on how technology can accelerate mission-related outcomes.

Chelsea Clinton speaks in a fireside chat at AWS IMAGINE. (Courtesy photo, image by Jules Clifford)

Nonprofit stakeholders from around the country descended on Capital Turnaround last Tuesday for sessions, fireside chats and roundtables — all so they could learn how to unleash the power of technology for their organizations — at AWS’ annual IMAGINE nonprofit conference.

During the one-day event, speakers like Chelsea Clinton and Creating Healthier Communities’ Jean Accius talked about using data to advance health equity. Marcus Bullock also spoke about how his experiences as a youth in adult prison led him to create Flikshop, a tech platform that helps incarcerated people stay connected to their families and communities.

Attendees also heard from nonprofit leaders such as Indu Navar of Everything ALS about using open innovation to bridge the gap from care to cure, as well as Janet Szlyk of The Chicago Lighthouse on how technology helped the visually impaired work remotely during COVID.  The conference concluded with AWS’ Rich Hua speaking about how to advance emotional intelligence. All agreed that tech is an indispensable tool for nonprofits everywhere.

So, what are these industry leaders looking for? We asked several attendees.

The tech and nonprofit overlap

For some attendees, the conference provided a space to ask (and answer) the most pressing questions of the day.

“This is my first AWS conference,” Tiffany Lentz, the VP of Philadelphia-based Pariveda Solutions, told “I was impressed by the diversity of the network and the breadth of the content, technologies and data.  I feel the answers are here in the room.”

For others, AWS Imagine provided a good jumping-off point to bring technology to their organization. Victoria French, a DC-based development associate at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, said that she attended the conference to learn how her small nonprofit could grow with the help of tech. Specifically, the foundation hopes to improve and innovate its data, and she felt the conference offered her some good examples to take back to the organization.

“I learned today that technology and data can really change the trajectory of your work and your mission and allow you to impact so many more lives,” French said. “My main takeaway was how focused everyone was on asking the right questions.  If you don’t have the right questions and don’t know exactly what you are looking for, the data is pointless.”

Daniel Williams, Los Angeles-based principal at Pariveda Solutions, said he would have liked the one-day conference to last multiple days, so leaders could go even deeper into problem-solving.

“I loved the focus on tangible solutions to hard problems,” Williams said.  “My previous impressions of nonprofits have completely changed.  The types of problems people are trying to solve are game-changing and world-changing.”

Sunny Cheng, a DC-based technical manager for Pariveda Solutions, also left with a greater appreciation for how technology is helping nonprofits achieve their mission.

“I thought it was really cool that the conference focused on how technologies are building communities to solve bigger problems and have greater impact,” said Cheng.

Jessica Jesenik of Melbourne, Florida-based SoftwareONE, was thrilled to hear from many nonprofit leaders about how they are using technology as she leads the company’s global nonprofit business.

“We help companies create landing zones, envision what they can do with the data, help them implement the solution and manage it on an ongoing basis in a secure environment,” Jesenik said. “Hearing what is important to nonprofits so we can make better solutions and services is why I am here today.”

Companies: Amazon Web Services

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