(Photo by Anitra Johnson)
Pamela Foster has a big role in her day job as IT business process manager at DuPont. For the last 10 years, she has honed her technology skills in supply chain solutions and management to meet the needs of big business.
“My job, my goal is work with the business to determine their requirements,” she said. “I take your requirements then begin to evaluate potential solutions.”
However, on the eve of the January 30 kickoff party for Network Delaware, otherwise known as The Network, a nonprofit spearheaded by former Wilmington mayoral candidate, Eugene Young, Foster seems just as intent to meet the needs of the nascent organization’s big ideals.
After his loss in the primary, Young, along with members of his mayoral campaign team, decided to continue with his campaign’s advocacy plans. Soon afterwards, they formed The Network as a nonprofit and announced its plans to use grassroots door-to-door canvassing to organize individuals and their communities around issues concerning public policy, economic opportunity, electoral politics, leadership development and non-violence.
“I was one of the co-coordinators in Eugene Young’s campaign. So, it was just a natural fit, post-campaign, that I transition into a role [of] vice president, as part of Network Delaware,” Foster said.
She explains that her professional background at work doesn’t necessarily define her role with the nonprofit. “We’re in our infancy stages so, we’re beginning to really define a role.” Not only that, she emphasizes, right now, because the organization is in its formative stages, it, too, is still developing its use of technology.
But does she see a role for technology when the main idea is to use grassroots advocacy and door-to-door canvassing?
Foster explains, “Technology is in everybody’s life, in every business. [Whether it’s] a startup company or a company that’s been in business 200+ years. It’s about the ability to exchange in data, collaborating and making an impact on a more rapid pace than before.”
Due to their budget, the nonprofit takes every advantage of “freeware,” including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Slack to connect, share ideas and information, and, especially, to get the word out about actions or events as quickly as possible. Foster says these technologies are critical to the group’s abilities to plan and adapt to changing political policy. As an example, she stated they quickly organized their protest of President Trump’s Jan. 20 executive order using the group messaging capabilities of Slack. (Other teams, like the product and technology team at Comcast, have recently used Slack for the same purpose.)
Foster advises Network Delaware will continue to use these and other available technologies to gather data while performing community outreach. Once the data is collected, they will analyze it to “figure out how to actually use that data to impact change [and] stay connected with those constituents that we met out while we were out knocking doors.”
The next day, at the kickoff, Young concurs. To bring about the political, social and economic changes The Network plans to make, Young says, they’ll have to make use of technology – whether it’s to execute their goals or help constituents reach theirs. “A major part of organizing is being able to collect data and provide solutions,” Young says.
And a major part of Network Delaware’s goal may rely on building a system for collecting, analyzing and using data to create transformative pathways for individuals and communities. When the time comes, Foster offers, they’ll reach out to tech groups interested in helping Network Delaware procure technologies to create the systems and processes they’ll need to grow. They’ll need the help. The organization has intentions of growing into a statewide presence and states that they wish “to be a model that can be replicated nationally and globally.” It’s a goal that has been achieved by big business with the help of IT business process managers, like Foster.
Foster doesn’t consider herself Network Delaware’s technologist, but her experience as an IT business process manager contours her perspective on the group’s adoption of technology.
“I haven’t been focusing in an IT capacity in the organization .… but once we get to a space, and we begin to map out what our needs and requirements are, from an IT or technology perspective, my expectation would be that I would be engaged in that process,” she said.