Learning about ‘lived experience’ and other insights from the NetHope Summit

  • Posted on November 4, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Learning about ‘lived experience’ and other insights from the NetHope Summit

I recently attended the NetHope Summit, which took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, representing our Avanade Tech for Social Good team. What a week it was. Meeting new people, talking about new issues (new to me, that is, although actually centuries old), new tastes, new smells and new sounds.

Puerto Rico was hit very hard by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the hotel that hosted the summit had only just reopened after two years of rebuilding. The reason for coming to Puerto Rico became clear on the first afternoon of plenary sessions, which all focused on the efforts of NetHope and its members to provide aid to the people of Puerto Rico during and after the hurricane. We heard directly from people who had been there and had “lived experience” (a phrase I heard a lot during the week, meaning people who have direct experience of receiving international aid). 

“Like a nuclear bomb had exploded”

Luis Arocho, who at the time was the government minister for disasters, was still handling the damage from Hurricane Irma when Maria hit. He told us, “It looked like a nuclear bomb had exploded – the devastation was immense.” Luis noted how the NetHope team swooped in, asked how they could help, and within days had set up mobile satellites all over the island. This enabled local people to get in touch with their families, communities on smaller islands to report back to the mainland, and hospitals to report on the whereabouts of many very ill and injured people. It was a game changer.

The summit also had special significance for Avanade. We launched our Tech for Social Good initiative the previous year at the NetHope Summit in Dublin, Ireland. Our goal is to become a trusted partner to nonprofit organizations and the social sector, helping them digitally transform and bringing about systemic change through the delivery of Microsoft technologies on a global scale. We were back at the summit this year to reinforce and demonstrate our commitment to the sector and to NetHope members.

The state of digital transformation for nonprofits

Our participation in the summit was twofold. First, we hosted Dr. Kristine Dery from the MIT Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR). Avanade is one of nine global research patrons of the center, and we felt that both Dr. Dery’s perspective and the wealth of MIT CISR’s research and insights would be of great value to NetHope members. We were right.

Dr. Dery ran two workshops that were both well attended. She shared preliminary results of research conducted with nonprofits and government institutions around “The Four Pathways to Future Ready.” This gave the NetHope audience the first glimpse of a comparison between for-profit and not-for-profit data. The delegates were not surprised to hear that 47% of nonprofits describe their digital transformation situation as “silos and spaghetti.” But the fact that 21% said they felt “future ready” did surprise the delegates, who suspected it would be lower.

There were more surprises in the choice of pathways, with more nonprofits opting for the approach that can provide incremental or quick wins (32% of nonprofits versus 24% of for-profits). Also, surprisingly, nonprofits reported realizing results quicker than for-profits – citing 15 months to show impact versus 18 months for the for-profits.


The second highlight for our Tech for Social Good team was the opportunity to showcase the solutions and IP we’ve been developing on the Microsoft Common Data Model for Nonprofits. Pam Maynard, our chief executive officer, made a commitment to the NetHope members in Dublin last year that we’d work to develop solutions that were relevant, affordable and repeatable – and I’m proud to say our team delivered.

All in all, it was a special week for me and the entire Tech for Social Good team. I left feeling that, as one of the speakers noted, “Puerto Rico is a small island, but with a big heart.”

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