TechSoup Global Contributors Summit Notes

Last week I had the honor of attending the TechSoup Global Contributors Summit. When I received the invitation from Sarah at TechSoup for Libraries I knew I had to go for several reason including escaping the echo chamber and it was at the Microsoft campus in Silicon Valley. 🙂

Some background about TechSoup:

TechSoup is a nonprofit with a clear focus: providing other nonprofits and libraries with technology that empowers them to fulfill their missions and serve their communities. As part of that goal, we provide technology products and information geared specifically to the unique challenges faced by nonprofits and libraries.

Learning resources, including articles, blogs, free webinars, and forums led by expert hosts are available to all users. Once qualified with TechSoup, nonprofits and libraries can access 400+ technology products from more than 40 donor partners — including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec. All donated and discounted products are available for a small admin fee that supports our work in the United States and around the world.

For those of you not familiar with TechSoup for Libraries is a:

nonprofit devoted to making technology and technology education available and affordable to nonprofits and libraries all over the world. As of June 2009, it has distributed over 4.9 million donated and discounted products to nonprofits and public libraries across the globe, freeing up more than US$1.4 billion dollars for other uses.

TechSoup for Libraries grew out of a desire to specifically address the technology needs of public libraries. An important part of the program is the information developed as part of the MaintainIT Project, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by TechSoup Global. The Project gathered stories from public libraries about how they support their public computers. These tips and techniques are published in “Cookbooks” and articles, available for free on our website. TechSoup for Libraries continues to share these stories from the field so libraries can keep learning from each other.

So why the Summit and why was I there?

Our Contributors’ Summit will be the place where opportunity and action meet. Two hundred and forty representatives of our networks and other affinity groups (funders, corporate donors, social media experts, capacity-building organizations and other social change technologists) will convene at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus to participate in two days of programming focused on provoking discussion about—how these networks, and the capabilities that power them, can be effectively leveraged to create greater impact. We will especially focus on welding together product donations, data services and human capacity to help build truly resilient civil society, both in the wake of a disaster like Haiti’s and in the developing (as well as the developed) countries of the world.

Handwritten notesThere were over 200 people presenting from 45 different counties and two librarians. 🙂

We were encouraged to be present and not multi-task during the summit so I left my Netbook in my room and took notes by hand. I’ve used this approach before at other non-library events like TEDxAtlanta and I may start employing it at library events too. The biggest problem is find the time to type out your own notes (and decipher your handwriting!).

The majority of my take-away is thinking, planning, collaborating and taking action so I don’t have a lot to share in the way of notes but here are some key points, ideas and discoveries.

  • We are smarter together.
  • Conference cocaine – don’t worry no drugs involved or required it’s the high you get from meeting kindred spirits and hatching plans for world domination. Of course you get home and the real world sets in and you develop a hangover
  • The Story of Stuff – check it out, an amazing example of success story including themes like “going viral” and Creative Commons License
  • Network is about trust
  • If someone else is doing something well, let it go, do something else.
  • You can’t be a wallflower and change the world
  • Our network can change the world.
  • You need to network to find the people who are good at the things you are not.
  • If you like everyone in your network, your network isn’t big enough. It’s not a network its a club. – Annie Leonard
  • The network is the hero not a single individual.
  • Learn to recognize the traps you get caught up on that keep you from making progress.
  • Random Hacks of Kindness – can’t believe I wasn’t aware of this before. Thought – how can libraries harness something like this in their local community?
  • The people who have the problem we are trying to solve are often scared of technology.

I also co-hosted a dive session with David and Sarah specifically about libraries. It was a general brain-storming thought sharing session and of course I took notes

  • Are we (libraries) operating as membership organizations? What are the pros and cons of being a membership organization?
  • See libraries as a flexible space, responsive to the needs of users
  • Why aren’t we advertising libraries as a co-working space? It would connect us with a demographic we often miss – 20 somethings.
  • We are confusing the way we do the work with the work we do
  • We are failing to recognize the ways people are using us that don’t align with our preconceived notion of how people us  (see milkshake mistake)
  • Get buy-in and emotional connections with us and services if we allow input from patrons even if that input is just “me too” The example given here was one patron suggestions adding a table or an outlet in a corner, we hand a sign in the corner and allow others who agree to sign their name or initials
  • Who is driving our programs? Marketing? Finance? PR? Who should be?


I want to thank Sarah and Daniel and everyone at TechSoup for inviting me and making me feel welcome. I was worried I’d be a fish out of water but it was a wonderful experience.

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