30 December 2006

Time for attitude adjustment: Scarcity, entitlement, and nonprofit technology.

The topic on the listserv was the attitude of nonprofit organizations toward the availability of technology services.

Michael Gilbert responded:

"Some of this is...a reflection of the sector's culture of scarcity (about which I've been writing....) We can't afford it - that's a mantra for a great many of us. How to fight that, given how it's a reflection of the larger culture, is not at all obvious to me.

"Furthermore, as my friend and colleague Put Barber has written, we also have a problem with a culture of entitlement in our sector. Nonprofits expect to get things for free. On the surface, this may seem to be the opposite of the culture of scarcity, but I see it as the flip side of the same coin."

These are wise words. I wish I had an immediate solution, a better response than the cliches that immediately come to mind: wake-up call, paradigm shift, think outside the box.

I've previously said that in our sector really smart people sometimes make stupid decisions based on stupid assumptions. Michael Gilbert and Putnam Barber are suggesting that these assumptions are culture-wide. It's not easy to remake a culture, but cultures do change. We should start with a little self-scrutiny and attitude adjustment.


podnosh said...

It's a long standing habit. Even three or four years ago I saw non-profits "investing" tens of throusand in bespoke (and usually closed) message boards, despite being told about the free alternatives. Sometimes I think it connects top finding - we said it would cost this much, so it has to.

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