Tapping Into the Power of Technology

One of the greatest changes affecting the community development field has been in technology, and the benefits and challenges it brings. Because my background is in community technology, or bringing basic technology access to schools, nonprofits, and other institutions of low-income communities both in the United States and abroad, I have been closest to this work and its applications for disenfranchised communities.

Technology affects all sectors of community development in major ways, including the way we collaborate, work, manage resources and funding, market our products and services, communicate with our constituencies, and plan for the future. From my perspective, we have only just begun to unlock the potential for idea sharing, solving problems together, and community organizing across wide geographies and diverse constituencies based on the Internet and social networking.

Recent rallying around and fundraising for the aftermath of natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti, and community organizing campaigns, such as President Obama’s campaign, have demonstrated the powerful potential of these tools in our field. We now have the capacity to share our work and our message more broadly than ever before. At the same time, these tools represent powerful potential for collaborating and addressing the need for resources in our communities.

With the recent economic situation, shrinking resources have made us realize that we absolutely must collaborate more effectively in order to create real change. Where there was once repetition, duplication, and wasting of resources that could otherwise have had a more direct effect on the communities we serve, the economic downturn has forced organizations and entities to find creative new ways to work together and make the most of the resources we have available to us. While I am personally hopeful that things will look up in coming years, we have all learned an important lesson about the power of collaboration and our resourcefulness to stretch scarce resources when times are tough.

In the next 36 years, I believe we will continue to tap into this yet unharnessed power. Technology has increased our capacity to communicate in leaps and bounds over its historical evolution. This “speeding up” will create for us as a community development sector, and as a society, the ability to be smarter and more effective in solving problems, using fewer resources, and creating less of a burden on our natural resources. Our outlook will need to be local but will have to encompass a global perspective. The days of provincial thinking among groups and entities working in community development will soon be over. Our work will exist not in isolation but in a more complete connectedness on a global level.

Jillian Spindle is director of development at the Mission Economic Development Agency in San Francisco.


  1. The author is right on point! We need to change the traditional paradigms of community development, and ensure that a technology solution is integrated into the model. We have no other choice!

  2. Awesome and insightful. The impact and inprint we leave in the lives of those we help reach the broad communication and resource highway thru technology is life changing and lasting.
    I would compare it to teaching a person to read, or learning chess after having played checkers for years… It broadens our communication, resources, ability to find and learn so much thru technology. Thumbs up to you Jillian!


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