Innovative technology and non-profits are not words you will commonly find strung together in the same sentence. Why is this the case? Let me put forth a couple possibilities.
- People are concerned that an increased focus on and utilization of technology will take the focus away from the “human” part of human services.
- People assume the purpose of innovation is simply to streamline and make work more efficient which is something only for-profits are interested in.
These ways of thinking seem to be the driving force behind why so many non-profits lag behind in innovation. In fact, there are non-profits who seem to go a step further and actually take pride in refusing to evolve with the times.
My team decided to reject these ideas about non-profits and innovation. Let me give you a little insight into why. Thompson Child and Family Focus is the leading provider of mental health and prevention services in North Carolina. Thompson exists so that all children are healthy, all families are thriving, and all communities are strong. Thompson does not produce “things”; we change lives through counseling, education, case management, and other human services. We support thousands of youth and families from every corner of North Carolina.
Thompson has been serving the community for more than 135 years. We work with children who have experienced significant childhood trauma that has resulted in long term negative impact on their social and emotional functioning. The strength of our mission, and the positive outcomes that our youth and families experience, depends directly on the strength of our team. Every one of our team members is tasked with building a therapeutic relationship with those they serve. Each individual staff member at Thompson isn’t making or selling a commodity – they are the commodity. We are as human service as human services gets. Not only do we not find any difficulty in embracing technology and innovation, I believe our human service mission is what compels us to innovate.
That is why partnering with the team at Spark Hire was a no-brainer for Thompson. Spark Hire is helping our organization make more efficient and effective hiring decisions through the use of video interviewing technology.
So, allow me to directly dispel some of the assumptions I laid out in the introduction. Spark Hire’s video interviewing technology is not removing the human from our human services, it’s directly helping us bring on the best people for the job. And as every single member of Thompson’s team represents a potentially life-altering relationship for a child in our community – there is nothing more important than selecting the right people for these jobs. I want every member of my team to spend as little time as possible on administrative tasks so they can invest all their time and talent directly into the families they serve. Unfortunately in our work, like most non-profits, we wrestle with overburdensome regulations and bureaucracies that create a workload where incredibly talented social workers spend half their week on paperwork. Some of this is unavoidable which is why I am constantly looking for ways to streamline their work. I’m not streamlining for a profit motive, I’m streamlining for an outcomes motive. Every innovative technology that allows the Thompson team to focus on the services they are providing for each family is worth its weight in gold.
To my fellow non-profit leaders out there, let’s reject whatever tired narratives that have historically prevented us from leaning into innovation. The work we do is serious, life changing work – and the mission of organizations like Thompson will be needed for another 135 years. To do that, we are not only choosing to embrace innovation and technology like Spark Hire; we are choosing to lead on the issue.
About the Author
Chief Program Officer Matt Simon, MA, LMFT, NADD-CC, joined Thompson in April 2016. He supports the day to day operations through setting the vision, executing strategy, and ensuring all program leaders are fully supported. Prior to joining Thompson, Matt has led both residential and community-based organizations, in addition to being a practicing Family Therapist with a focus on youth and families who had experienced trauma. Matt earned his Bachelor’s degree in Religion and Youth Ministry at Hope College and his Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pfeiffer University. Matt’s drive to ensure every child has opportunity and access to weather their storms and achieve their dreams is derived from transformative relationships with adults that helped to guide him during pivotal times in his youth.