In my day-to-day experiences, I’m often emailed by people with a question that usually goes something like this:
“Edwin, I saw XYZ website has <some new feature> how can we do that on our site?
I usually respond with some follow up questions to like, “That’s fantastic, but, what do you hope to accomplish with this new feature? How will this tool directly accomplish that goal? What is your timeframe for this project? How much did you plan to spend developing it?” Many times, I don’t get a response from the user, and the project fizzles away. If those questions don’t have answers, then the tool probably isn’t worth pursuing, anyway. The remaining ones who legitimately feel there is a business need for the tool, will reply with thoughtful answers to these questions.
Okay, we may have something to work with!
I’ll then follow up with more detailed questions after investigating the tool. ”How does this tool accomplish your goals differently? Can this same goal be accomplished without this tool? Are there any reported cases of this tool working for another United Way?” If we can subsequently find some good case studies of others having success with the tool in question, we’ll do an analysis of the costs versus the benefits to see if it is worth further follow up.
I look at technology, in general, as just a tool. Granted, it is usually a better way to solve an existing problem, but the problem still exists, nonetheless. As our problems grow more and more advanced, so do the technologies that exist to correct them. But, my message is clear, technology is never the answer. It’s merely a tool to help us solve an already-existing problem.
United Way functions much in the same manner. While, I’m proud to say I work for United Way, and the staff here does phenomenal work, United Way and its programs are tools. Take for instance, poverty. That is the underlying problem that United Way of the Greater Triangle, and many of its agencies, is trying to solve. Let’s reduce the number of families below the poverty level by a significant amount and by a designated time.
We can make ourselves think that United Way adopted poverty as a cause, and the problem will go away. Just as the addition of a shiny new share button on your website will make people share your web pages all over facebook and twitter. These are all examples of tools, not solutions. The answer requires the tools to be used in an efficient and productive way to make any headway on the problem. In the case of your web site, write better content and the share button will help you to get your pages shared on facebook and twitter. With poverty, get involved and use your talents with United Way and its partner agencies to “move the needle” on poverty.
I would challenge you, today, to be a part of the solution for poverty, by using United Way of the Greater Triangle as your favorite tool in the toolbox. We would love to have you give to the cause, advocate for change, or volunteer at an event raising awareness of the issues. Without all three, the problem of poverty will never cease.