The Tech Forward Conference 2017 Recap

In case you missed it, last week Tech Impact hosted its first national conference, Tech Forward, in Nashville, TN. 


Tech Impact created Tech Forward for the nonprofit community to engage, learn and envision how technology can transform the way we work as nonprofits. Content was handpicked to cater to nonprofit employees in varying roles looking to use technology in a more effective way. The Tech Forward Conference provided a forum to encourage discussion on the need to shift away from operational IT and towards mission-focused and transformative applications of technology.

Monday September 18th, 2017 - Tech Forward Conference

Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder of NOW Ventures and the Malala Fund, kicked off the conference on Monday morning with an inspiring keynote. She urged the nonprofit audience to:

  • Trust lessons you learned in the field
  • Demand to learn and be included
  • Build cross sector collaborations
  • Pursue new financial models
  • Remember technology is a tool, not a silver bullet

Rebecca Masisak CEO TechSoup, Shiza Shahid Co-Founder NOW Ventures & The Malala Fund, Patrick Callihan Executive Director Tech Impact


Rebecca Masisak, CEO TechSoup, Keynote Speaker Shiza Shahid, Co-Founder Now Ventures & The Malala Fund, Patrick Callihan, Executive Director Tech Impact 


Chris Patten, Director of Data Management & Enterprise Analytics from City Year, Inc., took the plenary stage after Shiza to describe how City Year strives to be an organization that uses data analytics to improve outcomes.


The first round of breakout sessions were packed with attentive nonprofit leaders, the eagerness to learn was almost tangible. Marnie Webb led a fantastic, interactive session "Working Together for the Greater Good" and Chris Patten took the speaker mic once again to help his audience dive deep into practical strategies for creating change in technology teams.


After a morning of engaging content comedian Don McMillan of Technically Funny took the stage during lunch with the goal to get attendees laughing, and he did.


After lunch, two more rounds of breakout sessions flew by. Attendees tuned into Karen Graham from Idealware to learn how to innovate programs through technology, Robert Cheetham to dive deeper into data visualization and big data. Sam Chenkin from Tech Impact led an IT security panel. Leon Wilson from the Cleveland Foundation spoke about the importance of funding technology innovation in nonprofits and Cody Damon from MediaCause explained how to build and activate digital communities.


Then, the first plenary panel of Tech Forward, "What Is Digital Transformation to a Nonprofit?" was moderated by James Rooney from Microsoft Philanthropies. Ryan Rief of the Water Mission, Khuloud Odeh from The Urban Institute, James McGowan of Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and David Danylewich from Right to Play were panelists who shared their experience leading their nonprofits through digital transformation.



Left to right: James Rooney Sr. Global Program Manager at Microsoft moderating with panelists, David Danylewich VP, Strategy, Planning and Systems at Right To Play, Khuloud Odeh VP for IT, CIO at The Urban Institute, Ryan Reif Information Systems Manager at The Water Mission, and James McGowan Dir. of Development, Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank


After the Digital Transformation Panel, Patrick Callihan, Executive Director of Tech Impact, presented the Technology Innovation Awards. Three nonprofit leaders were awarded $10,000 each by the Tech Forward partners to put towards their nonprofit's innovative technology projects.


The first day of conference content ended with a bang - the Tech Forward party at the Stage on Broadway in downtown Nashville. The Tech Forward team, partners, speakers and attendees enjoyed an evening filled with southern food and entertainment by the famous honky-tonk band, the Eskimo Brothers. Attendees had the opportunity to network with one another, speakers and partners, in between two-stepping!



Attendees file into the Stage on Broadway for the Tech Forward Party 


Tuesday September 18th - Tech Forward Conference


Although the party at the Stage was a hit, it did not keep attendees from showing up early for the second day of content. Rebecca Masisak, CEO of TechSoup, led a thoughtful and important opening plenary address, "Strategic Allies: How nonprofit leaders and their tech talent are transforming organizations." Attendees' eyes were glued to the stage as Rebecca shared her unique experience and expertise.



Rebecca Masisak, CEO of TechSoup, take the mic for the first plenary of day two


Jean-Louis Ecohard, CIO at the Center for the Digital Nonprofit, took the mic after Rebecca to present his innovative ideas on how nonprofit leaders can enhance teamwork and connection among remote workers through practical tactics. JL's insights captivated the Tech Forward audience.




Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Studios, asks Jean-Louis a question


Momentum to learn and engage was not lost throughout the second day. Both Jean-Louis Ecohard and Sam Chenkin led breakout sessions focused on digital skills for collaboration and data visualization.


The last scheduled session of Tech Forward was one to wait for - a funders' plenary panel moderated by Leon Wilson, "Hear it from us: corporations and organizations making a sector impact." Leon prompted James Rooney from Microsoft, Peggy Duvette from Oracle + NetSuite, and Kristin Teti from the Taproot Foundation to share how their organizations fund technology innovation in nonprofits.



Left to right, panelists Kristen Teti Director of Program Development atTaproot Foundation, James Rooney Sr. Global Program Manager at Microsoft and Peggy Duvette Head of Social Impact at Oracle + Netsuite


The first Tech Forward Conference was a huge success. Tech Impact would like to extend a special thank you to our partners, TechSoup, Microsoft and Oracle + NetSuite, speakers and panelists, and all conference attendees. It was a privilege to host such a wonderful group of change makers.


Stay tuned in to our blog for more in depth stories from Tech Forward 2017, including speaker highlights, Technology Innovation Award winners, and more.


Have technology questions or want to learn more about how Tech Impact can help your nonprofit?