NCLIX: The Non-Governmental Organization Cooperative Local Information Exchange

The Local Information Challenge

Local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Africa face innumerable information challenges. Working in a variety of local settings across an entire continent, they need current and dependable information about service providers and product vendors in each city. Which suppliers are truly reputable, dependable and easy to work with? Which offer the best long-term value?

Each time an NGO expands to a new location – whether to open a new office or to host a workshop – it needs accurate and easily accessible information about local service providers. Each time a new local NGO is formed, it needs to know which vendors to work with and which to avoid.

This kind of information is difficult to capture and assemble in an easy to use way. Some NGOs keep spreadsheets that quickly become obsolete as local companies change management or move location. Others rely on veteran staff members who accumulate good personal information.

That personal information, though, is shared only when someone remembers to ask. When these staff members leave an organization or a country program, they typically take their accumulated knowledge about local vendors, goods and services with them.

Newer staff members also talk informally with their peers when they can. Occasionally they check these spreadsheets or find accurate information on listservs. These methods are too haphazard and time consuming to make them useful. And, more importantly, they distract staff from their more important work: quality programming.

NGOs need a better way to stay up-to-date on local services and providers. They need a local-focused, web-based information source in each major city, much like an Angie’s List, Yelp, or craigslist, but specifically local in focus, and designed for and by international NGOs.

NPOKI: Taking on the Challenge

NPOKI (The Non-Profit Organizations Knowledge Initiative) is a specialized nonprofit consortium created by our members to find solutions to this exact kind of challenge, using a combination of open yet managed collaboration and the best technical know-how in the field.

NPOKI's long-range goal is to promote better organizational performance management through finding, creating and sharing a comprehensive set of tools to track complex projects around the globe in an integrated portfolio management system.

Our strategic aim is to assemble information on the progress and results of projects in ways that allow all stakeholders—program managers, project staff, senior management, subgrantees, and funders—to assess their organization’s and their own progress in achieving strategic goals.
NPOKI’s member organizations are at the forefront of providing access to safe and affordable health services globally, including a focused response to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Collectively, we work in more than 120 countries around the world, helping and innovating to save and improve the lives of men, women, children, and families. Through NPOKI our members are able to leverage organizational learning and benefit from the most effective technologies to better meet their individual missions.

NPOKI’s Solution

NPOKI collaborates with key partner organizations to create new solutions to old problems by improving existing approaches in a quick time frame and at reduced cost. We have explored a number of tools that can address the local information gap faced by international NGOs, and identified the best tool currently in existence, the Social Source Commons (SSC), created by our partner organization, The Aspiration Foundation.

Aspiration connects NGOs with software solutions in order to help them maximize their impact and effectiveness. As part of this work, Aspiration created a web site called the Social Source Commons (SSC) that functions as a virtual tool for members of NGO organizations to share specialized information about useful technologies. SSC benefits NGOs by enabling them to:
  • Create their own profiles.
  • Link to other profiles and external resources that they know and like.
  • Post and share lists of software solutions vetted by the NGO community.
  • Discover new tools and solutions.
  • Meet professionals and create communities of similar needs and interests.
SSC was explicitly designed to build a virtual community of users.  It encourages users to post comments and use Web 2.0 technologies like tagging, linking to external sites, and recommending goods and services.  Unlike similar sites, such as craigslist, Angie’s List, Amazon or Consumer Reports, SSC is a home specifically for NGO users, making their searches much quicker and easier.  They don’t have to waste time sifting through information that is not applicable or useful to them.










NPOKI will build on SSC’s NGO-focused, community-oriented approach by tailoring the site to make it more appropriate for an international user body and by adding additional features.  NPOKI’s new and improved tool will be called NCLIX, the NonProfit Cooperative Local Information Exchange.

Specifically, NCLIX will: 
  • Simplify the user interface to make it easily accessible for users with less Web 2.0 experience.
  • Change the terminology to make it more appropriate for broad categories of services and products.
  • Streamline the flow of information for users with unreliable internet access.
  • Professionalize the look and feel of the site for a professional, international audience.
  • Add additional features, including RSS feeds and email alerts.
These changes, which require some reshaping of SSC’s 'skin' code, combined with the strengths of the SSC model, will enable NCLIX to serve as the premier vehicle for collecting and exchanging the information needed by local NGOs in cities around the world as well as headquarters and local offices of international NGOs.

NPOKI’s strength as an organization, however, is twofold.  We don’t just create software tools; equally important, we build the organizational capacity to enable their most successful use. Recognizing that an information exchange website is only as good as the community it creates and the behavior change it enables, NPOKI will leverage our member relationships and our unique training methodology so that NCLIX users will obtain maximum value from NCLIX.  This will truly be a NonProfit Cooperative Local Information Exchange (NCLIX).