We started experimenting with the Fractional CxO concept approximately 6 months ago. At that time we really did not have this planned, but knew there was something that we should test out with a few NGOs and see what happens. This blog post is also my way of documenting things, so that we remember what we did and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The ongoing pilot talks about our experiences with the 7 NGOs, though 3 of them are in the super early stages (less than a month)
Our first experience was with a small NGO, with a budget of 1 – 2 CR. From a tech perspective, they were attempting to solve a fairly nice problem and had an issue with some of their previous software partners. This was also when I shockingly heard that WordPress is not scalable from a software company that came highly recommended. Yes, this is what some software companies use to justify building custom solutions. Our main concern before starting the engagement was if the founder had enough bandwidth to manage the project. He was super committed, but had too many things going on, and could not delegate this to anyone else. So while it was high priority, given all the other things on his plate, it was not the most important. In a few months, we realized this would not work out and decided to move on. Fortunately, we did not spend significant time on it either.
The second NGO was a medium sized NGO working in the community health space. We found a volunteer in the US who was moving to India who seemed keen to give it a shot. This was a match made in heaven across all parties. The NGO was committed, was using technology in a really effective manner, had pretty good processes and the project was strongly supported by the CEO. We lucked out with an equally committed volunteer who was curious, methodical and interested. This was an amazing success, the volunteer has now joined Tech4Dev full time. The NGO is now our first paying Fractional CxO engagement. Overall this is how we prefer all pilots to go 🙂 A win-win-win for everyone involved.
The third NGO was a small tech first NGO doing some pretty innovative work, but with tech systems semi-cobbled together. Due to some good luck on the timing perspective, we managed to have an all day face-2-face meeting with the NGO with most of the folks in the room. At the end of the meeting, we felt there was some unknown in the program delivery. We decided to potentially engage with them in the future when things were a bit more clear. I went into this NGO fairly certain that it was a great match, but have realized that having a better understanding of the NGO along with their needs is super important. Going forward we will definitely meet with an NGO for a longer meeting before deciding on them
The fourth NGO was a medium sized NGO that we matched with a volunteer. While we do not think the Fractional CxO is a volunteer type engagement, we’ve gotten a few good folks who were planning to move to India soon, willing to commit 10 hours/week and interested in working in the social sector. Due to multiple factors, this did not work out from our end. The volunteers are continuing to work directly with the NGO which we agreed might be a better model in this case. Still trying to learn and digest the lessons from this one, and what we could have done differently. I do think we need to play a bigger role in the initial process (maybe first 3-6 weeks) and ensure that both the volunteer and the NGO are living up to their commitment and we can get things moving earlier.
The seventh NGO is a work in progress. We are incorporating the lessons from the fourth NGO and are going to get involved immediately. Hopefully this will help kick things off and get things moving in the right direction.
The fifth and sixth NGOs have been long time friends and partners of Tech4Dev. We recently hired a full time fractional CxO to work with these two organizations exclusively. Since all of us were venturing into the unknown, we figured a 3 month trial period would be a good way to start things. We do think the two NGOs have potentially quite a lot in common from a tech perspective and can afford a CxO as a joint entity, so am curious as to how this will turn out. For now our strategy is: Month 1 is mainly with NGO 5, with 10% of time on NGO 6. Month 2 is mainly with NGO 6, with 10% of time on NGO 5. Month 3 is potentially mixing and matching the needs of both and deciding on next steps.
As we are looking to expand our pilot programs, we just put out a call for applications to NGOs earlier today, We’ll continue to document our learnings, successes and failures and bring you on our journey