Powered by Data recently said goodbye to our Director of Policy & Communications, Nicholas Salter. Besides wanting to wish him the best of luck, we’ve also learned a lot during this time and we wanted share some of those lessons.
Nick joined Powered by Data in 2016. At that time, the initiative was still in its early days. Powered by Data was launched by Ajah in 2013 but it only become a Tides project in 2015, and Nick joined as our first full-time employee.
Almost as soon as Nick came on board, he took over leadership of our first conference, Transform the Sector, which explored the data needs and opportunities of the nonprofit sector. What started as a modest couple of half-day workshops supported by Ontario Trillium Foundation, turned into a sold-out event which strained to welcome 300 interested participants. We added Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab and Mars Discovery District as partners, and the resulting success led to what is now an ongoing popular-education and coalition-building project focused on improving ethical data sharing between the nonprofit sector and government(s).
Also under Nick’s Policy and Communications leadership, we were recognized as leaders in Canada’s Open Government community, we produced an key report on Canada's future in the international open government movement, and our director was invited to serve on the inaugural Multi-stakeholder Open Government Forum, recently established by the federal government.
There are two things that we’ve learned from Nick that have become core to our work.
The first is an appreciation of the role of communications to our work as data experts. We thought we understood that fully, but 5 years in, we continue to be amazed at the difference between successfully executed comms plans and lacklustre ones. Comprehension is still a block for many promising initiatives, and data and technology is still often viewed with mistrust in the nonprofit sector.
Secondly, we have seen the light — and by that we mean the difference between comms serving in a supporting role, versus communications being used strategically to achieve specific organizational goals. We started our work with Nick thinking that we need to have case-studies, newsletter, blog posts, or social media “just because” everyone else does it. We’re now converted to seeing a communication strategy as a powerful tool to achieve specific partnership development goals or to advance specific policy goals.
Nick - thanks for everything you’ve done for Powered by Data and we’re hoping that you continue to share your communication and policy expertise with the nonprofit sector for years to come.