The Operational Underbelly of Powerful Voices

During 2012, Powerful Voices underwent a behind-the-scenes technology transformation. The economy had been weakening for years at the same time that elements of our technology infrastructure started to need attention and replacement. We decided in late 2011 to forego a costly replacement of our in-house server, and instead made the leap from server-client setup to the cloud. This would both save us money and make our system more sustainable and easier to support.

We decided to switch to Google Apps, since they offer free accounts to nonprofits. We moved our operations and production activities to Google Drive/Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Gmail.

It's been quite a culture shift, and we're sometimes still adjusting to this new paradigm. Our work can now take place anywhere we have internet access. Staff members can borrow a laptop and retreat to a local coffee shop for an opportunity to focus on a special project. Paralyzing winter storms aren't quite as scary, since we can do fully functional work from home or a local library branch. And our system allows us multiple avenues of communication to keep us in touch no matter where we're working.

This culture shift has brought a need for new tools that fit in with our new office set up. I presented some cloud-based tools during a recent leadership team meeting... Here's a sample:

  • Sunrise ( - this tool combines activities from Google Calendar, Facebook (including birthdays!) etc., and sends you a daily summary.
  • Aviary - this is a browser extension (for Chrome) which allows you to easily edit images within your browser. No "legacy" software (download and install) needed.
  • Wordle ( - These are used to give a group of words a visual splash. Enter your own body of text and Wordle will create a "word cloud" that emphasizes repeated words more heavily, etc.
  • Prezi ( - I presented these tools in a Prezi at our meeting; Prezi is a different (and often more dynamic) way of presenting information that would usually be communicated in a PowerPoint.
  • CopyPasteCharacter ( - This is a website that makes it easy to copy characters easily, so you can paste them into emails, documents, etc. Lots of options, like: ñ, ☯, ß, ¶, ©, æ, £, ♫, ✄, ✉, ✔, etc...

These tools are fun, and allow us to free ourselves from old ways of accessing information in geographic- or workstation-specific ways. Thanks to the operational changes we have made this year, we will start 2013 with more flexibility, lower costs, and higher staff satisfaction. It's a win, win, win!!


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