During the annual Province Gathering Days for the Sisters of Notre Dame, in Chardon, Ohio, which took place July 30-31, 2010, I had an hour to present the results of our Technology Self-Study to the more than 200 sisters gathered in the auditorium for the two day event. It was a great experience. The sisters were eager to hear the study results and they were very enthusiastic about expanding our use of technology for mission.
The Technology Self-Study began in February 2010 after our Province Self-Study coordinators had interviewed nearly 50 people (sisters and collaborators) about our technology needs, ministry trends and apostolic opportunities. Our five-member team met monthly. We conducted additional interviews, distributed an electronic survey to all of the sisters using email (more than 220 sisters responded) and met with the sisters and our employees in small focus groups in various regions of the country.
We drafted a report that was reviewed by 15 sisters and collaborators. Based on their input, we revised the document and sent the final copy to the members of the Provincial Leadership Team. Members of our team met with the Leadership Team on July 15th to answer questions and prepare for a presentation of the report and recommendations to the whole community on July 30th.
That presentation focused on what I called the “Three A’s Analysis”—
- Accessibility—to a computer and to the Internet for basic web-based activities such as email, word processing. document storage, reports and surveys,
- Applications—software for activities beyond the basics such as finance, facilities, health care, social media, online meetings, and
- Apostolate—innovative web-based activities to promote vocations, advance our mission, support our constituencies.
In each instance I defined what we needed to be successful in these areas: staff, budget, support, service and training.
As a community, we have been working on accessibility since 1996. The study confirmed that we have achieved our goal to give every sister access to a computer and the Internet. The community has a technology budget with staff and resources in place for that purpose. Overall, the sisters were satisfied with our accessibility.
In addition, the study revealed that our understanding of technology has evolved and that sisters and employees want us to use new technologies to be more productive, efficient and interactive. They also want to see us being more pro-active in using technology for apostolic purposes. This will require an increase in budget, staff and resources.
The sisters discussed in small groups what they heard in the report that they resonated with or felt inspired or challenged by. Then each table group agreed on the one step that they thought we should take as a result of this study. Table representatives shared their steps with the larger group. Almost to a table, the sisters wanted us to make a greater investment in technology and move forward in using it for mission. The Leadership Team is expected to formally approve the plan and budget to make that happen when they meet later this month.
Our Study Team has volunteered to transition to an Advisory Team for implementing the three-year goals that we proposed. Echoing what one sister said “We are ready. Let’s move on this!”