A Lack of Internal Digital Capabilities in Ontario’s Third Sector

According to a study by the Ontario Not-for-Profit Network, “most technical requirements of non-for-profit organizations in Ontario are outsourced.” The study presents evidence that this suggests a fundamental and systemic issue, impeding the participation of many organizations, in digital transformation, given what will be the requirement of the “centrality of technology to many organizations” (ONN, 2019). Outsourcing does little to build internal capacity or to create a culture of digitally skilled Third-Sector employees. The report from the ONN further purports that “government investment” in nonprofit collaboration addressing “the digital skills gap in the sector must start with strategic investment (ONN, 2019).

Imagine Canada’s 2006 Report on The Sector, writes that “particularly when considering how we structure our internal teams and work with partner organizations, is an important piece and a step in the right direction.” But “it’s not enough: what is needed is recognition within the sector that investing in digital skills training is an investment in ourselves and the future of the sector.” As Imagine Canada’s Bruce MacDonald noted last year, “Effective administration enables fundraising, infrastructure and staffing that are essential to fulfilling a charity’s mission. Real impact requires real investment” (Imagine Canada, 2006). Overall, this body of literature revealed that Ontario’s Third Sector is experiencing a broad spectrum of technology challenges that require a response.

The Sector Inc’s overall approach of this research project was to test the dissertation’s hypothesis against the findings gleaned from the empirical research, triangulated with the evidence in the reviewed literature.

From preliminary discussions with experts and a review of the literature, it’s apparent that consensus exists that:

1. In divesting itself from service delivery as it’s core business and investing in it’s own “transformation,” The Government of Ontario has created a fragmented, strained, “Third Sector” of service-delivery organizations, who’s operational inability to participate in digital transformation, now hinder the effectiveness of the very transformation, which government is undertaking.

2. The digital transformation of government, to improve its capacity to enable Third Sector organizations effectiveness, will not improve outcomes, without Third Sector organizations undergoing digital transformation as well.

3. The Big Four do not see government transformation outside of digital transformation, as one of their core business areas; they do not see government transformation without digital transformation at all.

Simply put, this approach asks the question: what would the critical success factors to successful consulting engagements be?

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