Making the Best Use of Technology: Two New Toolkits on Information Security and Knowledge Management
These days, technology is a critical part of legal aid. Legal aid providers must use technology effectively to improve the quality of their services and meet and exceed LSC’s Technology Baselines.
Idealware is a nonprofit that provides resources about software to help other nonprofits make smart software decisions. To help organizations make the best use of technology, Idealware and the Michigan Advocacy Program released two toolkits on information security and knowledge management.
Like any other organization, legal aid providers must protect their information. This toolkit shows how to establish an organizational culture that prioritizes security and empowers staff to protect important data. It’s broken up into sections on assessing the importance of data (i.e., how well should it be protected), security infrastructure and awareness, policies, and more. It also includes worksheets that can help you assess your organization’s current setup and situation.
A reliance on a good security system far outweighs putting stock in good intentions or a mission commitment. According to the toolkit, “Good intentions or a commitment to your organization’s mission won’t protect your data. Your organization needs to develop infrastructure, processes, policies, and training that reduce the chances that someone will make a mistake and that help everyone become more security smart.”
Knowledge management is a way to ensure that the “what” and “how” of your organization’s work gets documented. This toolkit covers the main approaches to managing knowledge using technology and standardized procedures, and it includes recommendations for implementing a knowledge management system.
The toolkit is separated into several sections, including ones on document management, email, internal messaging tools, in-person interactions, and implementing knowledge management. It also has a helpful case study of the knowledge management approach taken by LAF — formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
LAF first realized its need for knowledge management through a series of business process analyses. It then started using SharePoint — a web-based, collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office — to set up sites for individual practice groups, as well as a site for sharing staff communications and resources. There have been a number of benefits to using SharePoint, the toolkit notes. Among them: the powerful search functionality for briefs and documents, the ability to link to documents and sites, support for workflows and the ability to automate standard forms and requests, and the ability to retain and share staff subject expertise.