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Learning Library Blog Working for a cause
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Working for a cause

By Brian Lewis
October 1, 2015
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While ISTE is appropriately thought of – and often referred to – as a membership organization, we are, in fact, that and more.

We strive to meet the needs of those who join the organization. And they – you – strive to meet the needs of one another. That’s one of our inspiring core strengths. But there’s another characteristic of ISTE that is perhaps less known or understood. It’s one that has had great impact throughout the world over the course of many years, and promises some of the greatest opportunities for impact and growth as we move forward.

That characteristic is ISTE as a cause-based organization.

As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, ISTE serves a broader “community benefit” through our work…through our cause. Our founders at the University of Oregon some 40 years ago made that conscious choice, knowing the work they were going to do would have appeal and impact beyond the boundaries of membership. While other nonprofit categories may not include this broader responsibility, a 501c3 does. We are, by definition, (and to maintain our specific nonprofit status), committed to serving that broader community benefit, that more expansive ethical obligation. We must serve others. We must advance a larger vision than that required of some other types of nonprofits. The ISTE Board of Directors reiterated this commitment when it adopted new, aspirational vision and mission statements in 2013.

ISTE has passionate, dedicated members and volunteers. We have engaged, committed volunteer board members. And we have board-adopted policies and processes that guide our governance. We deliver the largest, most content-rich conference and expo of its type that is today more dynamic and engaging than ever – and that has broken all previous attendance records. We’re known for the ISTE Standards and Essential Conditions that are embraced around the globe. We deliver substantive professional learning opportunities in a variety of formats. We provide real and virtual platforms for educators in all roles to connect with one another. And we advocate for sound policies and regulations that support the effective use of education technology in learning.

These are magnificent and impactful realities.

And, yet, on top of that, or perhaps more accurately, the foundation for all of that, is the reality that by its very definition, ISTE exists to have real impact on human lives around the world. That is a compelling proposition, and one we all take very seriously as we serve the organization.

In fact, the ISTE bylaws state that individual membership “…is available to all persons, without discrimination, who are interested in using technologies for educational purposes.”

Now that’s big.

ISTE acts horizontally – we don’t have an allegiance to any single slice of the education ecosystem. Instead, we serve all educators, and all interested members of the community, across all roles. We have resources and tools for teachers who seek continuous improvement in the integration of education technology. We provide support to technology and curriculum leaders working to advance their colleagues in their schools and across the education community. We offer professional learning and vital networking for school leaders who are undertaking transformational programs to advance student learning. We provide assistance to entire teams seeking to advance and grow together.

And we do all these things around the world in order to make a difference in the lives of students everywhere.

Adam Braun, one of our inspirational ISTE 2015 EdTekTalk speakers, uses the term “for-purpose organization” to describe his nonprofit, Pencils of Promise. It’s a companion term to “caused-based,” or “cause-driven.” But the bottom line is that we recognize – and we embrace – our larger responsibility.

So as we move forward, we will continue to stand on the shoulders of those ISTE visionaries, leaders, staff and community members who charted this incredible course.

We will continue to serve our brilliant, passionate and compassionate community while always keeping our eyes on our cause: positively impacting the lives of learners the world over.