Scot Barker on the Future Burlington and the Nonprofit Sector

Thank you to Scot Barker for sharing this article. Scot is currently a Senior Director at MyWebGrocer and volunteers with Burlington area nonprofits. This is part of an ongoing blog series exploring Vermont, nonprofits and technology: 

Back in the 1980’s, Vermont began to earnestly establish itself as a leader in the captive insurance market. Since that time, advances in that industry have helped make Vermont the leading onshore captive insurance domicile. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed subtle changes that, to me, indicate Vermont may be on the cusp of establishing another significant market: one centered around national and international non-profit enterprises.

Burlington, Vermont sits on a goldmine, from a technology perspective.
The gigabit internet connection we enjoy through Burlington Telecom is one of the most advanced municipal networks in the country. Our citizens, businesses, educational institutions, government and yes, non-profits have access to the world and its resources in ways we could have only dreamed about a decade ago. Match that superlative technological resource with our strong non-profit sector and we could be standing on the edge of a revolution in how we provide services, how we interact with non-profits all over the world and, potentially, we could be on the verge of creating an industry in Vermont that revolves around non-profit endeavors.
What, exactly, does all of that mean to Vermont and its non-profit sector? 

I believe it means we have, within our reach, the beginnings of a true non-profit hub. There is a real opportunity to create a vibrant new industry that will provide impact not only here in Vermont, but potentially around the world. Why? Because of three significant reasons: the people, the mindset and the technology. Let’s quickly explore each of these three pieces and take a look at how they could contribute to creating this non-profit hub of innovation here in Burlington, Vermont.

First, the people.
I came to Burlington 20 years ago and was very quickly struck by how the people of Vermont take care of each other. A politically active citizenry, imbued with a “Vermont Strong” mentality and an impressive sense of place come together and make responsible enterprise a part of the fabric of our lives. I see it in schools that provide free lunches during the summer when school is out. I see it in parents who regularly contribute more to their child’s field trip funds so that others who can’t afford it can still take part. I see it in companies that provide one hour per week or one day per month for their employees to volunteer with those causes they support. I see it in our youth who regularly work with, or start their own non-profit organizations to help people in Vermont and around the world. I see it in Vermont leading the way in BCorps, energy efficiency, environmental law and socially responsible solutions to age-old problems.

Second, the mindset.
The Vermont mindset is one that suggests things can and should be better, and we can and should help make it happen. We are not a group of people prone to sitting by silently. Rather, we roll up our sleeves and get involved. Think about what that might mean for a non-profit industry here in Vermont. A group of people ready, willing and driven to improve the world around them. From climate to equality, from human rights to animal welfare, from local issues to global causes, the people of Vermont have proven time and again they are up to whatever challenge you put in front of them, especially if it means helping take care of others.

And finally, the technology.
That gigabit internet connection I mentioned earlier? That is the tie that could bind this industry together. Our incredibly fast connection gives us access to information and people from all over the world in ways never before possible. No longer is Vermont too far off the beaten path. With our highest of high-speed internet connections, we are a video conference away from the world. It’s that access, that doorway to the world (and the world’s doorway back to us) that could position Vermont and our population in a powerful position.Now we just need to find ways to leverage that into what could be a growth industry here in Vermont. I do think it opens the possibility to many well-paying, meaningful jobs. Jobs that not only will help take care of Vermonters, but also to take care of people around the world. You really can’t ask for more than that: technology that brings the world to Vermont, and brings Vermont strength, compassion and drive to do good to the world!

About:
With more than 20 years of experience in leadership and management, I’m happiest when working to bring out the best in people, organizations and businesses. I’m deeply committed to coaching and mentoring and I’m a lifelong learner inspired by curiosity. I’m a passionate advocate for leadership, social responsibility and making a real difference in the world.  If you would like to learn more about how to grow as a leader or work with me drop me a note at: sbarker16@gmail.com or LinkedIn.

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