Most in the ATJ Community will never have heard of Rob Stuart, who has just died at the shocking age of 49. But if you ever attended a meeting with a Pro Bono Net or OST circuit rider, or any other tech resource support system, or used materials they have developed or shared, you have benefited from his work. Rob was probably the first tech circuit rider in the non-profit and advocacy sector, and he was certainly the person who brought impeccable community organizing skills to spreading the concept.
Rob used to talk about how everyone remembers Paul Revere, and few remember his co-riders. The reason was that Revere had a network, and so his warnings echoed, while the other riders’ reached few. (Of course it helped to have a good PR poet). Rob lived that philosophy. Whenever you talked to him he had someone you needed to talk to, and the outcome was always a new project and yet more connections. Thus he is the grandfather of the technical assistance system in technology and access to justice.
Often Rob brought together the energy, and then moved on. Thus in 1997 he brought together a small group of about 15 of those doing such non-profit outreach in technology in a tiny meeting room in Chicago. That led directly to the creation of NTEN, the most recent conference of which had 2,200 attendees.
Rob was one of those people who always gave so much more than he took. I thought I would have time to balance the books with him, and now I never will.
As I hear more about efforts to memorialize Rob, I will update this post.
There is now a memories page for Rob.
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Terribly sad. Thanks for this piece.
Very sad news. I first met Rob in the late ’90s when he led TechRocks, a project of the Rockefeller Family Fund that worked with the Fund’s grantees on tech capacity-building. He and Holly Ross were consultants to a women’s advocacy group I worked for in Maine, helping us incorporate technology into our community outreach and engagement strategies — a very new concept (for us, at least) at the time. That project sparked my interest in the role of technology in nonprofit and community capacity-building, and I decided to pursue graduate studies in that area and later join Pro Bono Net as a Circuit Rider. So both directly and indirectly, Rob had a major influence on my interest in this field, as well as the opportunities I’ve had to pursue that interest professionally. It was wonderful to run into him at an NTEN conference a few years ago and be able to share a bit of this with him. Thank you, Richard, for this post. A big loss for the nonprofit tech community.