Technology has staggering potential to support social needs and is well suited to keep pace with the complex challenges faced by communities, and can do so at scale.
However, when it comes to implanting a successful tech for good strategy, there are a number of factors to consider – my four top tips for an effective strategy are outlined below.
Understand that tech for good has become a ‘must’ for founders, customers, employees and investors alike
Embedding social impact into the core of a business has increasingly become a ‘must’ for founders, customers, consumers and employees alike, with millennials in particular prioritising it when assessing a potential employer. In fact, the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018 found that 40% of respondents believed that the primary goal of businesses should be to ‘improve society’ rather than to make profits.
Investors too are seeking to hold a stake in companies that are driving measurable, evidence-based social change. One way that embedded social impact models can drive financial success is through a more efficient workforce, and the evidence is compelling. A recent report by Project ROI found that involvement in social impact initiatives can increase employee productivity by 13% and engagement by 7.5%. However, the important factor is that investors today are largely interested in companies which are creating tangible social value that lasts, not just impressive commercial outcomes.
Identify key resources in your organisation and how they can be aligned to meet a particular societal need
Before jumping in to implement a tech for good strategy, it is important to understand that philanthropic expertise and strategy is required to create powerful outcomes and engage teams. A dedicated, scalable program must be deeply connected to both external humanitarian need and the internal resources and budget of a company. While there is room for companies to develop high value employee-led initiatives, these should align to rather than form the backbone of a company’s impact strategy.
Once an expert team is in place, a company must outline their mission, objectives and resources as they relate to their social impact goals in order to determine how the company’s core values align to the needs that exist. By doing so, they can determine what they are best placed to offer and ensure that their social impact strategy is authentic and can be woven into every aspect of the business.
Ensure any strategy is woven into the whole organisation, and is measurable, rather than an ad-hoc project
When it comes to moving towards truly integrated social impact, it is imperative that any undertaking is done strategically and meaningfully. Take Google.org, for example, which has weaved purpose and social impact into every strand of their operating model. Rather than using a CSR department, Google instead has built a mechanism to create social outcomes sustainably into its core.
It is also important for organisations to track and measure the impact of their interventions, in order to understand if and how it has made a positive impact, and how it can be strengthened over time in response to evolving needs.
This evolution from one-off product contributions to sophisticated tech for good strategies has gained momentum in the US and the UK, and is increasingly happening worldwide. For example, the India Companies Act has been implemented in India, requiring international companies with a registered presence in India to contribute 2% of pre-tax revenue to local non-profits. Rather than deploying charitable resources to comply with these policies, this presents a great opportunity for companies to engage with local non-profits to co-create tech-enabled solutions that meet regional needs.
Collaborate with the public sector and seek the experience and support of NGOs to ensure that their efforts are well placed and result in a meaningful positive impact
Although tech-supported initiatives have great potential, it is only through collaboration and partnerships with NGOs and the humanitarian sector that their implementation can become truly impactful. It is critical to draw from their expertise, avoiding repeat failures, and creating together to harness the power of both sectors’ expertise.
What’s more, quickly deploying tech while not truly understanding the needs of a project can result in ‘dead-aid’, where ineffective investment fails to have the desired positive impact, and will not provide a long-lasting benefit for the community. To avoid this, companies should resist the temptation to be prescriptive and instead apply the same quality, rigor, research and depth as they would for technology-based solutions and innovations in their commercial business.
About the Author
Lindsey Kneuven. Lindsey is Chief Impact Officer of Pluralsight and Executive Director of Pluralsight One. Entrepreneurial, visionary leader adept at independently developing and implementing innovative solutions to complex problems in the face of challenging odds. Demonstrated expertise in complex global grantmaking, international program development, corporate philanthropy, and volunteer engagement.