The words ’tech for good’ are thrown around a lot, but what do they mean? It can more or less be summarised by digital tech that solves real world problems for people, communities or the environment.
A tech for good project can be led by a charity or group of charities, startup, academic research organisation or an individual. It can help enhance the work already being done by an organisation, and bring in an entirely new service or product. It can be innovative and cutting edge, or use existing technology in new and inventive ways, as many of the examples from the recent Tech4Good awards showcased.
Great tech for good ideas are often grassroots and need support, guidance and funding to bring them to reality and make them a success. That’s where accelerator programmes for socially-motivated tech startups and funding programmes for charities and social enterprises come in.
A scroll through the #Techforgood hashtag on Twitter will show you that the UK tech for good community is a vibrant place with a focus on cross-sector collaboration, inclusivity and user-led focus. Below, we’ve gathered together a few of the tech for good programmes that are currently active. These are worth exploring for non-profit organisations looking for the right partnerships, grants and advice to bring their tech for good idea to life, or to learn nand be inspired by the work that other organisations like them have done.
Six years ago, Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation partnered together to launch the Tech for Good hub. They’ve since funded tech services and products from charities including giving grants of between £42,000 and £47,000 to charities such as Addaction, The Children’s Society, Samaritans, Shelter Scotland, DePaul UK and Alexandra Rose, as well as numerous social enterprises. They say on their website that the "ecosystem has grown into a thriving marketplace of needs, problems and solutions." The site also includes guidance and articles on how to get your organisation ready for tech innovatation and insights from the many tech projects they’ve founded.
As well as running the Tech for Good programme with The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Comic Relief have several tech-related accelerators of their own, including the Tech vs Abuse programme, and tech to support HIV awareness and research. Comic Relief says: "Our role has included all stages of funding, from designing the programmes, making and managing grants, evaluating initiatives, and sharing lessons with the sector."
Bethnical Green Ventures runs a funding accelerator twice a year that gives out monetary support. mainly to startups, towards projects using tech to drive social and environmental change. They’ve supported over 200 startups with innovative ideas supporting sustainability, education, youth, health and more. They are also the founders of the popular Tech for Good Meetup in London and help to run techforgood.global, bringing together people and ideas to build and grow the tech for good movement.
Domain registry company Nominet’s public benefit programme supports digital mental health initiatives with a social purpose, having invested over £47M in tech for good projects to date. They reach out to charities to offer funding, and have supported projects with charities including Samaritans and The Princes Trust Online. They also the One Million & Me partnership with Children in Need.
Originally established as the corporate foundation of Nominet, Social Tech Trust are a charity who have supported over 800 social tech initiatives in the UK, providing more than £31m in funding. They have various programmes on the go, partnering with tech firms to run various activites throughout the year. Charities supported include Action for Children, UK Youth and Carers Trust.
Social Tech Trust collaborates with Microsoft on this initaitive to help AI and data-based projects meet their goals. The eleven ventures in this year’s cohort focus on either AI for accessibility or AI for environmental sustainability. From boosting crop yields, to improving the lives of those with accessibility needs, all of the ventures are using AI to solve complex problems facing our society. They recently announced the launch of a third prong to their initative - AI for Cultural Heritage.
Nesta’s focus is on large-scale innovation for challenges such as healthcare, public services and infrastructure. Formally the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, the organisation says they "tackle challenges through our unique combination of expertise, skills and funding." Nesta backs individuals, startups, social enterprises and are also a major source of research and horizon scanning and work to influence policy and support public sector organisations to innovate. They lead experimental practical projects through the Innovation Lab and launch a wide number of challenges and prizes.
The Digital Fund is a new UK wide £15 million funding programme to support charities and community organisations. It is about helping the charity and voluntary sector to use digital tools and approaches to support people and communities to thrive. Their intiative has two strands - the first offers £500,000 and a tailored support package to established organisations use digital to take a major leap forward. The second gives £500,000 for newer organisations that have already launched promising services that use digital to achieve scale or impact.
And lastly, It’s worth keeping an eye out on the DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) who offer occassional tech for good grants and support for charities and public sector organisations. They recently offered £400,000 to organisations supporting digital inclusion and digital skills.