Tech For Good; Putting People Over Profit.

‘Jonny Evans and Greg Ashton from Reason Digital putting people over profit in the tech sector and talking socially-minded technology.’

Tech for Good is a topic which we forever discussing at Wool Digital HQ, we also love the events and podcast run by the guys over at Reason Digital. If you haven’t heard of Manchester’s Tech For Good cohort, take a look!

At the launch of Enterprise City, Greg (@grgashton) and Jonny (@jonnyraeevans) from Tech For Good gave a great presentation on how working at a social enterprise does include the ‘subtle art of not killing people’. Which let’s face it, is always a plus.

Greg and Jonny started by presenting that a few years ago, some people felt that all great activity and innovation would be taking place down south, and that Cambridge and Oxford would become new economic boomers. And us in the north? We’d be left behind.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

Within the rise of tech in the north west, the digital social enterprise Reason Digital was birthed and the team there have worked on some of the largest positive change campaigns which have ever been seen such as Safety Nets and Gone for Good. Safety Nets is used to keep sex workers safe by creating a community and members of the app can alert others of any potential risks in a specific area. Gone for Good is a charity collection app which has helped charities collect the value of over £1 million in goods, just in year one.

When exploring the need for Social Enterprises and the work that they do, Greg and jonny presented some key facts and figure:

The proportion of social enterprises that grew their turnover the past 12 months is 52%. A greater proportion of social enterprises are growing than mainstream SMEs (40%).

The number of social enterprises introducing a new product or service in the last 12 months has increased to 59%. Among SMEs it has fallen to 38%.

40% of social enterprises are led by women; 31% have black asian minority ethnic directors; 40th have a director with a disability.

Which truly shows that there is both a rise in and need for the growth of social enterprises.

Going on to explore, ‘what is tech for good?’ the pair presented some key thoughts such as, what you create has to actually work, it needs to be sustainable and work to help the sector and if you are only following your best of intentions, your idea won’t be a success. Pursuing a vanity project isn’t what is going to help people.

To give the audience a bit of context surrounding what examples of tech for good are, as opposed to ones which are positioned as good, Greg and Jonny explored a few examples;

Uber launching as a ‘new side hustle’, was quite a good idea, however, the execution and the ethics of uber haven’t been all that fabulous. But let’s leave that one there.

Greg and Jonny also educated the audience on a project called I Sea, an award winning app which was created by the Grey Group. The premise of the app was great, the app showed an area of sea to the user could pinpoint if there was any questionable activity going on in their section of the ocean, and appropriate authorities would be alerted. Again, great idea. However, it turned out that all users were shown the same area of sea and the app wasn’t really ever fully developed, although the team at the Grey Group denied all knowledge of creating a ‘fake app’, it was soon removed from the app store.

Good examples came in the way of WayFindr, who have drilled down on the elderly digital market to help many people achieve help and support. Initially, WayFindr were creating an app as primary mode of support but they soon realised if they took their work one step further and created an accessible framework, they would support a much wider scope of users.

The next example referred back to Reason’s own development to aid sex workers; as a smart group of digital experts, they know the importance of speaking to your users. And for this market the tried. However, their budget didn’t cover they day rate of a group of their users. To make sure that they were truly able to get to grips with their user’s needs, the team took to the streets to get to grips. Two of the biggest findings which came out of this was that the inclusion of any lights or alarms would cause risk to the workers thanks to the initial draw of attention meaning that as many silent or subtle cues needed to be used. The multilingual user base also needed to be able to use the application, even if they couldn’t speak english — all of the key prompts were changed to icons to create a universal users. The biggest takeaway from this user research? Think about repercussions.

Greg then introduced the audience to the concept of ‘Wicked Problems’, the big things that you want to be able to fix, such as homelessness, but you really need to chip away at with smaller solutions than trying to create the perfect fix for a very large issue. It was presented that one of the key failure points for a ‘tech for good’ project is its focus around solving a ‘wicked problem’ instead of trying to solve a factor in the problem.

To create a project which is truly meaningful and has a good return, it is key to start with an end goal and work backwards, breaking down steps required to tackle the issue — creating a sure fire list of tasks to architect a meaningful and robust solution.

Finally, the biggest question which I was left considering following the presentation… What is the return on investment on a life?

If you would like to talk about tech for good with fellow enthusiasts, contact or send us a message all places where you can be social, @wooldigital.


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