people using a computer

Charities and tech companies: Natural bedfellows?

By Anna de Pulford 17 March 2017

For charities, cost is not the only barrier to embracing technology. Tech company Yoti are exploring how else they can support charities harness digital for good. Here Anna from their Social Partnerships team shares they’ve learned so far about making it work.

If you’re a charity, you’re hopefully familiar with the support schemes made available to you by tech companies. More likely than not, you’ll be signed up to the Technology Trust’s tt-exchange, where you can buy software licenses with discounts of up to 90%. Many of you will also be using Google’s non-profit suite. 

But it’s clear that, even when the technology is free or very heavily discounted, charities struggle to embrace it. 18 months ago, Julie Dodd had a stab at explaining why. As well as a lack of committed leadership, funding for implementation and general cultural barriers feature prominently. Sadly her paper is still as relevant as it was when first published.

Yoti provides our digital identity platform to charities for free, and we’re in the process of setting up Yoti Foundation to provide financial support. But we’re trying to think creatively about how we can help non-profits other than helping on the financial side. We’re  conscious, for example, that we have an office of 150+ developers, UX experts and designers. They’re brimming with the tech confidence that is in such short supply in the not-for-profit sector (but we hope will prove infectious). So we’re testing some ideas for how we can do more with what we’ve got.

Recently we held a Hack Day, with representatives from GoodGym, NSPCC, vInspired, the Scouts, Centrepoint, Freegle, Forum for the Future and CharityBase. Our aim was to provide tailored  support to help charities find a solution to identity-based challenges they’re facing.

We learnt a lot…

A little help from tech companies goes a long way

Our developers were quickly able to grasp the cases of the participant charities and hopefully demystify our technology. This means they can make faster progress and see the possibilities sooner.

Building in user feedback is important

While we were espousing the importance of user-centered design, we almost forgot to seek feedback from our own participants. But we caught ourselves and made time for retrospectives and surveys. From these we found we’d made some assumptions that proved to be misguided. For example, participant charities said they would have liked face-to-face time with the developers during the prototype phase, whereas we’d assumed they’d want as little demand on their time as possible. 

Making digital work for social good is all about networks

Digital is an opportunity, but it’s also a challenge. So you shouldn’t go it alone. And there’s no need to! Founders and Coders CIC led and supported our hack day with their cohort of 16 coders, Outlandish have supported the most promising idea with a month of developer time, while Technology Trust, NPC, CAST, NCVO and countless others promoted the day to their networks. Not to mention the inspirational charities who participated in the event. There’s a whole tech for good community out there to tap into.

We think there is real potential for tech companies and charities to work together. We know there’s a lot more we can do, so we’d love to hear your suggestions and thoughts about how we can help non-profits harness the power of digital.