SSIR – Disruption for Good

(Aaron said: some brilliant organizations mentioned in the article are worth knowing more about in terms of using technology on doing good. And the tools it listed are also amazing!)

donate now” buttons, a new generation of digital-savvy nonprofits is enabling donors not only to go online to donate a few dollars anywhere, any time, but also to receive direct feedback (including photographs, videos, data, or messages from the recipients themselves) on how their gift is helping transform lives or solve social problems.

Having access to technology and using it for good are two different things. Online excitement about a cause is not always easy to translate into real-world action. (In fact, it turns out that gestures of support such as Facebook “likes” actually lower the chances of someone donating to a cause1 because users feel satisfied with a public endorsement.)

Gaining access to these new technologies does not require substantial investments in software, platforms, apps, or systems. Open-source code, online procurement, and off-the-shelf customer relationship management software—low-cost technologies on which industries from retail to travel rely—can all increase philanthropy’s efficiency and effectiveness. By increasing access and lowering barriers to entry and innovation, technology is enabling the democratization of philanthropy.

Although technology is a powerful force for change, this change does not take place easily or at the same rate throughout society. The advertising and entertainment industries, for example, have quickly harnessed the disruptive forces of the Web browser, mobile devices, social media, big data, and cloud computing. The philanthropic sector, however, is only starting to tap into technology’s potential. (Aaron said: so non-profit, social enterprise, philanthropy need talents in doing this, in order to keep up with the world. this is important)

Greater access to information
To be most effective, philanthropic decision-making requires critical thinking as well as empathy.

To be most effective, philanthropic decision-making requires critical thinking as well as empathy. Would you have more impact, for example, by funding a seven-year-old Namibian girl’s education for a year, or by donating to a large NGO working with Namibia’s government to achieve universal access to secondary education? Making such decisions requires sophisticated understanding of problems that are extremely complex, as well as taking an analytical approach to your own philanthropic risk tolerance.

One of the reasons that philanthropists don’t undertake a rigorous analysis of their giving is that the information needed to do that is often hard to come by.

Technology helps provide a solution to these problems by opening up vast reserves of information, allowing givers to see their gifts’ impact, and helping nonprofits and foundations to provide detailed and timely feedback on how they use donors’ money.

Donors also need to be encouraged to invest time in understanding why certain strategies failed and others worked and how this knowledge can help them increase the impact of their giving. One solution might be to create a donor hub—a dedicated website, Facebook group, or other social media forum—where donors could discuss why they did or did not fund an organization and which resources proved most useful in helping them make their decision.

Greater access to networks
Nonprofits can post images and videos online or exchange them via smart phones, narrowing the gap between those who give and the people they want to help.

Lower barriers to entry
Achieving the necessary scale to implement the systemic solutions needed for widespread impact is also challenging. It requires gathering data and integrating evaluation into programs at every step, creating data for proof of concept, maintaining constant program iteration, building awareness, sustaining interest, and igniting followers to act—processes that are costly and difficult without technology.

With technology, however, the playing field is leveled, allowing change makers of all backgrounds, resources, and ages to enter the marketplace and scale up their solutions.

Meanwhile, as more and more of our lives exist online and in the cloud, technology poses privacy and security risks. When nonprofits store donors’ addresses, email addresses, and financial information digitally, they become susceptible to hackers. And if technology has made it easier for nonprofits to establish an online presence, it has done the same for the scammers pretending to be these organizations.

To secure the trust of donors and volunteers, nonprofits must develop robust security systems that protect the information of donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries, and they must help donors to distinguish legitimate nonprofits from the scams

Lower barriers to innovation
For nonprofits and foundations managing funds donated by others, the risk-taking needed to solve social problems often runs up against the relative paucity of donor dollars. Most nonprofits lack the capacity or funds to use beta testing, prototyping, or data analytics to generate insights that inform better decisions. Often working in isolation, nonprofit leaders find it difficult to bounce ideas off one another, harness collective wisdom, or access external sources of innovation. (Aaron said: financial independence and sufficient fund are important)

Without mechanisms for sifting good ideas from bad and turning online enthusiasm into real-world impact, crowdsourcing and social media could lead to over-innovation at the expense of focusing on scaling up proven solutions and achieving measurable change. (Aaron said: Scaling up is also important! not necessarily need to come up with new ideas, since some would just overlap with existing ones. And existing ideas might need resources, money, labors to scale up.)


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