Last week I helped launch the philanthropic arm of Founders Forum – the incredible tech network started by Brent Hoberman and Jonnie Goodwin.
Here is the article we wrote for the Guardian about the organisation.
“Both here in the UK and internationally, governments and charities are facing increasing demand for their services at the exact moment austerity forces them to look for efficiencies. In Britain, public and social organisations from our health service to youth clubs deliver important, often market-leading work, day in day out, and are vital lifelines for people in often desperate need. We can only applaud their vital work.
However, we need to help accelerate the pace of solutions to challenges such as social care or the provision of high quality education to every single young person. How? There is one especially vigorous sector that is yet to be tapped in the fight against health, income or employment inequality: technology. Social organisations in the UK have a combined income of £35bn, and employ more than a million Britons: a sizeable sector, but one which, by its own admission, has often failed to make use of technology to make themselves more efficient and productive.
There are plenty of incredible examples that show what’s possible, here and around the world: Kiva Microfunds has crowdsourced over $400m from nearly a million lenders for those in need. Ni Kadek Juli Asih is one recipient, a young woman from Indonesia who took out, and repaid, her loan as she expanded her farm. Another is Griselda from Bolivia, who used her loan to expand a small clothing business and is saving her profits for college. And through Samasource nearly $3m in wages has gone to poor women and young people, giving them a chance to train in the digital economy, impacting over 15,000 people.
In the UK, Pennies, which lets you make micro-donations of a few pennies when you’re paying for goods or services by card, has raised £1.3m for charities since it launched in November 2010 and Big White Wall is pioneering a tech-enabled approach to mental health.
We need many thousands more like these. This is why we are launching an organisation and challenge fund to encourage more entrepreneurs to innovate in this area. We believe harnessing the extraordinary collective brainpower we have within our thriving technology community could lead to dramatic changes in how we confront inequalities in education, health, employment and income.
This body, Founders Forum for Good, will leverage the Founders Forum community, which since 2005 has hosted in London some of the world’s most dynamic digital entrepreneurs. Founders Forum For Good will connect this pool of talent with people who need their help in enacting social change.
Together, we will work to tackle the three obstacles to greater progress. First, we know young technology entrepreneurs aren’t connected as well with those leading social change as they could be, and vice versa – so neither knows who to speak to in each other’s industries to develop appropriate technology ventures. That’s something we have to change quickly.
Second, too few digital leaders know the profound impact their advice could have in helping their counterparts in the non-profit sector thrive. Today the leaders of organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children International and Flora and Fauna International will come to the Founders Forum for Good to see what more technology could do to help them in their work.
Third, there is a big business opportunity here – the social care sector in the UK alone is worth £87bn. If technology could make a fraction of the difference to this market that it has made on the way we consume music, for example, then the financial returns are obvious. The digital transformation that has happened in every part of our economy can bring the same benefits to current social and environmental issues.
All this takes funding, of course, and there isn’t yet enough to encourage the volume of projects we need. So the Founders Forum for Good and the Nominet Trust are launching a £1m fund to provide seed capital to entrepreneurs who want to take up this challenge. It’s a start but we hope it will stimulate the next Kiva or Samasource.
Inspiring more entrepreneurs to develop new ventures to do social good at scale has never felt more timely or more needed. Supporting them with the tremendous human capital of our successful technology entrepreneurs will ensure they succeed.”
I can’t wait to see the great ideas that will come forward….