Visibility and connection make a growing community more resilient

Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Tech For Good programme.

Over the last year Tech For Good Global has been working with Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation as a learning partner on the Tech For Good programme. Part of this work was to understand what role Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn could play in developing the eco-system of “tech for good” — or as I’d describe it — building the field.

As part of this field-building work we hosted monthly breakfasts for funders who wanted to understand and learn more about ‘tech for good.” Something that came up often in these discussions (and has done in many other conversations I’ve had over the last few years) is where to find (and how to afford) “digital expertise” to work with projects and with the funders themselves.

Finding digital and design expertise

Digital expertise in this context includes developers, service designers, user researchers, content designers, data scientists and other roles generally involved in making and delivering digital products and services.

Funders, charities and wider civil society organisations that are only just beginning to adopt digital as part of their working culture or fund “tech for good” projects and programmes, really struggle to know where to find digital expertise and also what good looks like.

The Tech For Good programme run by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn gets around this by hiring a point person, in this case James Boardwell, who then connects the projects on the programme with different expertise as and when they need it. This works well, but to strengthen the resilience of the sector as a whole there also needs to be ways for these connections and relationships to form more readily and without the need for a third party.

We are also acutely aware of the day rates that people with digital expertise are used to charging and how prohibitive this can be for social sector organisations and in particular smaller charities. We hope that by widening the supply base we can help to balance out these rates.

Making supply and demand more visible

For this reason, part of what we delivered for the work, was an open directory. This is something that any charity looking for digital expertise can use to find people and organisations to hire, and also something that funders can use if they want to bring in digital expertise to support their grantees or their own organisation in commissioning digital projects.

This is an incomplete and growing list and if you want to be added then please fill out this form. The list so far includes organisations and individuals that we know have worked with “tech for good” projects, please note that they are not suppliers that are endorsed by Comic Relief or Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We will be curating the list to start with as we want to help charities and funders find quality partners to work with. We also plan to do some events throughout the next year to help funders and charities meet more suppliers and will be sending information out about that soon. We also recommend this great Conversation Menu that CAST have developed as a guide for charities and tech partners to use as they initiate their working relationship.

Connecting Digital Government talent to support civil society

Another potential way to address the need for more digital expertise in the sector could be to design and test a specific scheme. When I joined the founding team involved in setting up OneTeamGov earlier this year, I saw the opportunity for designing a structure that would make it possible, flexible and useful for “digital government” people to have some time to give to civil society. A lot of digital talent is now in government, very little is in civil society and the third sector, which I imagine is in part because of the difference in salary, and so it would be great to see the Government supporting civil society through a scheme like this. If anyone is interested in talking more about how this could work (especially how we could get the Office for Civil Society in a room with OneTeamGov and make a sector-wide plan) then please get in touch with me.

In the meantime, if you are a funder that wants to join the monthly breakfasts, please get in touch via techforgoodfunding@gmail.com.