Why we are launching a chat bot for social enterprises
When I first came across the term social enterprise a few years ago, I simply assumed it was just another way of saying charity. The term enterprise didn’t really click at the time.
Only after meeting a few social entrepreneurs did I realise there was much more to it. Up until then, my idea of the business world was very much that of The Apprentice, where sharks fight amongst themselves to win a seat at the table with the big boss. The end goal justifying all manner of scheming and betrayals, with no space for compassion or empathy.
As someone who wanted to start his own company, this was quite depressing.
Luckily, I was very wrong. Through various connections (thank you The Happy Startup School) I met some amazing and inspiring people, living proof that being nice and succeeding in business are not mutually exclusive. With time, I discovered a world of organisations and movements, and realised that this was the way to go for me.
Fast-forward to today, my small software consultancy is now a supporting partner of Social Enterprise UK, and working towards becoming a true social business. For a geek like me, this means using technology to help others.
Experiment #1: Social Enterprises Bot
According to a recent survey from Social Enterprise UK, one of the main challenges in the social sector is access to talent. As most social businesses tend to work locally, finding the right people for the right role can be difficult. So, we set out to find a solution.
The result is SEB, a chat bot for Facebook Messenger that helps users who care about social causes find and support businesses with similar values.
Keeping It Simple
The KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle is well known in the technology world, the idea being that most projects work best if they are not complicated.
Chat bots and voice assistants (e.g. Amazon Alexa) can be extremely sophisticated, but the first version of SEB is intentionally simple. We wanted to build it quickly, get it out there and iterate fast so it becomes what users need, rather than what we would like to build.
- Should it be able to find information about businesses? Yes.
- Should it be able to understand questions in natural language? Yes!! Well.. OK cool, maybe later.
For now, you can ask SEB to find social enterprises around a UK postcode, or by name. It will reply with details of the ones it knows, and provide links to their websites for you to browse to.
With time, we plan to teach SEB to filter by category, or causes you support. It will have information about events, publications, awards etc., ideally becoming a reference tool for finding out all that’s happening in the world of social entrepreneurship.
At least, that’s the ambition :)