Is it the End? How Technology Will Change Everything.

16 May 2016

Why hasn’t technology been a bigger disrupter in the creation of good? Sonia Sodha’s thought-provoking report The Future of Doing Good for The Big Lottery Fund asks an astute question.

Technology has changed our world: how we work, how we learn, how we find love.  Scrolling through your smartphone you can choose from literally millions of things to buy, rate the restaurant you’re eating in, comment on your friend’s embarrassing outfit.

But while technology has become an important part of the toolkit for fundraising, volunteering, campaigning and sustainability, doing good is not yet part of our lives online in the same way all those other things are.

A few of us are starting to rewrite that rulebook. And here are some thoughts on how we can tackle Sonia’s question.

First we can use this new, extraordinary level of connectivity to create, collaborate and share responsibility. We can directly take on the default thinking that social good is someone else’s responsibility: a local council (because we pay our taxes), a big charity (because we give them the money to do the job for us) or companies (because they make lots of profit).

Second we should all be building movements online, that connect people who would otherwise never meet to achieve a common goal. The climate march in Paris last year showed how millions can be brought together online by highlighting an issue that affects their lives and gaining support from others to champion their cause.

Third we can tap into the huge potential for open data and social proof to move companies from talking a good game, to delivering in a more ethical, sustainable way of doing business. The smart brands know that a new generation of consumers don’t want flashy advertising, they want to see authentic, accountable business, with social good at its core.

Lastly, we can use social media to champion charities and community projects, finding new ways to promote their work, recruit and thank volunteers and raise funds, without mass overheads. This is going to be ever more important as charities and community projects strive to fill the ever widening gap left by cash strapped local authorities. Casting our mind to the future, the advent of 'The Internet of Things' will give us endless data about what to target, where, and to understand the impact of doing good even more.

At Neighbourly we’re trying to bring this together in one place, so that doing good can become as embedded in our lives as Facebook is for socialising. We’re trying to seize the potential of converting the will to do good into a movement for change by using technology to help those who want to help, help.

The truth is that technology has not been a bigger disruptor for doing good because we’re asking how technology can help us do what we are already doing, rather than how it can help us do something new.

To my mind, the potential of technology for the future of ‘doing good’ is that we don’t see what we do as doing good at all. By using what makes people engage through technology: fun, learning, interacting with people, we can all spend a few minutes on acts of kindness, doing favours, helping out, as easily and enjoyably as watching cute puppy videos on Facebook.

- Steve Haines