Tech for Good: read about a great new pro-bono offer

Mon 24 – Sun 30 May 2021

Last week I launched a significant new pro-bono Tech for Good offer. With my colleagues at ThoughtWorks, we have developed a Social Change Lab – click here for details. This is what I’ve mostly been working on it since I began there in April. And now my focus for the next few weeks is on promoting it. It is fascinating how comfortable I feel in this area and how the work I am doing is so enjoyable. πŸ™‚

Social Change Lab

A Tech for Good initiative

This is a really significant pro-bono (free of charge) offer to UK-based ‘not-for-profits’ – so likely to be a charity, social enterprise, or co-operative. Important to note organisations need to be based in the UK but their beneficiaries and areas of operation can be anywhere in the world. That means it can cover international development organisations and those tackling the Climate Emergency, the undermining of civil liberties, or animal welfare.

The two offers within the Social Change Lab

  • Discovery projects: We are offering one of these for up to 3 different organisations. A ThoughtWorker will work free of charge for a limited amount of time to help with a specific problem. Examples could include writing a new strategy or reviewing an existing one; providing advise, coaching or mentoring; running a co-creation process to develop a product idea. Basically it can be whatever the not-for-profit organisation needs.
  • Delivery project: This is a big and generous offer where we will place a full tech development team into a not-for-profit organisation for about 8 weeks. The team will develop and build a tech solution to an identified problem.

Who we are targeting and why

Medium to large organisations are the target for this offer. So ideally ones with annual income +Β£1m for the Discovery projects and +Β£5m for the Delivery project. If an organisation thinks it could particularly benefit from being part of the Social Change Lab but doesn’t fit the criteria then this can be discussed. πŸ™‚

Indeed, we are particularly looking for organisations that have some experience with digital, that has an internal ‘tech team’ we can work with, and who we can hand the final product over to. The offer may also include me working with the selected organisations after the projects have completed to help further develop and resource what has come out of their participation in the Social Change Lab. πŸ™‚

progress being made

How to apply

Organisations can apply to have one of these 4 projects within the Social Change Lab. Details on the Lab can be found here. This includes an ’email here’ button to ask for the application form or book a meeting with me or my colleague to discuss ideas and answer questions (or feel free to contact me directly). Friday 9 July is the closing date so there is a good amount of time to get your application sorted. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD πŸ™‚

β€œIf you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.”

Frank Wilczek (an American theoretical physicist, mathematician, and a Nobel laureate)

Books and Reading

Finally, I finished the two books I have been reading over the past fortnight. I love the books I read but I also love finishing them so I can move onto new books. πŸ™‚

‘Nomadland’ by Jessica Bruder

Subtitled ‘Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century’ and written in 2017. This is a non-fiction study of people in the USA who hit rock bottom and are forced to live in RVs – Recreational Vehicles; sometime these are just converted vans and buses. Such people then travel around America looking for seasonal work.

There’s an aspect of this story that is about ‘freedom’. People rejecting ‘normal’ life and rejecting social norms. But this lifestyle is often only followed by those with no other option. Those who are forced into such a life through bankruptcy (often linked to healthcare costs), redundancy, illness, or other financial crisis such as through divorce. They are subject to weather extremes, poor temporary working conditions (Amazon does not come out well), and no healthcare. And many of them are elderly, ill people. So it is fundamentally the ‘freedom’ to starve and die without medical treatment. πŸ™

‘The Appeal of a Nomad Life’

I first wrote about this book in my blog with this title which can be read here. And I stand by the allure of not being tied down physically or mentally. But we must also bear in mind that some people live ‘romantic’ and ‘counter-culture’ lives not out of choice but because they have no other option. πŸ™

‘The New Wilderness’ by Diane Cook

I also finished this book last week. Definitely within the spirit of ‘Nomadland’ and another contributor to the appeal of a nomad life. But definitely not a ‘tech for good’ story. In opposition to optimism, it is set in a future where most people live in dysfunctional cities and nature is preserved in a Wilderness to which people aren’t allowed. Apart from a small experimental group of ‘back to nature’ experts.

The book follows this group as they regress from civilisation into a brutal and harsh lifestyle. People die and nobody cares. But are they as alone as they think they are? A very sad story ultimately where nature is not preserved.

Nature and the post-apocalyptic world

I’m noting at the moment that there is a lot of literature about us reconnecting with nature. As well as stories in post-apocalyptic settings. With some books covering both of these as with ‘The New Wilderness’. Definitely a reaction to the pandemic – how we have come to terms with it and how we have adopted our lives to cope. Think I need to switch away from these themes for my next reads.

Health and Efficiency

Weight

β€œIf we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.”

Professor Irwin Corey (an American stand-up comic, film actor, and activist)

The usual stuff occurred last week that I write about in my logs. This includes the particular physical and mental benefits I get from doing long walks. But the main health thing last week was confirmation that, as I had suspected, my weight is starting to creep up. πŸ™ I had got into a ‘safe zone’ of 13-3 and 13-5. But on Saturday I weighed myself to find I had gone just over 13 and a half stones (13-7.25 to be exact). πŸ™

The accumulation of several things: no slow jog-runs, no semi-fasting like skipping breakfasts, and desserts in the evening. I’ve got to try to loose some weight now. I can’t just let myself go.

man weighing himself

Art and Culture

Eurovision took up a crazy amount of my time the week before last and crowded out other good stuff – read about it in my previous blog here. But despite the week just gone being busy with the launch of the Social Change Lab, I did manage to watch a couple of great films to feed my love of European cinema.

β€˜All These Sleepless Nights’

I completed this film that I mentioned in my previous blog. A disjointed chronicle from Poland of the year in the life of a beautiful young man who hangs out with his best mate and then goes out with said mate’s ex-girlfriend. Indeed, generally he spends his time getting drunk and wasted, dancing and flirting. A wonderfully reminiscent film of the drama of being young and going out enjoying yourself. πŸ™‚

‘Patrick’

Started to watch this absolute gem of a film. Made in 2019, it is a Belgian film about a middle-aged man with learning difficulties dealing with the loss of his favourite hammer. It’s a ‘black comedy’ set in a nudist camp where he is the chief handyman. More details next week but highly recommended. πŸ™‚

Friends and Family

Friends

I have made so many friends through my involvement with the Tech for Good movement over the years. Nought wrong with that, it’s great to share a passion. And last week I caught up with several of them particularly to highlight the Social Change Lab and to see if they could identify tech for Good projects that might be particularly interested in applying for a Discovery or Delivery project.

But not all my catch-ups with friends last week were specifically in a Tech for Good context. Many were also old Comic Relief colleagues and it is lovely to keep up with people you used to enjoy working with on a day-to-day basis.:

  • Chris at Nominet This is the official registry that covers all domain names including .uk and Chris deals with their social change work. In particular, things relating to digital exclusion / data poverty, online safety, young people, and mental health. Nominet helped fund the Library of Design Patterns for Mental Health that I referred to in my previous blog (read it here).
  • Amir We worked together at Comic Relief to establish Red Shed as a vehicle for Social Investment. Amir still works there but also at Big Society Capital.
  • Olly Another old Comic colleague. Olly now oversees the work being done there around Sport For Change and Social Tech – the latter is another way of describing Tech For Good. It was great to catch up. But also to discuss if any Social Tech projects funded by Comic Relief over the years could benefit from being part of the Social Change Lab.
  • Harry of the excellent digital agency Neontribe. When I ran Comic’s Tech for Good work, this was an agency we frequently used because of their empathy with not-for-profit organisations. Great to reminisce but also to talk about some of the projects we created that still exist such as DocReady which helps young people talk to their GP.
  • Venetia My last catch up last week was with this old Comic colleague. A nice general tour around what we’ve both been doing since we left. She is happy in her new role which is great news. πŸ™‚

Family

A lot of time with mum last week. Though for some of it I was working in my room and only saw her intermittently. We also had the joy on Saturday morning of the nearby school’s alarm going off for about 5 hours. It was a really unpleasant high pitched scream. I phoned the council who contacted the police who contacted the Head Teacher to (eventually) come and turn it off. Such an awful racket that I had to sit in the front room with headphones on just to block the noise out.

Meanwhile, great news that my brother’s has had his first jab. πŸ™‚

Other Stuff

  • Sustainability I continued last week with the things I have talked about in my blogs recently. Namely selling off possessions on the internet that I don’t need, trying to reconnect with nature, and supporting local charity shops. The key thing is to live frugally and avoid buying new stuff as much as possible / re-use old stuff. πŸ™‚

  • Personal Development It’s quite funny to say ‘the usual happened’ but that is the truth. I made the normal good progress on Duolingo improving my various European language skills. But I failed to make good progress in learning coding. πŸ™

The Week Ahead

  • Hooray, the second bank holiday in May. πŸ™‚ The next one isn’t until August so this one is definitely to be enjoyed. πŸ™
  • Work is all about pushing our Tech for Good initiative – the Social Change Lab. This includes conversations with some potential applicants and an explanatory session on Thursday for all-UK staff. Great to have my colleague Jeantine back. πŸ™‚
  • INR check-up is due again on Tues morning
  • Velvet Page book club takes place on Thurs evening. I have not read the book (‘An Unquiet Heart’ by Martin Sixsmith) but Chris and Robert from Velvet Page have been raving about it.
  • Meanwhile, I’m reading a Dr Who novella (Citadel of Dreams) and the biography of a woman who looked after people dying of AIDS in the early days of the health crisis. πŸ™‚
  • Will finish watching ‘Patrick’ and start a new movie
  • I have got to start getting serious about pushing my weight down again
  • Continue with my personal development. And my efforts around sustainability. πŸ™‚

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