Quartet Community Foundation is the local community foundation for the West of England. They manage a permanent endowment fund of c. £58m and give out approximately £6m in grants each year to local charitable organisations. They play a brokering role connecting organisations and individuals working for social change. Thanks to Sabita Ravi for sharing this guest blog with techSPARK.

A panel convened in the autumn by the Engine Shed sought to answer the question: “Is tech addressing society’s biggest challenges?” Whilst the discussion that followed (captured here) offered no silver bullets, it felt invigorating to be part of an engaged community that deeply cares about making a positive impact on people and the planet. As our contribution to this discussion, we thought we’d share our knowledge of our communities and some brilliant initiatives in our region. We hope they provide inspiration and ideas for how we can keep the momentum of the debate going.

Fostering social impact

We all know that society’s deepest challenges are interconnected and multi-layered. To make significant progress at addressing these, we’ve learned that listening to our communities and working in partnership is key. The West of England is home to some of the most innovative businesses and founders; the same is true of the small and large charities that work here. They’re often at the forefront of dealing with these challenges, be it poverty, homelessness, digital exclusion, or mental ill health. So how can we work better together for maximum social impact?

One way to do this is by sharing time and expertise with the voluntary sector. Businesses of all sectors & sizes can do this through ProHelp – West of England. This could be anything from offering training in Microsoft  Excel or Teams through to HR advice, building consultancy or legal support.

Skills can also be offered through the brilliant technologyvolunteers.org, joining a community of 1700+ volunteers who are a testament to the passion within the tech industry to be a force for good. This can be a great way for volunteers to showcase their own skills and develop their careers within the industry too.

Alicia Teagle, founder, says, “Technology volunteers was created to connect talented tech folk with underfunded charities. By sharing knowledge and expertise, we can empower others to navigate the digital landscape, opening doors to opportunities, innovation, and progress. In the act of giving back, we not only close the digital skills gap but also pave the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and promising future.”

Certifying as a B Corp is another way to develop as a purposeful business that looks after people, planet and profit.  With Bristol registering the highest number of B Corps in the country, this is a heartening trend and speaks to the commitment to change that was evident in the Engine Shed discussion.

Some B Corps align business and charitable giving strategies, like Bath-based Rocketmakers, who offer free consultancy. Others, like Zen internet, choose a ‘Charity of the Year’ to inspire staff and focus their fundraising. Some, like Beauty Kitchen, opt to donate a percentage of their profits to charity. Quartet is entrusted with managing invested charitable funds for B Corps like Business West and Sawday’s, which will generate community benefit forever. All are valuable ways businesses can be a force for good. 

Working together to solve challenges

The challenges facing us won’t be solved overnight but sometimes focused and timely interventions can result in great impact. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of money to do this. A good example is a grant of £4,900 that Quartet made to Vision North Somerset, channelling investment from a local philanthropist.

This provided one-to-one training for 118 visually impaired people to learn to use adaptive technology designed to meet their sight loss needs. They said: “As people with visual impairment learn digital skills to participate in social activities and support independent living, this improves their mental health and confidence. Technology support reduces the care needs of visually impaired people, saving costs for local services and time for unpaid carers.”

Complex issues such as digital inclusion require many heads to solve and the tech sector has much to offer by collaborating and connecting with existing networks. Annie Legge, co-founder of Tech For Good South West (TFGSW), is a passionate advocate for convening sectors so that tech solutions work for the benefit of all.

She says, “We have an incredibly vibrant tech sector across the South-West, and TFGSW is driving a vision to become a region celebrated for technology that empowers, includes, and bridges the gap.” The TFGSW community fosters multi-sector collaboration on reducing digital inequalities, providing people with the skills they need alongside tech for good innovation.  

An example of the potential for this network to really make a difference was clearly seen earlier this year through their focus on addressing digital poverty in Bath and convening a new “Digital Divide Collective”. It is exciting to see this level of progress, bringing together stakeholders across the city to understand the state of digital poverty in Bath and set the stage for long-term interventions.   

So where do we go from here? 

We’re delighted to be part of a community of people working on social change. We’d love to learn more about what role the tech sector can play in enhancing our local area and support your ambitions to do good. We will be convening with Tech For Good SW to continue this conversation and identify the areas where we can combine our efforts to make a bigger difference together. 

Also check out Tech For Good South West’s crowdfunder campaign: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/tech-for-good-south-west/ 

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.