Tech4Good Bristol launch event breaks down barriers between techies and non-profits

Tech4Good to facilitate skill shares between the city's thriving tech community and its non-profit sector
28th March 2017

Last week, 60 local techies and representatives from the Bristol non-profit sector got together for the launch of Tech4Good Bristol at the harbourside’s Energy Hub.

With lofty ambitions and friendly enthusiasm strewn across the room, collaboration was the name of the game – with the meetup bringing together low-tech, cash-strapped charities with skilled digital nomads keen to help.

Tech4Good was set up by NetSquared – a global non-profit organisation aiming to mobilise communities and technology for social change – with meetups across the world, as far as Adelaide, Australia.

With its Bristol launch maxed out on spaces in a matter of days, it’s clear the city is crying out for a strengthened connection between its thriving tech scene and diverse community projects and charities.

Diversity in the city

The crowd at Bristol’s first Tech4Good meetup was refreshingly diverse with some familiar faces including the organisers of Bristol’s first refugee hack day and the Women’s Tech Hub who are trying to improve gender diversity in tech.

In it for good: Bristol’s tech and non-profit communities gather at the Energy Hub

 

After a quick beer and a bit of chit chat, attendees were gathered for a series of short talks on some of the ways groups and organisations in Bristol are already breaching the tech skills divide in these sectors.

First up was Thea Turner from Bristol-based software and consultancy company Softwire and Jessica Langton from Voscur (pictured below left) – an organisation that works to provide services and specialist advice to voluntary organisations and social enterprises across Bristol.

“It’s helpful to have one person as a main point of contact at all times”

 

 

Both gave their experiences and tips on working pro bono with charities as a business. This is an area that is growing but often fraught with difficulties – sometimes from techies not fully understanding the needs of the charity and also where charities often lack knowledge and confidence when it comes to using new technology. It’s easy to let unpaid or voluntary agreements fall to the wayside and Thea and Jessica offered some excellent advice for preventing this from happening.

They highlighted a need for clear shared goals and visions, treating charitable clients as professionally as you would paid clients. Thea added: “It’s helpful to have one person as a main point of contact at all times.”

Jessica told the audience about the importance of timing and communication in projects too – considering that for whatever reason, it might not be the right time to be building new tech within an organisation, even if you can. She explained that free support still takes time to engage with and advised checking how much time both parties have before entering into an agreement.

“If you want to create something people want to read, don’t create a PDF”

 

Next, Dave Evans (pictured right) from Bristol-based Skills Platform – an organisation that provides training to charities and has also recently released a charity digital skills report – shared 5 lessons he learned when creating a training programme for charities looking to improve their engagement in social media.

He emphasised a move away from PDFs to explain ideas, adding: “If you want to create something people want to read, don’t create a PDF”. He also explored the need to focus on the social media platforms that feel right for the charity, how you can connect with influencers to increase reach and inspire charities by showing them the impact social media has had on other small organisations.

The third speaker of the evening was Alba Lanau, co-organiser of the Bristol Refugee Hack Day, who gave advice on the trials and tribulations of setting up a charitable hack event and inspired the audience with news that two of the projects from the hack day back in June 2016 are still being developed with local refugee charities.

Finally, Katherine Duerden (pictured in main image, above), the Partnerships and Engagement Manager at 360 Giving shared the organisation’s impressive use of open data to increase the visibility of charitable grants for both charities looking for grants and also to where these grants have been allocated in the past – saving time for grant makers and seekers, and making them more effective and strategic.

360 Giving has now created a tool called GrantNav that allows anyone to discover grants by searching for keywords (e.g. ‘technology’) and then filtering the results by grant amount or area for example.

Community shout outs

With Tech4Good all about collaboration, the launch wasn’t complete with a series of community shout-outs from the audience – for those either offering their skills, sharing their tech for good projects or their needs as charities and non-profits.

Getting involved: Serrie from the Women’s Tech Hub posts on the community shout out board

 

Project shout outs included everything from the University of the West of England’s Community Action and Knowledge Exchange (UWE CAKE) that connects tech students with community, voluntary and social enterprise sectors, to DataKind‘s Data Dive – which brings together volunteers to make good use of charitable organisations data (its next event is due to be held in Newport in May).

The co-organiser of the brand new Tech4Good Bath meetup also announced she was looking for sponsorship for its launch event. If you’re interested in helping the group to grow in Bath and want to offer support, you can get in touch via the Tech4Good Bath meetup page.

If you’re Bath-based, you may also be interested in the launch of the University of Bath’s Social Enterprise and Innovation Programme which is launching on Thursday 30 March. The programme aims to help, develop and transform the resources available to the social enterprises and entrepreneurs that contribute so much to the economy and social fabric of the West of England. To get involved or find out more, contact the University of Bath Innovation Centre.

The slides from this first Tech4Good talk can be seen here. Tech4Good Bristol meetups are now scheduled to take place once a quarter with the next due to be held on 15 June. The team is still looking for food and drink sponsors for this event, so get in touch if you’re interested in helping out.

You can join for free and get notifications for events on the Tech4Good Bristol meetup page. You can also follow them on Twitter here: @t4gbristol.