With just a decade left now to achieve the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, non-profits around the globe are under pressure to step up their digital transformation efforts. So this year, I’m focusing once again on some of the most interesting stories I’ve heard from charities looking to use technology to extend their reach and maximize their impact.
My year began in conversation with Lauren Woodman, CEO of NetHope, a US-based consortium of more than 50 global nonprofits that work with IT companies and funding partners to identify and deploy technology responses to some of the world’s toughest challenges. As Woodman explained, while nonprofits are often able to bring a substantial amount of creative problem-solving to the challenge of digital transformation, they still lack skills in three main areas: digital responsibility; adaptive collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit.
Jane’s Due Process
With hard-won reproductive rights for women in the United States under mounting attack throughout much of 2019, Texas-based Jane’s Due Process (JDP) is using technology from messaging platform provider Smooch to start conversations with pregnant teens and help them navigate the judicial bypass process they need to undergo if they are to obtain an abortion without written parental consent.
Norwegian Refugee Council
Cloud technology is helping the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to reach more people displaced by political unrest, war or natural disaster and make its responses to these situations more efficient and effective. In April, NRC’s CIO Pietro Galli explained how single-sign on technology from Okta has become the official entry point for employees to a cloud estate that also includes technology from Microsoft, Salesforce and Facebook.
In June, Salesforce took the opportunity presented by the UK’s Armed Forces Day to announce that over 300 military veterans and spouses had thus far registered for free Salesforce training programmes provided by the CRM giant’s Vetforce initiative. I heard from one recent Vetforce participant, Shane Whittingham, on how the new skills he’s acquired have given him a clear career path and made the transition to civilian life easier for him and his young family.
Digital stalking and intimidation have become a horribly common aspect of domestic abuse, according to the Cyber Helpline, a confidential, 24/7 nonprofit resource for cybercrime victims of all kinds. The helpline is manned by cybersecurity experts who volunteer their time to offer callers advice and help them tackle vulnerabilities, and who are assisted on the frontline by an AI-powered chatbot that deals with simpler cases autonomously and prioritizes those requiring human intervention.
At this year’s Mendix on Tour event in London, staged by the low-code rapid application development company, teams of developers joined a hackathon in order to development a ‘Positive Behaviour Support’ app for Mencap, which works with people with a learning disability. I heard from Scott Markham, Mencap’s head of business improvement, about what set the winning entry apart and how ideas captured on the day will feed into new app development work at the charity.
Held every five to six years, CERN Open Days offer a chance for members of the public to explore the facilities at the world’s largest particle physics lab, the European Centre for Nuclear Research - both at ground level and in the vast underground caverns where its particle colliders reside. At Oracle OpenWorld in October, I got the chance to hear how the software giant’s technology was used by CERN to create a digital guidebook for visitors, in the form of a mobile app featuring interactive maps and real-time notifications about when specific events and activities were due to start.
The Kelloggs Company
As expected, Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event in November provided me with a wealth of nonprofit customer stories, from organizations including The Brain Tumour Charity, The National Aquarium, and United Way. But perhaps one of the most interesting came from Kelloggs, one of the very first customers to implement Salesforce’s new Philanthropy Cloud product, which provides a way for companies to step up their corporate social responsibility efforts and turn engaged employees into ‘citizen philanthropists’.