Tech for Good – Leeds Digital Festival 2019
In some pockets of the digital community worldwide, there is a group of people using their technological skills to solve social, environmental, and health-based problems – in other words, using technology for good. The Tech for Good movement started in 2008 as part of a 48-hour Hackathon formed by Social Innovation Camps that drew together developers and workers in the third and public sector to conquer a range of social challenges.
To more formally define what Tech for Good is, CEO of Acceleration of Social Technologies, Dan Sutch describes it as:
The intentional design, development and use of digital technologies to address social challenges. It is the combination of the most powerful and flexible tool we’ve ever had and good design approaches that are user-led and test-driven.Dan Sutch
Over the past few months, we’ve seen and heard about some of these incredible projects that are working towards that goal. At TedxManchester 2019, we heard Dr Sarah Carlick tell us all about the ground-breaking work her start-up, MeSafe, is carrying out.
Dr Carlick has always had the safety of others at the centre of her career. After taking a Social Work degree, she began her career working in safe-guarding and went on to create her own safe-guarding training company, The Athena project. Returning to study, she completed a PhD investigating creative technologies in the safeguarding field, and then to create the first ever digital safeguarding platform that allows self-referrals from children and young people.
In a world where so many important decisions are often made for children (and without them), Carlick took a child-centred approach to design and development to allow their voices to be heard and taken into consideration in the design. With some of the work we’ve carried out at SimpleUsability, we’ve seen first-hand some of the challenges those working in the social care sector face. We’ve also witnessed the complex needs and stories of the vulnerable people that are at the very heart of this care, so we know how important it is to include the service user when designing for them.
And there are so many more incredible organisations right on our doorstep that are revolutionising how technology should be used to help others. We attended the Tech for Good meet up event hosted by Tech for Good advocates and digital agencies, Ayup and mHabitat, as part of the recent Leeds Digital Festival. Currently running in several major cities across the UK, this was the first Tech for Good meet-up to exist in the Leeds region.
Clarity – using mindfulness to help women in menopause
Becks Armstrong, Founder of the app Clarity, took the stage first and took us through her journey from acupuncturist, doula and mindfulness teacher in New Zealand, to Founder and CEO of a mindfulness-based app designed to help perimenopausal and menopausal women to manage their symptoms effectively. Becks first got the idea for the app when she was asked by a woman in the menopause if she had any meditations that could help alleviate her symptoms, to which Becks recorded the first meditation script… and the idea for Clarity was formed.
Using evidence-based techniques, the app has been found to reduce physiological menopausal symptoms by 80%, showing the effectiveness of these types of interventions. Becks also shared with us the experiences and testimonials of some of the women whom the app had helped change their lives. It was clear to see from this qualitative feedback that Clarity was improving the lives of a group of people that have felt invisible and alone for so long.
Digitbete – helping manage diabetes
Digibete was the second organisation to tell all about the amazing work they have been doing over the past few years. The founders Maddie and Rob Julian created Digibete after their young son’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis, to help other families manage the condition.
Developed with and endorsed by Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Digibete uses a video platform to empower people to be free to live their lives as best informed as possible. Unfortunately, Maddie Julian (CEO and Co-Founder) was unable to join us at the event due to an unforeseen circumstance – however, she was kind enough to send over a voice presentation about DigiBete, and the incredible work they have achieved since creating their free, online, patient-led and video-based platform.
Tech for Good – worth shouting about
The rest of the evening was spent socialising and discussing the critically important work being done in other organisations in the West Yorkshire region and overseas. It was a group of people that came together, driven by a common purpose. To help others.
There’s an argument that we should all be using ‘technology for good’ as a minimum. And that’s true, especially in the world of UX (looking at you, Dark Patterns!) But what’s different about the Tech for Good movement, is that these technologies have often arisen from the emotional and vulnerable stories of others. By real, human needs.
The Tech for Good movement is hardworking people coming together to use their digital skills and talents to make people’s lives better. It is using a combination of technology and compassion to affect change in the lives of so many marginalised and disadvantaged communities of people across the globe. What’s not to shout about that?