Do social impact organizations adopt technology successfully: Aveek De and Neelima Kurup

Most social impact organizations are keen on adapting technology for operational efficiency, yielding better results, and enhancing sectoral competition argue Aveek De and Neelima Kurup.


The reach and power that digital technology has is profound. Today, it is hard to live a day without the constant barrage of technology, be it good or bad. Technology has become beneficial to many, in every sector, every field, and every part of the world. But we see limitations and barriers when it comes to technology in the space of social good. Are the barriers due to lack of knowledge? Funding? Expertise?

To answer that first we must understand if social impact organizations put value in technology. According to NetChange’s long-running survey of technology use by nonprofits, only 11% view their organizations’ approaches to digital as highly effective. Most social impact organizations are keen on adapting technology for operational efficiency, yielding better results, and enhancing sectoral competition. If so, then what are the challenges they face in making it operational? As we sought to answer this question, we realized that strategic adoption of technology becomes a barrier as it is ever evolving. With advances in technology ever on the rise, it becomes hard to determine where one fits and what works for one best. As an average consumer, all the rampant phases of technology just pass by us. If we wanted to know how to use technology best suited to our needs, it becomes a certain hurdle, therefore streamlining the process and making it easier to navigate will help overcome this.

Next, we embarked on a journey to see what the major technological advances are happening now, and heard words like ‘Artificial Intelligence’, ‘Machine Learning’, and ‘Blockchain’ being thrown around. As we dug deeper we realized only “10% of businesses have made the leap from dabbling in AI to building a business-wide strategy around it—and move AI beyond the limited world of academics and data scientists and into the hands of frontline workers “ (McQuire, 2019). AI is extremely useful and if used right, can be extremely effective. For example, Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit in New York, had their tech team analyze 65 million texts to determine what words were more associated with high risk of suicide. With this the team can better establish immediate threats and as a result, responds to 94% of the high-risk members in less than 5 minutes (Can Technology Transform the Nonprofit Sector? 2018). Therefore, identifying effective use of AI, ML, and Blockchain in different scenarios and sectors is crucial for social development.

After contemplating much, we turned our attention to see if technology was being used to foster and nurture conversations around social development and community building. “Outreach, though it plays a key role in most impact organizations, is very time consuming, resource intensive, and quality that is difficult to assure,” acknowledges #TechTonic solution circle lead, Aveek De. We wondered what technology’s role in the space of community is development. And what are the methods being used for dialogues? The process of answering this yielded serious result. It is critical in social development sectors to exchange ideas, form partnerships and learn from others and found that social media is one such platform of connectivity that is readily available and easy to navigate. Understanding the different tools, techniques and systems that exist and utilizing them to create dialogue, generate ideas, and make partnerships is a goal we are pioneering towards. With this we intend to answer: How can technology

enabled tools to be used for better outreach? How do we reach the unreached through technology? And How do we measure the effectiveness of tech enabled outreach?

The CSI 2019 #TechTonic solution circle has taken up these incredible roadblocks and are pushing steadfastly ahead to bringing solutions and innovations to address social issues and how technology plays a pivotal role in its change.

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