We are living in a fantastic era where technology can create exponential social good. I am writing this on my mobile device after using it to match me with a nearby driver taking me to my office in Seattle. Once you finish reading this, you will perhaps use your mobile device to pick a place to have dinner or to be matched with relevant (and hopefully) non-fake news. Individuals can even swipe right to be paired with love!
The question of our time is: How can we use the same technologies and business models to help social causes have a more significant impact? How can artificial intelligence, machine learning, marketplaces, matching technologies and the mobile cloud be applied to the significant social challenges we face today?
How can we inspire the new generation of entrepreneurs to tackle these social challenges?
This is the concept behind GIVING TECH LABS, where we create technologies and business models to help address complex issues in society. We were inspired by the idea of catalytic philanthropy that our mentors and partners Jeff and Tricia Raikes shared with us back in 2015. Giving Tech Labs seeks to create sustainable social impact at scale.
There are many challenges in our society where social enterprises and impact investing play an essential role:
- opportunity youth,
- food waste,
- early childhood development,
- mental health and addiction,
- and an endless pipeline of opportunities to make a difference.
Our goal is to inspire the next generation of leaders to do good while also proving a model to do well financially by harnessing the power of the fourth sector; the place where the private sector, public sector and the civic sector (charities, NGOs, and philanthropists) work together in sustainable social enterprises.
In our first 12 months, we have incubated:
- GivingCompass.org – an online portal aggregating the world’s information related to impact giving.
- The Giving Planner – Technologies and sustainable models to help adults and children plan and track their giving and for children to learn basic concepts behind financial literacy.
- VidaNyx – A cloud-based solution to serve the needs of Child Advocacy Centers that help every year over 300,000 children victims of sexual abuse and neglect.
More recently, we have started to apply our work towards:
- Mobile technologies and Sustainable Business Models for mentoring
- A new model for measuring the impact of early childhood development programs to capture data at a large scale, with machine learning applied to identify aspects of adult-children interaction leading to positive outcomes. With knowledge transfer programs and measurement, policies can be more effective in promoting child development and school readiness, particularly for disadvantaged children.
- We are also working on mobile technology helping immigrants and assisting individuals experiencing homelessness.
While in some cases these ventures are initially funded by a catalytic grant or a Program Related Investment (PRI), in all cases, Giving Tech Labs ensures a sustainability model is in place, and a clear and sustained focus and measurement of social impact is present.
We are applying the same fundamental principles of impact philanthropy, the tenets of catalytic philanthropy addressing market dynamics, venture capital (VC) industry principles and the learnings in the tech sector. We’re bringing to the social sector, government and nonprofits, years of expertise launching successful products, marketing plans, cloud-based digital transformations and winning strategies in over 17 countries reaching from a few hundred to more than 700 million users.
However, one Lab can only go so far. Our vision is deploying hundreds of labs by 2025 in a replicable and scalable model that puts us on a path for 1,000 labs worldwide delivering on innovation to address society’s urgent issues, on a local basis but with a systemic approach.
Long-term success also relies on motivating a new generation of entrepreneurs, including engineers, designers, and computer/data scientists. We also need to encourage anthropologists, behavioral economists, behavioral psychologists, journalists, English majors (great storytellers) and creative minds that can work with the subject matter experts that deeply understand the causes and potential solutions for these challenges in society.
To enable our vision, we are focused on three core areas:
- Creating a portfolio of IP and Sustainable Business Models for Social Impact
- Building labs as a channel to imagine, develop, deploy and serve these solutions, in partnership with large IT players such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Google to be part of the ecosystem
- Creating a toolkit of innovative financial mechanisms that can enable social entrepreneurs to tackle these issues in society.
This is our vision, mission, and our IKIGAI at Giving Tech Labs.
It is our opportunity, our responsibility, and our moment.