Hey dudes, many talks I do are about flipping as much tech firms as possible into tech for good businesses. In those discussions I try to inspire entrepreneurs to take action, and there is one topic that keeps coming back. Many of them find it hard to imagine what kind of impact their existing business is able to make on a global scale and how to get there. To be able to imagine action, it is good to see the bigger picture. That bigger picture starts with five foundational tech for good solution strategies.
Those five strategies are a frame that any business could adopt to move into the tech for good space. They are grouped at the level of being different in technical complexity or market challenge, product and market fit, required value networks, etcetera. Thus adopting one of these foundational strategies assures you a clear guidance in your execution, as a strategy should do.
1. Solution that are linked to support other cause(s)
The first and most straightforward of tech for good solution strategies is formed by linkage. In this tech for good strategy you do not per se put your own software solution into the execution, but you adopt an already available cause and link that to your success. For example you can donate money (or support with another specified action) to an active NGO based on certain business metrics you achieve. This way your tech business success drives the success of the NGO fighting for that goal, in the end making it your goal as well.
Some say that this cannot be called tech for good because the tech is not actually servicing the good in itself. But in my opinion no one should not be nitpicking on this terminology but focus on the goal. When every (tech) business out there would be doing this, we would all benefit. On top of this I think that many entrepreneurs are by default hesitant to pivot their company strategy too much and many small steps into this strategy will eventually lead to more mature tech for good strategies down the road.
2. Solutions that drive Data/Insights
A perfect strategy to incorporate into existing (business) solutions is the goal to surface data to support insights to do good. When you are in a software field where your core usage (or the user groups themselves) can surface interesting information there is always a future in this approach. Many of the Sustainable Development Goals for instance, still rely on vast amounts of data to get a clearer picture of what the status of the goal is within the world and what can be done to influence the course of action.
Take for example improving the environment. For the right NGO that wants to design action into sustainable transportation, it might be very useful to get real life day-to-day data from logistical software firms that can inform on the actual practice of transport movements. This way such a tech business does not have to change its core features. It does not have to change its customer base. It does not have to change the way it supports their trusted users. It only has to surface available data to support a good cause in designing action.
Of course you can also take it a step further and start releasing proprietary reports based on your own data. This way your brand becomes more activist by exposure and that should fit your overall market position and strategy off course.
3. Solutions that influence human behavior
The next level of using operational data for a good cause lies in the field of stimulating change in human behavior. But beware, at this level you start adopting one of the five foundational tech for good solution strategies that actually impacts the workings of your solution. Where the previous two strategies were just derived from the workings of your solution and/or business, now you start creating new functionality. In this strategy you are actually using the core functionality and processes of your solution to try and steer people into making better decisions on day to day life that impacts the eventual goal that you want to touch.
Dream heavy, build lean, grow fast
And as usual an example makes it more clear: imagine an ecommerce company. You can decide to create a webshop that is only about socially responsibly sourced goods, but that will also only attract people that are already leaning toward the ‘right’ behavior. Although these early adopters of change are very important for any transition, selling to them might feel a bit like preaching to the choir. The next step in wide diffusion of these better chosen items could be integrated in a webshop aimed not at the cause specifically, but at the product group in general. This way you attract a wider range of generic traffic on the specific use cases of the product, not just on your cause. When you use your data then about the sources and supply chain of the materials you sell, you can use these in the shop to inform the traffic on the available choice to make. This way you transform your webshop from a mere shop into an educational platform about the purpose you are after. Just use your imagination about the limitations to this, or the lack thereof.
4. Solutions aimed at better execution
This category groups the solutions and businesses that actually play into the daily execution themselves. Think about Boyan Slat here with his Ocean Cleanup project. He took a problem and started to invent technology that is directly targeted at solving that problem. While trying to create a livelyhood from it, using venture capital investments and trying to create a non-profit brand.
This is the real hardcore tech for good scene. The inspiring examples that use their business as a do-good lifestyle. We surely need this leadership, but I have created this post explicitly to show all tech entrepreneurs that there are many more ways to support a sustainable future for our world from your business without having to spend all your life in inventing clean water or carbon dioxide filters.
5. Solutions aimed at accelerating dynamics
And then there is the final category, those solutions that are focusing on accelerating impact because they focus on how to turn several small ideas into bigger ones. This is a group with a wide variety of platforms and software solutions. One example is the connectivity between individuals, businesses and/or NGO’s with a comparable goal to join hands. This can be as simple as an app that facilitates calendar management to organize a road-side cleanup, but of course also more complex forms of collaboration on data and processes are possible.
Another example for this category that I think most of you will have seen are crowd funding platforms with a purpose. There are plenty of examples all around the world of crowdfunding platforms that either aim solely at private individuals to finance their do-good project or at companies that aim to have an impact in the world.
Seeing or hearing these five tech for good solution strategies often leads to discussion. There are people that consider one or more of the categories no real tech for good, there are people that claim to be in multiple categories and thus disagree with it, etcetera. Discussion is good, because that confirms the existence and direction of the tech for good movement. But to me these five categories or foundational tech for good strategies are not about being black or white. Even the opposite, they are meant to indicate the fact that there is no (or should not be) black and white in this domain. Being able to make a difference is not only about creating hardcore innovative solutions that directly clean the earth or change social impact in one country or another. Being able to make a difference usually is a vast combination of separate steps, of influencing people, of getting financed, of gathering data and being creative on how to use that data, etcetera. When we see the articles on media about the high profile examples of direct impact solutions, be proud and curious on how to become part of the whole chain of events with your tech business. Do not become demotivated because you think that you can never have an impact like that.
Simply get out there and use whatever is closest to your existing business to start making an impact. No matter how small at the start, it will automatically grow over time. Either because of inspiration that you have given yourself or from inspiration and support that you have given into others.
Let’s make better tech business