The most important reasons for the rise of social inequalities, unemployment and the crisis we are witnessing
today is the rise of digital technologies, but the same technologies might also become the main tool for overcoming these problems.
Technology, particularly Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), can be powerful tools for good; used appropriately, they can increase scale and impact, and multiply positive results. The Sector Inc undertake's Social Innovation Mapping which identifies patterns of innovation in the work of technology-based social entrepreneurs who are empowering people to succeed in a rapidly changing world, and the key challenges that need to be overcome to unlock further impact.
Our practice focuses on nine common patterns, which take forms in two types: the Barriers that social entrepreneurs choose to focus on, and the Design Principles they use to overcome these barriers. From these patterns, we derive our consulting solutions helping social entrepreneurs to create widespread impact through common approaches, even in disparate contexts.
The common design principles that social
entrepreneurs use to create solutions and
increase their impact include:
1. Moving Beyond Digital Literacy to Cultivating Digital Citizenship: not only providing digital literacy, but ensuring ICT skills are used in a handson way to solve social problems.
2. Ensuring ICT Solution Contains Deep Stakeholder Engagement: anchoring ICT success in the strength of service-delivery team and relationships with the community.
3. Unlocking Potential of Marginalized Classes in ICT by Altering Perceptions: ensuring marginalized
persons in ICT careers can succeed and thrive.
4. Creating Decentralized Knowledge Networks: enabling the exchange of information without the
need for a central coordinating body. Focus on new revenue streams and stake-holder activation.
5. Aggregating Citizen Driven Data to Influence Decision Makers: influencing central decision making bodies by aggregating data that is reported by citizens.
Common barriers social entrepreneurs identified
as the core component of a problem which we help
to tackle include:
1. Centrally Owned ICT Infrastructure is Restricted by Traditional Business Models: technological solutions remain monopolized and do not reach all populations that need them.
2. Data Value Chain is Broken: Timely ground-level data that is essential for successful development is still difficult and expensive to collect, transfer, and use.
3.Educational and Vocational Training Can’t Keep up with Changing Job Market: young people are
not fully equipped with the ICT knowledge they need as future job-seekers.
4. Social Enterprises Can’t Afford to Drive Technology Innovation: the cost of maintaining upgrades for technology solutions, let alone driving new innovation, remains very high.
Each challenge is an area of opportunity for
grantmaking organizations and entrepreneurs to
find better ways to tackle these issues:
1. Doubly Challenged Technologist Hiring: hiring technologists in any sector is competitive to begin with, and doubly challenged because of lower salary levels in the social sector, and the scarcity of in-house managerial experience to optimize technologists’ contributions.
2. Traditional Grant-Making Doesn’t Cover ICT needs: Two types of critical needs are not fully met by grants: ICT needs directly to social impact goals (e.g. a mobile tool that better prevents infant mortality) and ICT needed for the organization to run more efficiently (e.g. financial management systems). Partial funding increases the costs of coordination, or doesn’t account for the cost needed to create, maintain, and improve custom ICT solutions.
3. Lack of Capacity to Utilize Pro-Bono or OpenSource Options: there is limited capacity to accept pro-bono offerings or knowledge on how to use open-source options that will increase social impact.
4. Partnerships Require Longer Commitment and Specialization than Feasible: Technological consulting and partnerships have limited impact because they are often not longitudinal and/or context specific enough to be successful, given the possible complexity of each technological solution.
5. Data is “Too Big” for Social Entrepreneurs and “not big enough” for Big Data experts: Organizations are not poised to fully use the unprecedented amount of data they can collect for the unique target populations or social issues they work with, and their data sets remain smaller and more fragmented than the “big data” sets that experts focus on.