Jen Lexmond 20.07.12
Last month the Innovation in Giving team held an event bringing together our portfolio of awardees for the first time since the programme launched. Alongside wanting to provide an opportunity for them to come together and share their progress, key successes and challenges, we were looking to our awardees to help us answer one key question: what will lead to a step change in giving and exchange across our country? As exam questions go, this is probably not one that many would be relieved to find upon turning over the page – it’s a tough one.
Nesta has a few ideas about how this might happen based on our knowledge and experience in the field, and we’re pretty convinced that innovation has a big part to play. For example, we can use technology and a deeper understanding of donor motivations to make better asks of people, at the right time and about issues they care about. Our identities and activities online say so much about who we are and what we care about. Harnessing this information about habits, interests, and causes can be used to more effectively target people with opportunities to give.
Another clear opportunity to increase giving is through more intelligently and accurately matching the supply of time, resources, and money, with demand. Many current volunteering opportunities have fairly high barriers to entry – requiring significant advanced notice, or lengthy training – but if it was easier, quicker, and more instant, the supply could increase substantially. Many resources and assets in our communities lie idle, not of use at a particular time or to a particular person – but if we could more efficiently allocate these resources, it could lead to many positive outcomes from reduced consumption, to cost savings, and greater social connection.
But while we have hypotheses about how this will happen, it is our awardees who are hashing this question out in the real world and in the day to day.
Volunteering database Do-it.org is transforming the way volunteers are connected to opportunities by allowing charities to ‘reverse search’ for volunteers based on their skills and online social profiles. It is intended to foster better connections that make a clear ask of volunteers. OneWorld UK is building and piloting a new online plugin called Re:Act that takes note of people’s browsing habits and most visited sites. When it knows enough about what you care about, it makes targeted recommendations about where you can volunteer your time and make a donation to a charity that you’re likely to care about.
Tyze Personal Networks is an online tool that aims to facilitate more efficient provision of formal and informal care through allowing people to schedule and coordinate care within private online communities. Awardee Ecomodo also connects supply and demand more intelligently through an online resource sharing platform that encourages people to list, lend, or give away stuff that they no longer want or that they are happy to share for a period of time.
As expected, when you move into practical settings, the kinds of issues that end up affecting success become more practical too. For many of our awardees it is not just the internal logic of their concept or idea that matters. The daily concerns of cash flow and financial management loom large for our fledgling innovators. Communications, PR and marketing rise up the priority list and become critical factors to gaining new clients and credibility. Gaining a good understanding of user acquisition and experience both on and offline and learning to improve it quickly become critical to achieving growth. These are the practical issues and concerns being aired and shared amongst our awardees, and one clear outcome from our event in June is that sharing insights and lessons on these topics is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to learn and improve.