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Tech for good: returns for noble pursuits

Tech for good: returns for noble pursuits

In a year when Silicon Valley’s Finest have gone toe-to-toe with Trump over various reforms, tech for good is stepping up to drive social change.

Bethnal Green Ventures is an accelerator program in the east of London (hallowed turf for the UK’s socialist movement) “for people who want to change the world using technology.” It’s one of many organisations which have been popping up in recent years for those in the technology sector with a stereotypically leftist bent who believe they can create organisations which appeal to the altruism in all of us.

Just Giving is a company which claims to be part of this tech-for-good movement, taking a small cut of crowd-funded event sponsorship in order to profitably broaden the horizons of charitability.

Such ideas have been gaining momentum and, during the wince-inducing elections of 2016 and their aftermath, they’re starting to secure their foothold in the market. The Financial Times recently reported on Martin Leuw who, after a successful stint in executive-level tech life, set up Growth 4 Good, an accelerator program run for profits and dedicated to supporting businesses whose goal is social impact.

As The FT points out, these kinds of organisations can produce an internal rate of return of 9.5%. This isn’t going to set anyone’s hair on fire, but it is interesting to highlight that the efficiencies technology has created have brought business to the point where a return is thinkable through what might have previously been considered “pet projects.”

The technology sector has long harboured tendencies to use its potential in a positive way, even recently Facebook have chipped in to India’s National Blood Donation Day to help drive traffic for the cause and help it achieve virality.

At TechCrunch’s Disrupt last week there were a series of speakers on stage who made specific mention of the will in The Valley to start bridging the gap between a latent social will thus far unrequited by government.  The topics covered were broad and ambitious, including disaster relief, privacy, policy-making, housing and utilities, and immigration.

So far the whole tech for good sector feels in its infancy, but that’s to miss the point. More importantly it is now possible to refer to such a thing as the ‘tech for good sector’ in all sincerity. It may never top the stock market, it may never make the founders billionaires, but if that’s the case it’ll also struggle to ever cause a collapse of the stock market.

And if it continues at it’s current pace, either as individual organisations or as part of bigger organisations, it could produce the kind of things we all thought the best of technology was capable of all those years ago when the internet popped into being.

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Ben Allen is a traveller, a millennial and a Brit. He worked in the London startup world for a while but really prefers commenting on it than working in it. He has huge faith in the tech industry and enjoys talking and writing about the social issues inherent in its development. Find him on Twitter @benjijamesallen

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