How and why we changed our Tech for Good initiative in 2020 

20th May 2020

How and why we changed our Tech for Good initiative in 2020 

Penny Yewers and Dalia Abu Yassien

The Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation Tech for Good fund has been running since 2016. It has supported non-profits to take a significant digital step forward by funding them to develop digital solutions that make their work or services more effective, and providing access to digital experts.

A core ethos of the Tech for Good fund has always been encouraging organisations to keep their users’ needs at the heart of development. As funders, we are mindful that our users are the non-profits engaging with us, applying to our programmes, and accessing our funding. 

That’s why, in 2019, we reviewed the fund with the help of Think Social Tech(opens in new window) to make sure it was still fit for those it served. One of the main findings of our review was that organisations needed early stage support, through ring-fenced time and funding, to enable them to focus their energy on thinking about the direction and potential of digital development in their context, before embarking upon full scale development. 

While this need was identified by our review, which came before COVID-19 emerged, it’s clear that organisations are now facing more pressure than ever to adopt digital practices – this is being well documented(opens in new window) by Catalyst, a charitable network which helps the voluntary sector strengthen its digital capabilities. Through their granular and on-the-ground work with organisations, Catalyst has identified a range of areas that organisations are currently dealing with. One of the biggest mid-to-long term challenges outlined is the way organisations are dealing with the impact on services. Issues include the surge in demand alongside adjusting to rapidly shifting modes of service delivery, understanding the medium-term evolving needs of service users, and how to effectively safeguard them. 

We were due to launch a new strand of our funding, ‘Explore’, in summer 2020, offering short, early stage scoping funding and support to organisations. We have worked with CAST to slightly adapt this offer to the current circumstances. However, we think the same broad principles still apply. We want teams to access the right conditions for meaningful digital development; this is even more crucial for charities thinking about the challenges outlined above, and the implications for mid-to-long term service delivery as the consequences of COVID-19 become clearer. 

The Tech for Good ‘Explore’ programme(opens in new window), delivered by CAST, and co-funded by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, will support 40-50 organisations to undertake early stage digital scoping:

  • It will guide organisations through a three-month structured design programme supporting teams to gain experience and understanding of user-led, test-driven approaches, and enable them to develop a prototype to test with their service users

  • It will also offer £5,000 grants for single organisations and £7,500 for collaborations to backfill staff time and operational cost. This was designed to make digital service development conceivable and feasible for organisations, ensuring their use of digital was best suited to their contexts.

‘Explore’ support forms part of a wider digital journey for organisations, and has been designed with this in mind. We hope that this early stage support will not only help organisations to respond to the current need for digital solutions, but play a role in the longer term digital transformation of the sector within and beyond our own funding programmes.

You can find out more about the ‘Explore’ programme and apply here(opens in new window).