When I discuss my career goals with people and talk about the things I’m interested in – namely, technology and social justice – the typical response I get is: “So you want to work for an NGO/Non-Profit?”
I am a huge fan of numerous non-profits (in fact, engageSPARK is a not-for-profit social enterprise). But as the world becomes more interconnected, I, like many people, don’t want to limit myself to that sector.
The exciting thing about the trajectory of our world is: I don’t have to work at a non-profit to contribute to social good. Creative people around the globe are increasingly cultivating innovative companies, programs, apps, and products that are marketable but that also increase social capital. Since we at engageSPARK are fans of technology (and social good!), here are a few out-of-the-box ways tech is being used to make do-gooding profitable, fun, and/or really cool.
- Good Gamification and Gamification of Good
We live in a world where 63 million people play Farmville, and League of Legends – a free to play game where you can choose to spend money – raked in $624 million in 2013. Seeds founder Rachel Cook saw an opportunity here and created a social game that allows players to make microloans to women in Africa. With an API, game developers can integrate Seeds and make microlending part of their own games. Imagine a world where that epic win you pulled off last weekend actually means something outside of your gaming bubble. What if you could improve your health or test real world economic and business strategies for people in developing countries through gaming?
- Spreading Ideas and Information
It’s a classic cliché that published news is all bad because that’s what “the people” want. And sure: it is important to engage with the world’s uncomfortable realities. But tech is putting more options at people’s fingertips, giving us access to content that is real, challenging, and encouraging.
In a totally different way, companies like Coursera and Udemy are also spreading good information. Online education startups like these are tapping technology to give everyone access to an “elite-education.” Khawna wants to make “everyone employable” in the Philippines by making STEM courses available via web and mobile.
- Create a Meaningful Product
We live in an age when 3D printing of human organs is a near-future possibility. Products for problems that have plagued us – like the pd.id that can detect date rape drugs – are being dreamed up and turned into reality. WIRED magazine recently had top-tier design firms prototype four of Bill Gates’ world changing ideas. Special props to Frog and their “Healthy Baby Kit” design, which confronts illiteracy by using symbolism and provides a number for new mothers to SMS a clinician with health questions (we hope that includes a voice component for the illiterate segment, too!)
What are other cool things people are doing? Please share with us!