Tech Panel: Technology and Social Responsibility

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This week, Bright Funds cofounder Rutul Davé joined a panel of experts in the field of technology for good at an event hosted by The Bold Italic and General Assembly. The discussion ranged from discussion social issues and solutions relevant to San Francisco and beyond.

Since we could not get to cover some of the topic areas that the audience had expressed their interest in, included below are some of those thoughts from Rutul in a Q&A format. 

Q: How have new technologies impacted on attitudes towards giving/campaigning etc?

Rutul: The biggest impact that technology has had in giving and campaigning is that it has democratized the field and made it accessible. “Philanthropy” is something you did when you were done “earning” your money and wanted to give something back. You sought advice, established private foundations, and started the process of leaving a legacy. But with technology, increasingly more of it is done online (growing over 14% a year), increasingly done by people in the prime of their careers, or even when starting out (millennials). It also doesn’t require millions of dollars (Kiva, crowdfunding, and Amazon Smile) or special access to information to be impactful (Bright Funds).

At a softer level new technologies like a better web, prevalence of mobile, and focus on emotional design has helped the experiences with giving evolve from being just “transactional” to  to emotionally rewarding. charity:water & DonorsChoose are great examples of this.

Q: How does technology help your organization to fulfil its goals?

Rutul: We are a technology company on a mission to provide impact-focused workplace and personal giving for a new generation of donors. So technology is in the ethos of what we do and how we do it. We could not have started or built our company without modern web technologies, open source, and services that help us build an agile company, nor could we provide an exceptional product and service to our members, partners, and clients without technology powering us.

On a related note, it is inspiring to see a fledgling movement brewing for technology-powered nonprofits like Watsi. In fact, just this weekend I came across an accelerator exclusively for technology nonprofits” http://www.ffwd.org.

Q: What’s the relationship between online and offline engagement within your organization?

Rutul: In our goal to help people get more value from their giving experiences, we try and understand what we can provide both online as well as “offline”. The experience, especially when it relates to your passions and interest, has to extend to facets of your life that don’t require a computer and a smartphone. Specifically things like volunteering and in-person events help bring community and richer social elements in everyone’s experience.

Within the company, we work on integrating offline engagement to help enhance the company culture. Last week our entire team spent Wednesday morning at the park, without our laptops, smartphones or WiFi.

Q: Does technology ever “get in the way”?

Rutul: Technology’s job is to help you do what you want to do — just more efficiently, at a lower cost, and/or better. It’s a means to an end. And just like any tool, one of it’s many limitations is the risk of “getting in the way” when it is thought of as a solution for every challenge. “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you might treat everything as if it were a nail”. Don’t let technology be the only tool you have.

Q: How do you see MBAs fitting into this paradigm?

Rutul: As a technologist who learned and practiced his craft in technology and products, I was surprised at what I got most value from when I pursued an MBA myself.

The biggest realization I had through this experience was that for ideas to reach their true potential, you need a combination of the “why” and the “how”. Entrepreneurs, creative people, dreamers tend to be good at the why, and people with formal training and experience in business then to be great at the how. MBAs will fit into this tech innovation and social responsibility paradigm by partnering with the people who have strengths with the ‘why’ by helping them with the ‘how’.

Q: What can busy technologists do to better make an impact?

Rutul:  We believe that as long as the intention is there, there will be tools and technology to achieve missions like making a better impact and building a better world.

As a technology company ourself we identify with other technologists. In fact, the reason Bright Funds was created was to get rid of the noise, simplify research, centralize reporting, and instill trust and confidence in the giving process. Check out our workplace giving tool.

The fact that you are here, you obviously are taking the steps to do the work involved in making an impact. While you are here, talk to the folks with the Tipping Point Community. Ask your employer about what you are doing as a company to make an impact in your community. Look in to SF City’s initiative led by Mayor Ed Lee around providing a platform for tech companies in SF to be involved in social responsibility.

Do you have thoughts, opinions or questions on these topics? Get in touch and we would love to chat.

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Wild Earth Guardians saved the Chaco Canyon from fracking

In early 2013, the Bureau of Land Management, buckling to the demands of the oil and gas industry, proposed to lease more than 16,000 acres for drilling and fracking right at the doorstep of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.
Wild Earth Guardians pushed back, however, and together with their allies mounted an all-out defense of this cultural treasure. 
The efforts culminated last September when Guardians, joined by archaeological groups, the Chaco Alliance, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to protect 1.1 million acres as the “Greater Chaco Landscape Area of Critical Environmental Concern.”
*As of January 2014, it’s official: they won.*
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In response to their efforts, the Bureau of Land Management officially decided to take “No Action.” 
In other words, no oil and gas leases will be sold around Chaco Canyon, giving this landscape new hope for more lasting protection.
This victory is a testament to Wild Earth Guardians’ dogged persistence and commitment not only to safeguarding the climate from fossil fuels, but also safeguarding the West’s irreplaceable natural values.
To be sure, there is still work to do. The Greater Chaco Landscape is still in need of full protection and the rush to frack in the American West remains the most significant threat to the land, wildlife, our water and our clean air. 
Guardians is keeping Chaco safe from fracking, but their aim is a frack-free West. One victory at a time, they’re doing it.
               
Read more about Wild Earth Guardians’ work in keeping Chico safe from fracking here, and support Wild Earth Guardians by adding the Environmental Fund to your Bright Funds portfolio today.

Wild Earth Guardians saved the Chaco Canyon from fracking

In early 2013, the Bureau of Land Management, buckling to the demands of the oil and gas industry, proposed to lease more than 16,000 acres for drilling and fracking right at the doorstep of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.

Wild Earth Guardians pushed back, however, and together with their allies mounted an all-out defense of this cultural treasure. 

The efforts culminated last September when Guardians, joined by archaeological groups, the Chaco Alliance, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to protect 1.1 million acres as the “Greater Chaco Landscape Area of Critical Environmental Concern.”

*As of January 2014, it’s official: they won.*

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IIRR has planted 67 school gardens to increase food security & sustainable wealth

In the communities in East Africa and Southeast Asia where the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) works, families continually struggle not only to provide food for their families, but also to access to local markets. In addition to hunger and malnutrition, incomplete education and weak value chains play a large part in the poverty faced by many rural communities. The poor, often illiterate rural farmers and small producers usually do not have the skills they need to make their businesses as efficient as possible. They may be sidelined or eliminated from the production and distribution process, they may not have access to capital, or they may lack information about pricing, planning, and market demand, making it difficult to demand a fair price for goods and services or make informed business decisions.

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Safe Passage is helping children like Silvia build bright futures

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Silvia, now 17, came to Safe Passage when she was just seven years old. Ten years later, she remains committed to her studies and hopes to work in Guatemala’s popular tourist industry.

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WaterAid’s skills training aims to kick-start WASH sector jobs in Nicaragua

In January, WaterAid announced that they have been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Laird Norton Family Foundation that will give young men and women the professional skills and expertise to drive the future of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in Nicaragua.

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The EGPAF is working to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Swaziland

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The Swaziland Ministry of Health (MOH), in collaboration with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), hosted an advocacy event in Ezulwini to highlight Swaziland’s efforts to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of HIV by 2015. The main purpose of the event was to galvanize politicians, civil society, faith-based organizations, church forums, donors, implementing partners, and communities to support the government’s pediatric HIV elimination goals.

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Rainforest Trust makes largest ever conservation land purchase in tropics

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Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization focused on protecting threatened tropical lands and saving endangered species, announced this week the successful purchase of more than 270,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Ecuador. The mammoth property acquisition, which includes the 18,714-foot Antisana Volcano, will create a permanent refuge for the largest population of Andean Condor in the Northern Andes.

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IPA is preventing death from diarrheal disease with affordable chlorine dispensers

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Globally, more than 1 million children under 5 die each year from diarrheal disease. Contaminated drinking water, poor hygiene, and the lack of sanitation facilities are leading causes of this problem.

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