The Tech for Good movement isn’t new anymore. There’s folk who’ve already walked the path, who’ve dived into its depths and retrieved it’s pearls. We should listen to these old timers.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s precious as a pearl. But when its wisdom belongs to other people how can you get your hands on it? We asked 16 previously funded Tech for Good projects whether they considered themselves to be successful and what advice they would give charities wanting to build digital services for the first time.
Six of the 16 identified as successful. That’s six who, 12 – 24 months since their grant ended, are continuing to achieve demonstrable impact on a greater scale than the day their grant finished. The other seven either continued but hadn’t scaled to reach more users, or had reached the pearly gates (…sorry 😉 ) and were no longer running.
Interestingly both successful and unsuccessful projects gave the same advice. Here’s what they wanted to tell the young ‘uns:
1. Develop a concept before applying for funding
Strong concepts have a chance of funding. But proven concepts that have undergone testing have a much better chance of funding. So invest time and money in developing a concept and trying to prove it before going for funding. You can even test using free tools.
Have a think of what free tools there are out there. You can test some of your thinking just using a pen and paper or loads of free apps that are already out there. That’ll give you good evidence before going to a funder.”
Old Timer Grantee
2. Find the right tech partner
This was the first thing most of the oldies said. We’ve written about it before. But don’t only find the right partner; find funding that enables you to hire the right partner without cutting corners.
Ideally the right partner will have already cut their teeth with the social sector and be able to bridge the culture and language gap between your organisation and the tech sector.
3. Plan for product maintenance and sustainability
Starting new things is an exciting, and usually energising process. But you’ve still got to plan ahead. Consider your prospective product’s maintenance and sustainability beyond the grant (e.g. ongoing funding and how it will fit in with the organisation). Don’t wait, do it now.
Have a think about the costs and the legalities of it, what would ordinarily be the boring bits rather than getting sucked into the exciting social impact bit of it.”
4. Get backing from your boss
Management buy-in is really important. Without it you’re unlikely to get funding current cohort of young ‘uns identified that they have good top level support). But its more than just backing, its being able to identify the right project sponsor and the right day-to-day project lead. Then it’s all about making sure they aren’t isolated by the uniqueness of the project and that they’ve a great project team around them.
5. Manage expectations
Yours. Mine. Everybody’s.
Be realistic. Be wise about what’s achievable. Avoid over-promising in your funding bid or delivery plan. There’s no excuse not to educate yourself about the levels of success you can achieve at early stage. Then educate your team, your boss, your senior managers and trustees. Help them understand why your outputs will be different to those of a traditional project.
6. Get users involved from the start.
Starting with user needs and keeping them involved is one of the core Digital Services Principles. There’s different ways of doing it. Either way you’ve got to make sure you meet user needs. This doesn’t mean asking them what they want, but it does mean understanding their needs and experience.
I think that it’s important to understand what the product or the project is and who the audience is. So, first of all making sure it’s a well-defined project. The audience is really important, who’s it for, what’s its purpose and what’s the outcome going to be.”
7. Be brutal about your knowledge gaps
You’re going on a new journey. You can’t know what its going to be like. But you can learn about what to expect. Learn about agile development processes, different types of value and the challenges ahead. Read about user experience and human centred design. Fill your head with knowledge. It won’t give you experience but it will save you from making it up as you go along.
One day it could be you.
When you run your first TfG project you’re gonna learn a shed load. Then it could be you sharing tips and wisdom with this blog, or even writing an article about your experiences.
Want to write an article for the Hub?
We welcome guest contributions. If you work with or for a third sector organisation and have a story to share that could be useful to members of the Tech for Good community then get in touch.