In parts one and two of this series, we broke down ways you can leverage technology to show generosity towards your employees and your users. In the final part of our series, we’ll look at how technology can be used to better the world by solving universal problems.
Whether you’re creating a customer-facing app or internal software to help your teams be more efficient, there’s always an end user that’s (hopefully) benefiting from the end result. The crux of technology is that its value is derived by the user. Digital products allow you to show generosity towards the world by solving a problem that impacts members of our collective society.
Kinvovled: Fighting chronic student absenteeism
An example of a digital product that is geared toward mass generosity is Kinvolved, a company that helps chronically absent students via 2-way communication software. Kinvolved displays generosity in a multitude of ways:
- To accommodate the wide variety of students and teachers they serve, the app is available in a over 80 languages.
- The platform gives teachers and parents access to reporting to better inform interventions for students.
- With schooling moving online due to COVID-19, they focused on building out features that would help students get access to WiFi and devices they could use for schoolwork.
Their mission to minimize absenteeism stems from the fact that less than 20% of chronically absent students will earn their diploma. By focusing on improving high school absenteeism rates, students are subsequently exposed to better opportunities down the road.
Kinvolved started with the ‘why’ and used that mission to guide their positioning, marketing, and further feature development. Because of this dedication to the problem, they’ve received awards like the Teach for America Social Innovation Award and have been adopted by huge districts like the New York Public School System.
Though this article focuses on digital generosity, there are other companies out there that have displayed corporate generosity through donations and raising awareness. Patagonia, a popular clothing company that markets and sells outdoor clothing, was named a UN Champion of the Earth in 2019 for their entrepreneurial vision. They were the first California company to sign up for B certification (earth tax) in 2012, they gave 100% of their Black Friday profits to nonprofits that focus on environmentalism, and, in total, they’ve donated over $89 million to environmental work.
Generosity vs responsibility
When comparing the words generosity and responsibility, it’s important to distinguish the sentiment behind each. Where generosity is something freely given, responsibility implies some standard which one must strive toward in order to be accepted or considered good.
We have no societal benchmarks for generosity, but we often reference a responsibility to behave a certain way or do a certain thing. Where a responsible action is expected, a generous action is more highly valued for the fact that it was done without outside pressure. In short, generosity is seen to have more pure intention behind it.
This can be fluid depending on the time and place. Where five years ago a company publicly promoting minority-owned businesses on their social media would have been considered generous, it’s now considered responsible. When new standards are set, societal expectations for companies adjust accordingly.
That being said, do individuals or organizations have a responsibility to leverage technology for good? According to this 2019 Corporate Citizenship Report from Accenture, yes.
“This is the decade of delivering on the promise of digital and technology—a time to redefine growth and work in new ways to help address the unprecedented challenges the world is facing—from the future of work and climate change to equality, human rights and responsible innovation.”
In the section on ‘Innovating for Social Impact’, they emphasize their commitment to making individuals the center of their innovation initiatives while creating a more inclusive future. They even feature Social Innovators and Development Partnerships who focus solely on leveraging technology to help the greater good.
There’s a misconception out there that only non-profits can focus entirely on generosity. While it’s true that these organizations are structured to generate impact over profit, there are still ways for revenue-focused companies to consider the global consequence of the technology they’re creating. If you want to incorporate more digital generosity into your company or role, consider these questions:
- Who will this technology help?
- How might this technology discriminate? (ie: cost, language, etc.)
- Why am I building this?
This last question is crucial. If you don’t have a North Star guiding your product, you’ll find yourself second-guessing decisions and veering off course from your mission. If you’re building software that will help COVID-vulnerable individuals get access to groceries, reference this mission every time you make a decision about your product.
Showing Digital Generosity towards the world can start with baby steps. For example, we created a one-day Design Challenge where our Product Designers the chance to create an app concept and UI design in just 7 hours. The only parameters were to create an app that would impact lives in a meaningful way as we navigate to find our new normal. Finding creative ways like this to get your company involved in generosity initiatives is a great stepping stone towards future endeavors.
We’re all a part of the world. Let’s help it flourish.
All good things must come to an end…
Reference Accenture’s ‘Innovation for Social Impact’ Resource repository for more great content around Digital Generosity.