Using Technology and Data for Social Impact

/// Using Technology and Data for Social Impact

March 5, 2013  |  Blog

Innovative social entrepreneurs and mission-driven businesses are using data, social media, mobile apps, and other technologies to better solve problems around the world and reach more people and communities.

Take Ushahidi, a nonprofit tech company using the internet and mobile applications to crowd source information during natural disasters, epidemics, and political crises. Or Kiva Zip, which relies on M-PESA, a mobile payment system, to allow people to make direct loans to micro-entrepreneurs in Kenya. There’s also Khan Academy, the nonprofit website that removes economic barriers to education by putting free video tutorials online. And even less tech-oriented organizations are using open source software simply to lower the costs of running a business — expense reporting, document storage, etc. — and put more money into serving their missions.

But these technologies have also put new burdens on some nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Organizations find themselves under increasing pressure to collect and produce data that proves their worth to funders. Many want to take advantage of social media and data analytics but can’t afford the capabilities needed to do so (not many nonprofits have data scientists on their teams).

This month, HBR.org and The Bridgespan Group continue our three-month-long series on scaling entrepreneurial solutions that benefit society by focusing on how technology and data can fuel social good. We’ll explore questions such as:

How can big data have a social impact?

In what new ways are organizations using technology and data to scale the best ideas?

What data is needed to prove what works?

How should mission-driven organizations use social media?

To start, Peter Roberts from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University shares early findings from his research on the link between social media presence and a social entrepreneur’s future success. Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin, the data scientists from DoSomething.org, talk about the important distinction between data and metrics. Throughout the month, we’ll continue to draw on leading experts and practitioners from the nonprofit world, business community, academia, and the growing field of social enterprise.

Link: Using Technology and Data for Social Impact

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