With Technology, Power Can Shift From Institutions To Communities



At #SMWLDN, Annika Small OBE, co-founder of CAST, a non-profit that accelerates the use of digital technology to drive change, discussed the mobilization of social change.


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Wayfinder developed an app to help the blind navigate the tube. Warrior Down set up WhatsApp groups to provide 24/7 support when recovering addicts need it the most – these are just two examples of using technology to address social issues.

At Social Media Week London, Annika Small OBE, co-founder of CAST, a non-profit that accelerates the use of digital technology to drive change, discussed the mobilization of social change.

She highlighted that the digital revolution isn’t about social media, apps and websites, it’s about shifting power from institutions to communities. It’s about collaboration and doing things with others, for others and not just to them. Emulating the conference theme, ‘closer’, Small confirmed that people do want to be part of something that makes a difference.

A 2018 survey of digital skills revealed that two-thirds of social enterprises recognize the potential of digital to transform services, but also that these organizations do not know the first steps to take in doing it.

“Technology challenges assumptions and allows us to think differently and imagine a different world”

With digital expertise, charities and social enterprises can scale quickly, because infrastructures are already established, and trusted relationships are in place. Authentic campaigns can be created, and storytelling can be improved.

Small shared two more examples. The first concerned an issue discovered by Breast Cancer Care around the need for support at the end of treatment. BECCA, the Breast Cancer Care app, providing information, support and inspiration to help women move beyond breast cancer, supported more than 15,000 women in just one year.

SafeLives developed the ‘Every Story Matters’ campaign to make sure that every person impacted by domestic abuse can be heard. The anonymous stories shared across their website and social media channels informed engagement with the government’s public consultation on the domestic violence and abuse bill, but also created an engaged support community for those who have experienced domestic abuse.

In all these examples, the technology used was basic; it was simply new thinking that enabled a new way to deliver products and services; shifting power to get closer to the users at the heart of their services.

A resolution for 2019

Small believes that there’s a wealth of opportunity in using technology for social change and challenged the audience to seek a digital trustee role, to join forces to provide charities and social enterprises with the digital expertise they need to make a difference in the world.

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