While technology companies and social impact entrepreneurs have historically operated independently of one another, they often share many common attributes and values: innovation, a desire for a better world, and a belief that technology has the potential to change the world for the good of all. In the same way that technologists innovate new tools, social innovators invent, reinvent and refine new ways and systems for social impact.
But we are beginning to see the tremendous potential of the intersection between technology and social change in action. Mobile technology has transformed the relationship between technology and the social sector through context-specific tools like Frontline SMS. Technologies are increasingly being leveraged specifically for underserved markets to establish financial and health access (as with InVenture and ZMQ software). Many social innovators are demonstrating how effective partnerships can forge a future where technologists and changemakers are one and the same.
As these two industries discover their overlap, we asked Ashoka Fellows and tech industry partners to share with us their views on the driving forces of technology and changemaking:
1. How can technology help us create a better world?
“[Technology] is making a very inclusive society, a very participatory society.” – Hilmi Quraishi
2. What are some of the risks technology presents?
“We don’t want to get too reliant on technology…it’s people on the streets who create change.” – Ken Banks
“A lot of technology companies may be developing tools that they’re not sure how might play out in a given market, and I think social entrepreneurs can provide those answers.” – Claire Fallender
4. What can tech and social entrepreneurs learn from each other?
“Forget the technology, put that right to the back of the list [and focus on your impact on people].” – Ken Banks
5. What is the future of technology and social change?
“It’s important that the people whose motivations are for social well-being to be as adept as possible … in what is going to be the lingua franca of the world.” – Daniel Ben-Horin
The overarching insight that emerged is this: the most influential players in the future of innovation will be those who can bridge communities, demonstrating how to work together to ensure that technology innovation doesn’t just happen for its own sake, but also as a tool for creating social impact. As the world changes faster and faster, enabled by exponential technology, it is critical that we take up the languages and skills of technology and changemaking. Social innovators should become more active digital citizens, fluent in the language of technology, and we all must discover ways in which we can code empathy into the technology of the future.
How do you think we can better connect social entrepreneurs and the tech establishment to create a more participatory, equitable, and secure tech future? Share your thoughts on the ways synergies can begin to take shape by posting video responses to YouTube or tweeting them to @Ashoka using hashtags #socentTech and #seizethefuture.