The high tech sector in Ottawa is thriving. Tech companies are once again dominating the business landscape. But as we resume our place on the global stage, we’re missing an opportunity to make a bigger mark.
If you lead a tech company, corporate social responsibility should be a priority. Not because it’s good for reputation management, or because it appeals to the millennials we’re all trying to hire – but because non-profits and social enterprises need our help. As the rate of innovation continually increases, it's our job to make sure no one gets left behind.
We’re living in a time of abundant technological resources, experience and talent. On top of that – and with an even greater value – your staff have a desire to do good. We can’t afford to not harness this energy.
It’s probably not a surprise that the non-profit and social enterprise sectors operate on tight budgets, and that their leaders are asked to do more with less.
The cost of up-to-date technology is out of reach for many of the organizations doing good in our world. And what complicates the equation is that success for these organizations is rarely measured in dollars. Spending on technology just doesn’t compute.
As technology experts – or, even broader, as the entire private sector – we know effective use of technology can increase operational efficiency and help deliver on mission. The imperative isn’t the new shiny toy – it’s about using technology as a strategic resource and choosing digital tools that empower staff to support and serve their users.
Lowering price starts to lower barriers
The first place to start is to remove financial barriers. Make your software free for anyone who is here to make this world a better place. This helps would-be users get started because you’ve created a safe, risk-free zone to experiment and learn.
And you’ll be in good company: Amazon Web Services offers credits for non-profits; Salesforce offers licenses for free; Google offers grants for ads; and Microsoft has programs to provide access to low-cost or free software. Some of these organizations (and hundreds more) work with Techsoup, who help manage these relationships and act like a clearinghouse for donated software.
Alright. That’s the first step.
Reach out and offer help
Reducing financial barriers isn’t enough on its own. Many of the people at these organizations won't have a technical background or access to expertise, and they will undoubtedly need set-up support, software training and integration.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
A non-technical organization doesn't necessarily know how to identify or define a problem that will benefit from your software. At Rebel we try to meet this challenge by asking ourselves what we can do to learn and adapt to their special needs. We support and attend events like Random Hacks of Kindness, and where we can, match our solutions to the needs we find there.
Can you go so far as to “adopt” an organization or a cause?
Remember, they’re not seeking your solution. Go out of your way to find these customers. They don’t know your value to their organization.
Are you talking about inclusion and diversity at your company? If you’re not, you should. It isn’t just an HR thing. Diversify your client base, and employee experience, by adding clients who normally couldn’t afford you.
Empower your staff to give back
Inside the walls of our companies exist smart, creative people who love to solve problems. And within them is a drive to do good and affect the society they live in.
If you’re not going to lead with a vision of how the company is going to make the world a better place, then enable and empower them to help reduce barriers for others. Let them give away resources and use their brilliant minds to make a significant difference in the causes they care most about.
If you give nothing else – then give time.
Volunteer days are a great start. In this coming year, figure out how employees can use their skills and your software to make a bigger contribution. There are a lot of digital literacy organizations looking for smart, tech-savvy mentors and teachers.
In your community and beyond
Now that you have engaged a brand new type of customer that is doing good in this world, and your employees are deeply engaged in helping this program thrive, your next step in this journey is to amplify it by connecting with others.
There are local community initiatives like Tech4Good, Ottawa Civic Tech, and Data For Good that meet frequently to collaborate on projects. Random Hacks of Kindness – a hackathon for social good – is always looking for smart, creative problem solvers. It’s easy to participate in these meetups to share, speak or just listen.
At Rebel, we’ve just completed a two-year journey to redefine how we create shared value in our community and with our customers. It starts with our values and builds up through our staff and out to our customers. We provide our services for free to anyone who is doing good in the world, including social enterprises, entrepreneurs and students. We purposefully built our new office in downtown Ottawa to include a community space that's freely available to community meetups. And there’s so much more: you can find a complete list of the events we are hosting and the causes we care about at rebel.com under “Impact” in our main menu.
While these types of contributions do not necessarily have an immediate top-line return, you will see returns in culture and in employee engagement and happiness. And, above all, you’ll be making the world a better place.
Brett Tackaberry is a digital solutions professional who uses his tech skills for the greater good. He has 15 years of experience helping people and companies do business online, starting with his co-founding 76design, a digital agency. Brett is currently the CTO at Rebel, where he is responsible for the technical team and product direction. In his mission to help people be great online, Brett runs Random Hacks of Kindness, a hackathon for social good; he assists in running Tech4Good, a community organization that bridges the gap between the digital and technology sectors; and contributes to great initiatives like Ottawa Civic Tech and Code4Canada. He has also been known to rock a pretty sweet mustache each November to raise funds for Mustaches for Kids.