Scaling social impact by using technology is the way to go. We all know (digital) services and devices that have radically changed the way we communicate, work, live and educate ourselves. Sad to say but access to knowledge in cyberspace is not available for the majority of people as I tried to describe in my previous post Digital responsibility. In this blog entry I looked at the differences between EU Member States and the level of digital integration – how it differ significantly and leads to social- and economical inequality.

It is up to tech and social impact oriented cutting-edge leaders (startups, SMEs, institutions, authorities as well as the established IT corporations) to find ways to counter the negative effects of this inequality, which might result in salary stagnation, job cuts, negative long-term effect on economic growth and so forth. But we are seeing barriers getting erode thanks to technology’s ability to lower costs, extend reach, increase transparency and capture valuable data on what is working.

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The implications for social impact by using new technologies can be outlined on the basis of three consecutive basics, where the end-user is positioned at the center of this process – this is what creates value. Tech is merely as effective at solving problems as it is at involving people in their own solutions.

1. Start with the problem and then create the approach
Start not with a technology, but with a problem–and a person–in mind. Employ design thinking; spending time with the people you aim to serve to understand how to meet those people’s needs, in ways relevant to their daily routines, and then create or adapt technology.

2. Iterate
Get things 100 percent right the first time is not going to happen. Design thinking pushes to fail fast and iterate: design, test, observe, redesign, retest, and re-redesign. With technology for social good, such rapid prototyping creates a cycle of learning and continuous improvement that keeps up with changing business approaches and markets.

3. Try to anticipate on a fast moving and changing environment
The relative newness of technology for social good means you can’t yet know the long-term impact of services and products. With uncertainty can come unintended consequences, both positive and negative like e.g. our obsession with smart phones, social media & networking service and the rise of cyberbullying, all kinds of privacy and security challenges and so on.

With tech for good, design thinking can help reduce (or at least anticipate) some negative consequences. As a method for solving complex problems it helps organizations discern unmet needs and create value from these insights. Yet, the real benefit of design thinking is seeing how professionals personally transform as they get exposed to the iterative design thinking process on the basis of; empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test and co-create as well as storytelling (to make complex ideas fascinating)

For social impact oriented professionals today, the potential is clear for technology to transmit solutions faster, further and more cost effectively to communities that need them. But converting that potential to practise starts with an inclusive design process. Have a look at the design thinking process provided by The Stanford.