April 24, 2019
6 Things I Experienced at Accelerate Good Global
Earlier this month, I traveled to San Francisco for Accelerate Good Global (AGG), a stimulating two-day conference packed with fireside chats, workshops and conversations that convened people using technology for good.
Fast Forward co-founders Kevin Barenblat and Shannon Farley brought together tech nonprofit entrepreneurs, corporate social responsibility (CSR) leaders and philanthropists in a warehouse turned creative complex. Here are six things I experienced with these inspiring attendees committed to using the best technology to tackle social problems.
Passion of tech nonprofits. AGG’s main stage, meeting spaces and hallways buzzed with social entrepreneurs using nonprofit business models with technology as the core strategy to achieving impact. The positive energy and sense of urgency was contagious as I learned why these leaders have chosen their purpose-driven work and how technology was an integral part of their solution.
Tech for good ecosystem. My previous experience had been primarily with funder-only convenings, so it was particularly enlightening to be among funders and nonprofit professionals representing the audiences they serve. This tech-for-good community created a space for frank conversations about the inherent power dynamics in the funder-grantee relationship. CSR executives and nonprofit professionals candidly explored ways to further business goals while achieving social impact.
Unique challenges facing tech nonprofits. These social entrepreneurs are running a tech-start-up and a nonprofit start-up simultaneously. They are competing for talent with the technology industry’s lucrative compensation packages. They are also raising seed capital often without proof of concept or years of demonstrated metrics. A tech nonprofit executive has to break through the funding community’s long-held belief that low administrative expense ratios are a key indicator of a nonprofit’s fiscal health, and therefore, are a fundamental funding decision data point. These are technology-driven nonprofits – those investments in technology will inherently skew administrative expenses when compared to traditional nonprofits.
Power of digital to unlock offline action. AGG boasts a remarkable line-up of Ted-style talks and panels with thought leaders, funders and social entrepreneurs. As I listened to each speaker, I heard the undeniable force of technology to influence positive behavior of a particular audience. Whether it was fostering a more responsible use of technology, getting out the vote, empowering the vision-impaired to navigate urban environments or translating languages in the midst of a crisis, AGG highlighted technology as a force for good in society.
Entrepreneurial mindset. I witnessed the continuous learning and dogged drive of social entrepreneurs on their journey to impact. They embraced micro-failures as an integral part of the process in successfully addressing an issue. They espoused the importance of product market fit, evaluating the system surrounding a social problem and finding a unique point of influence to apply their tech solution.
Importance of human connection. In the midst of awe-inspiring leaders harnessing the power of technology for good, I was reminded that success for tech nonprofits begins with a personal passion. Social entrepreneurs who have experience with the problem they are trying to tackle and who partner with others who share that zeal will overcome the inevitable challenges of doing mission-driven work.
I left Accelerate Good Global feeling encouraged and optimistic for the future. I look forward to seeing the break-through moments and impact these hard working social entrepreneurs accomplish through technology!