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Giving Compass' Take:
• Poverty fighting startups are encouraging us to forget the mantras of the tech world in favor of making real social impact and change. Using technology, more nuanced experts are navigating the complex layers of addressing inequality.
• The author says that tech alone will not be the answer to solving poverty issues. What else is necessary for an approach that uses technology to create social good?
If you want to tackle one of society’s most intractable problems, you have to start by ignoring some of the tech industry’s most cherished mantras.
"Cater to the affluent." Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood Foundation — New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization — has spawned projects like Good Call, a hotline that connects New Yorkers who have just been arrested to a free lawyer. Yenkowarns low-income college students when they are at risk of losing their aid package and helps them to create an action plan. JustFix helps New Yorkers get repairs on their homes by providing access to housing rights experts. This year, the lab’s five-month fellowship program focuses on creating products for older, low-income adults and their caregivers. The lab also runs Catalyst, a six-month program for social ventures that are at a slightly later stage.
"Bypass legacy systems." Startups traditionally try to demolish — or at least sidestep — old ways of doing things. Disruption is seen as a good thing. In contrast, the Blue Ridge Labs' portfolio has projects that require some sort of collaboration with legacy systems, existing organizations, or regulatory schemes.
"Move fast and break things." Many intractable systemic or human problems — and poverty is a very complex issue — cannot be solved by technology alone. Techies may be tempted to to jump in with a naive technical fix that can do more harm than good. And the stakes are high for people on a low income.
Read the full article about the poverty-fighting startups pushing back on Silicon Valley sacred cows by Ciara Byrne at fastcompany.com.