This last year of 2022, the first Social Impact Technology Summit was held on November 3rd and 4th by the Centre for Social Impact Technology. The Summit brought together speakers and community leaders from around the globe to discuss digital technology and social innovation within local and international contexts. The event highlighted the current challenges that the social sector faces in employing technology to support initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, food security, crime and mental health crises.
The Centre for Social Impact Technology is a newly formed collaboration focusing on the intersections between digital technology and social innovation within Calgary's growing tech industry. Acting as a city-wide knowledge hub, the Centre for Social Impact Technology brings together the innovation ecosystem in Calgary around technology that is socially beneficial and socially transformative (responsible, open, inclusive, shared, and regenerative).
As leading public interest technologist, Afua Bruce, noted in her session, we are in "a world built around systemic exclusion, where the power is held without power to make decisions." Transitioning from socially beneficial technology to socially transformative technology has been shown to allow more equitable participation in society, enable social service organizations to become more efficient and effective in their mission, and support data-driven collaboration through ethical data sharing.
The Summit explored tech poverty, the ethical use of community data, and the use and abuse of advanced technologies in the context of community safety. Social impact organizations comprising non-profit, government, and for-profit entities were able to focus on how they can better utilize technology to support their missions and demonstrate impact. As Liz Weaver of the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience noted, "nonprofits, we know, are not adopting digital tech at a pace or scale that other sectors in Canada are, and this comes out of Canada Helps' survey. Only a quarter of nonprofits rate their knowledge of software as Very Good. 54% don't have enough funding, and 38% have integrated technology so it is a challenge that the sector is facing." The disconnect between the social sector and the technology that would move our world forward was noted by many speakers and attendees throughout both days.
Both days of the Social Impact Technology Summit led to many informative discussions and connections between social impact and technology sector organizations to support aligned values and collaborations. Throughout the Summit, attendees were asked to help us map their connections to get a better sense of who our main connectors were and what pinch points affected everyone in the room.
From the graph above, it’s clear that there are several focal points for connections that acted as catalysts for others to meet. While many folks were aware of each other's missions, their understanding of their shared interests was not clear. The need for the Centre to act as a cultivator to spur generative and collaborative interactions was explored. With the tremendous energy from the Summit, we're creating even more great connections, events and opportunities in the new year.
Videos from the Social Impact Tech Summit can be accessed here. Stay tuned for upcoming events and opportunities to connect by signing up for our newsletter.