The best #techforgood of 2016.

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The best #techforgood of 2016.

It’s December, and more pertinently, almost New Year. And generally, around this kind of time, people start to reflect on the year. For many of us, 2016 has not been a great year. I’m not going to make a list of all the bad things that have happened, because it would be too depressing (still sad about Alan Rickman), and no one needs reminding. Plus, I think the fabulous people of Twitter have expressed my thoughts better than I could hope to:

Put simply:

So, instead of focusing on all the face-palm moments of 2016, I thought I’d cheer us all up with a list of the best of the (many) fabulous ways that non-profits have used technology and digital for good this year. I’ve talked before about how digital can support the work of charities, and cited examples of the amazing work being done in the sector. But here it’s just a list of the best of tech for good that happened in 2016.

Before I start this though, I should say, this is not scientific. At all! It’s just my opinion.

Nor is it extensive, it was incredibly difficult to narrow it down, I went through triple figures of examples (and there are likely many more I’m not aware of), all I can say is, wow. This sector of ours is totally amazing 🤩! There is definitely a lot more fantastic work being done by charities that I won’t have talked about here, so if you think I’ve missed something that should have made the list, please do let me know in the comments below, I always like hearing about new ways people have used tech for good!

So, on with the list…


Best app of 2016: Eden, SOS Children’s Villages.

SOS Children’s Villages have developed a new emergency response app to support their work with refugees. In reaction to the increasingly pressing need for humanitarian aid and assistance, resulting from the ‘European refugee crisis’, the app (called Eden) helps vulnerable refugees notify aid organisations of urgent needs, such as the need for medical assistance. Aid organisations can also use Eden to communicate with each other about resources and such, to quickly decide how best to respond, thereby avoiding more than one agency responding to the same incident.

I just love this. It’s always great to see examples of tech being used directly to support an organisations work, rather than a campaign or fundraising. Not that these things aren’t important, of course they are, but it is all kinds of inspiring to see digital literally helping charities do the things they exist to do. Not so long ago the technology didn’t exist to make this app, and now it’s saving lives!


Best game of 2016 : Sea Hero Quest, Alzheimer’s Research UK.

This year has seen a number of good examples of gamification and what you might generally categorise under ‘gaming for good’. For example, it was very impressive how quickly charities such as Macmillan, Cancer Research UK, and Brooke were able to jump on the popularity of Pokémon Go to support their fundraising, or campaigning, as in the case of Water Aid’s ‘Pookémon’ spoof.

But, my favourite example of gaming for good this year is Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Sea Hero Quest. The game is reminiscent of Cancer Research UK’s Reverse the Odds, in that it’s not just a game, it’s also crowdsourcing data to help scientists to conduct research. On the face of it, Sea Hero Quest is a mobile game in which you charge about in a boat, collecting treasure and chasing sea creatures. But, of course, it is so much more than that!

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, one of the first signs of dementia is loss of navigational skills (i.e. getting lost more), but at the moment there is no benchmark of what is ‘normal’, so when people begin to show poorer navigational skills it’s not clear if it’s a result of dementia or just a natural consequence of ageing. That’s where Sea Hero Quest comes in, because as you play your navigational data is tracked and stored and is helping to create a benchmark.

You can find more information about the game on the beautifully designed Sea Hero Quest website. But here are the key things you need to know, playing Sea Hero Quest for two minutes generates the same amount of data that it would take scientists five hours to collect. Almost 2.5 million people have played the game, making it the largest dementia study ever, having generated an equivalent of 9500 years’ worth of dementia research! In fact, you can already see some first results of the research.


Best digital fundraising of 2016: The Wonderful Organisation.

My recognition here goes to The Wonderful Organisation, for developing an online donation platform where 100% of donations go to the organisation. As in, no fees, no transaction costs, no deductions on gift aid. The Wonderful Organisation is itself non-profit, and run by volunteers, they work with philanthropic businesses and corporate sponsors to cover all the costs so that there are no charges on donations. A number of charities are already listed on the site, including some biggies like Cancer Research UK and Mind, and you can request your own organisation be listed on the website. I am so excited and intrigued to see how this site develops!

But, before I move on, it would be remiss of me if, when talking about digital fundraising, I didn’t mention Pennies. And more specifically, the fact that in August, Pennies announced that since their launch in 2010, they have raised over £7.5m (that’s m for million!) for charity, from over 32 million micro-donations. With the growth in online shopping and increasing use of contactless technology for payments, people just aren’t carrying cash like they used to – research by YouGov and CAF recently found that 37% of adults carry £10 of cash or less at any given time, and 8% carry no cash at all, an increase from 5% in 2013. And if people aren’t carrying cash they can’t put their lose change in the charity collection box at the till. But, the ‘digital charity box’ Pennies, allows you to round up payments online and donate the extra small change to charity. So, if you buy something for £5.95 you would pay £6 with the additional 5p being donated. It’s a fantastic use of tech, reflecting the changes in the way that people shop and pay for things, and the numbers speak for themselves on the success of this approach to fundraising!


Best social media of 2016: Tap-to-choose Instagram campaign, National Trust.

A couple of months ago the National Trust tried out something new on Instagram to mark the anniversary of Capability Brown’s birth, and if you’re wondering who that is, you’re not the only one. He was a famous landscape architect, but a lot of people haven’t heard of him, so when it came to celebrating his work they couldn’t really just post some images with information about him. They wanted to do something that would help people learn about who he was in a way that would be fun and interesting. So, they posted images that presented options for you to pick what happens next, as if you were living Brown’s life. Like the old ‘chose your own adventure’ books, each post presents a scenario and you tap an option to choose how to respond.

I thought this was just such a clever use of social media, bringing in the idea of gamification and using Instagram in a new way to tell this story. It’s engaging, informative and funny, and you can do it yourself by clicking here to start on the first picture. It’s not just me that thought it was good, according to the National Trust it was very well received, they reported receiving almost 200% more comments on these posts than they usually would, they got press coverage for it because it was so popular, and they’ve had so much positive feedback about it that they’ve said they will definitely be thinking about ways to do something like this again.

In fact it’s such a good idea that other people are doing it too, if you enjoy the National Trust’s tap-to-chose posts then you might also want to have a look at Set Anita Free from Save the Children.


Best video of 2016: Respect the Water, RNLI.

Choosing just one amazing charity video was the hardest of all of these categories. It’s not a huge surprise, this year has been a fantastic year for video of all sorts, it’s booming generally, all over the internet. So much so that it’s estimated that video traffic will be 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020.

There were a number of videos I thought were fantastic, including Amnesty International’s Look Beyond Border’s 4 minutes experiment, Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s Breathe – Life Unlimited, and BBC Media Action’s Your phone is now a refugee’s phone (which you should watch on your smartphone, not desktop, to get the full experience).

But of all of the many videos I watched, RNLI’s videos for their Respect the Water campaign, really stuck in my mind. I especially like The Breathe Test, it demonstrates how difficult it is to hold your breath for long enough to survive were you to fall into the water, by getting you to hold your breath while watching a video of someone struggling to stay above water in first person perspective. The fact that its show as if it is you drowning really helps it hit home, you feel the urgency and stress, and that’s when you’re safe and dry sitting at a desk. They also have an interactive ‘What would you do?’ video (similar to the idea behind the National Trust’s Instagram campaign discussed above), that presents a range of scenarios you have to respond to, and in that way helps you learn what is the correct thing to do when you or someone else falls into water. The videos don’t pull any punches either, they’re all shot from your perspective and sometimes you die! It’s a way of demonstrating how dangerous water can be, and it does really help you take it more seriously.


So that’s it, that’s my list.

You may have noticed that nothing virtual reality based appears in the list, which isn’t to say that some fab stuff isn’t being done in this area, it is, but it’s still relatively new. But I’m guessing this will have changed by next year, I imagine there will be a lot more 360 video, VR and AR on my list in 2017.

What do you think of my ranking? Are there any you agree or disagree on? Let me know what you think in the comments, and any other great examples I’ve not talked about here, as I said above I always enjoy hearing about new ways people are using tech for good.

Austin Clark, Charity Digital News (21st June 2016) Charity app boosting aid delivery

Kirsty Weakley, Civil Society (14th July 2016) Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and Brooke use Pokemon Go to encourage fundraising

Rebecca Smith, Third Sector (8th August 2016) Watch: WaterAid uses toilet humour in ‘Pookémon’ parody

Sea Hero Quest (2016) Why Play Sea Hero Quest

David Hobbs, Third Sector (23rd November 2016) Watch: Mobile game raises hopes for dementia breakthrough

Austin Clark, Charity Digital News (24th October 2016) New fundraising platform promises to pass on 100% of donations

Hugh Radojev, Civil Society (9th September 2016) Pennies has now raised £7.5m through 32 million micro-donations

YouGov and the Charities Aid Foundation (July 2016) Appetite for donation

Kirsty Marrins, Third Sector (15th September 2016) National Trust’s winning tap-to-choose Instagram game

Cisco (2015) Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2015–2020

Austin Clark, Charity Digital News (1st June 2016) Amnesty International experiment breaks down refugee barriers (Video)

Austin Clark, Charity Digital News (3rd March 2016) Unique music video project launched by charity

Open laptop displaying Fancy Guppy's January 2018 social media calendar.
  • Ross MacLeod
    Posted at 11:47h, 07 December Reply

    Hi Michaela, thank you for recognising the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign in your blog, its great to get recognition for all the hard work many people at our charity have put in to create Breathe and the interactive film you’ve seen. Unfortunately around 200 people still drown around the UK and Irish coast every year so we need to take a disruptive approach to make people aware of the risks so they can enjoy themselves safely near the water.

    If people would like to find out more about the campaign go to of search #RespectTheWater on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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