Sheffield Tech for Good

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 26 February 2016
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Sheffield Tech for Good is a new meet up we're running here at Yoomee. We think it's never been easier to use digital to help tackle some of our society's toughest social challenges. Our city is full of talented tech folk. It's also home to a great community of people who work in the area of social good.

Sheffield Tech for Good provides a place and space for the two groups to come together, be inspired and learn from one another.

Why Tech for Good?

The idea for a meet up like this came out of our investment time at Yoomee, where we explore and experiment with new ideas and projects. Our goal is get the right people talking about and sharing what they know.

We want the meet ups to:

  • inspire tech people to use their skills to create positive social change in our local area
  • inspire non-tech people working on local projects for social good to start applying or better apply digital.

Ultimately, it's about connecting people who live and work in Sheffield for the benefit of our city. The tech and social good worlds don't naturally collide. Tech for Good meet ups provide a space for that to happen.

What do we want to achieve?

While it's great to get people together and share ideas, we want to make sure Sheffield Tech for Good has tangible outcomes too. We want people to go away and do something with what they've heard and learned.

That could mean:

  • tech people volunteering their time to help local voluntary and community groups, charities and social enterprises
  • tech people who work in the commercial sector helping create new tech products and startups for social good
  • people in voluntary and community groups, charities and social enterprises becoming more aware of and learning how to use digital to solve specific problems.

Ultimately, we see Sheffield Tech for Good as a route to action. It's where people meet, learn and collaborate on work that makes a difference.

Off to a flyer

The first meet up took place at Electric Works on 16 February. We'd like to offer a swift high-five and a huge thank you to everyone who came along, contributed and got us off to such a flying start.

We were really pleased with the turnout. A fantastic 53 people came and the feedback so far has been great. We were aiming for a 50/50 split of people working in tech and social good. There were 10 more from the world of tech, so that's something we can work on for next time.

What happened?

Every meet up will have its own theme. This first event was about mental health and we had four speakers – two tech and two social good – who talked about the topic for 10 minutes. There was five minutes for questions after each talk.

Susan Smith started by talking about her own mental health journey and how Crookes Forum has helped. Such community groups have the power to help build fulfilling lives, not just in a physical place but also online. She also mentioned how Sheffield Flourish has been a great way to connect with technology.

Next up was Lucy Andrews from Manor and Castle Development Trust talking about a paper system the trust uses with people who use its services. She asked the tech community for helping digitising it, and in an unplanned live demonstration of what the meet up is all about, many people suggested Trello as a way to make the system digital.

I was also one of the speakers, and tried to demystify the Lean Startup approach talking about how we've used it to make new online services for vulnerable communities. Starting small is vital, as is building prototypes, measuring and learning as you go. Be prepared to change your plan and accept that your original assumptions were wrong!

The last speaker, Eve Critchley from Mind talked about the importance of engaging with users in the design and co-creation of the amazing Elefriends platform – a safe online space for people who are finding life difficult – also built using Lean Startup principles.

Some thank yous

We need to dish out a few more high-fives to our wonderful sponsors who helped make the first Tech for Good possible.

Thanks to Electric Works for providing the venue free of charge. They're doing the same for the next three events too.

We're also indebted to Tech North, who kindly agreed to sponsor the food and beer for the first four meet ups.

Finally, the delicious pies were cooked up by the folks at Pie Eyed.

Stay in touch

There are a couple of ways you can keep up to date with what's happening next around Tech for Good in Sheffield.

Firstly, the Sheffield Tech for Good website is the place to go for more information and sign up for updates about upcoming meet ups. You can also see who spoke at previous meet ups and find out how you can become a speaker yourself.

On Twitter, you can follow @shefftech4good and feel free to use the #shefftech4good hashtag to share news, photos, quotes and anything else you think is relevant.

We'd also like your feedback and ideas, and would be chuffed if you could fill out this short questionnaire to help us plan future events.

Posted on 26 February 2016 - By Andy Mayer
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