Tech For Good Cambridge Meetup

20th September 2015 Posted by: Cassie Robinson

On Thursday evening we ran the first Tech For Good meet up group in Cambridge, in partnership with Bethnal Green Ventures, Allia, CamJelly and Social Incubator East at the Future Business Centre. We had 110 people sign up to the meetup group over the last 3 weeks and about 35 people attended out of the 45 that signed up to come that evening. 

We’ve been wanting to set something up in Cambridge for about a year. It has such a huge tech community and a lot of invention and innovation going on in the City and surrounding area. For the first one we decided to keep the theme broad, inviting Jess Stacey from Bethnal Green Ventures to come and give a talk about what BGV does but more widely in terms of the trends that they have seen developing in the field  of Tech For Good as Bethnal Green Ventures has grown. Jess gave a great presentation, available to download here, which talked through themes, numbers, trends, opportunities all in relation to start-ups. It was also a great reminder of the demand for the Tech For Good meetups when she said that the last London meet up had 200 people sign up within 3 hours, so that there is now a waiting list. Over 2 years the BGV team and CAST have grown the London meet up to just over 2500 people. With them, we are hoping to do more of these around the UK. Glasgow, we think you might be next!

After Jess we had Philip Colligan. We’d invited Philip to talk more broadly about social innovation, about the challenges facing public services, and other social challenges that he had spent a lot of time thinking about and designing programmes around when he set up and ran Nesta’s Innovation Lab. As we are always holding the Cedric Price quote“ if technology was the answer what was the question” at the forefront of our minds, we wanted Philip to bring some of the questions in to the room. Upon leaving Nesta recently, after 5 years, Philip shared 3 themes that he’d taken away with him in terms of where he sees the opportunity and need for “tech for good”. 

The first was mobilising people to help each other - rethinking the way public services interact with people and their relationships and how we change how people relate to each other, not just through public services.

Second on the list was data. Governments and public services don’t think anywhere near enough about what data they have. Open data is just one part of this, but Philip sees more potential inthedecisionmakingsphere. Where social workers, teachers and firefighters (just some of the examples) could have their decision making enhanced (not removed). This could be applied in the case of domestic violence where case workers currently rely on reams of paperwork to tell them who is at risk, whereas digital data systems could give them this information at their fingertips. 

The third area that Philip talked about was the change that is happening in government and in public services. He said that some of the most exciting things are where new forms of practice are being brought in to governments through experimental spaces like Labs, helping to test new forms of policy making and the ways in which governments buy things. We have started to document some of this work through our Tech + Institutions series. 

Lastly Philip went on to talk about his new role as Chief Executive of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They are just a few Raspberry Pi’s away from having sold 7 Million around the world. Philip is on a brilliant Tech For Good mission here, to put the power of digital making in to the hands of as many people as possible, and whilst they are increasingly used in education and industry, and have in the past been associated with young people, Philip mentioned some intergenerational programmes that are on the horizon as well as sending a Raspberry Pi to the International Space Station. Look out for that on December 15th at 11.03am.

We loved the ways the talks intersected, showing the growing field of tech for good through the start-up community  alongside some of the institutional and organisational initiatives that are happening. 

After the talks and whilst people drank their beer and chatted, we asked them to answer some questions around the walls on posters:

  • What themes would they like to see us cover in the Cambridge Tech For Good meetups?
  • Where are the opportunities for Tech For Good in Cambridge and the surrounding area?
  • What are the names of people and organisations who are working in the Tech For Good field locally?

 We will be writing another blog post with the answers to these and the dates for the next few meetups.

Thank you again to our speakers and all our partners!

If you’d like to join the Cambridge one, sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/Cambridge-Tech-For-Good-Meetup/

And the London one here: http://www.meetup.com/techforgood/

Quote

"Governments and public services don’t think anywhere near enough about what data they have. Open data is just one part of this, but Philip sees more potential in the decision making sphere."

Links

Bethnal Green Venture Slides (pdf)

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