A manifesto for cooperative innovation

A manifesto for cooperative innovation

'Tech for good' needs a rethink

Organisations tackling climate change, social inequality and economic injustice are working on the greatest challenges facing humankind and our planet. Yet some of the most effective innovations and digital skills to address these issues remain inaccessible to the impact sector and, even when they are applied, lack the technology stewardship and contextual understanding of the systems of power and inequality that perpetuate these problems. 

For early-stage social impact startups, one of the most common barriers to service development is the lack of technical expertise. These founders often rely on inconsistent pro-bono support, sometimes delaying their ability to test and iterate for months, even years. Similarly, over 50% of charities still don’t have a digital strategy and just 12% of them are planning for the impact of developments in emerging tech and AI. 

These gaps and delays mean that many insight-led concepts are never designed and life-changing prototypes never built - equating to thousands of people not receiving improved healthcare, young people missing out on mental health services, those in temporary accommodation waiting longer for housing support, hundreds of donations left uncollected.

Not every social justice or climate change issue can or should be solved with an app, but increasingly, a connected capability underpins these missions - from local activist organising to global food distribution programmes. Despite the work of many civic and social tech organisations, the ‘tech for good’ movement often leads to solution-led approaches (corporate-sponsored ‘hackathon’ days) and a dependency on service design agencies, third party app engineers or pro-bono developer support.

Impact Edit is an alternative digital agency for the new economy, founded on the principles of cooperative innovation. We’re not ‘tech for good’, we’re good tech for organisations changing systems and we exist to do three things:

Develop affordable digital products

Partnering with organisations tackling climate change, social inequality and economic injustice, we’re passionate about meeting their immediate technology needs by designing and developing affordable tech products at pace, to amplify impact. 

Delivering beyond wireframes and MVPs with an engineering capability that gets reliable, market-ready products, apps and websites into the hands of those who need them. 

Build a pipeline of future tech talent

We believe in the power of a social and environmental impact sector that has its own vibrant tech talent, rather than a long-term dependency on digital agencies.

Today’s computer science graduates are the most likely to be unemployed and there’s a growing movement of self-taught ‘no coders’ looking to gain further training. This next generation of hackers, app developers and data analysts are less interested in working for big tech giants - they want to work for purpose not profit. 

We’re committed to building a pipeline of future CTOs, Digital Directors and Product Leads for the new economy. Digital literacy alone cannot solve the capability gap in the sector. Working on projects with us before being seconded to or hired by our clients - these designers and developers hone technical skills, combined with the deep social and economic justice context needed to innovate with insight - to become the future guardians of impact technology that will help to protect the climate and overcome injustices. 

Commit to cooperative innovation

We believe in digital innovation that is owned by our community. Impact Edit has ambitions to become a Cooperative in 2021 - a social enterprise owned by our workers and partner members. Our commitment to inclusive, democratic business and accessible innovation is written into our organisational governance and informs the way we make decisions and build our practice collectively. Through an open and equitable model we define value through mutual exchange, partnerships for capacity building and regenerative growth.

AI and data ethics is no longer a theoretical debate. Our cooperative innovation approach means being brave about these issues. We believe that the digital products and services of the future must be designed with ethical first principles - from the diversity of those writing the code and algorithms, to the way data is managed, stored and shared. The landscape is changing all the time - we boldly commit to learning and taking responsibility for shaping the agenda.

Let’s get started!

Founded during a year of unprecedented change, at Impact Edit we can’t wait to share more about the exciting new projects we’ll be working on in 2021, introduce our amazing advisors, announce some powerful partnership collaborations and continue to connect with and learn from our incredibly supportive peer organisations in social, green and civic tech. 

Thanks to the backing and support from our partner Studio Graphene, we believe that with the right stewardship, technology and digital innovation will be the guardians of social and environmental justice.