Takeaways from New Philanthropy Capital’s “Future of Tech” event

James Curtis
3 min readFeb 6, 2020


Image used with permission from New Philanthropy Capital. Source: https://bit.ly/2IVYQDG

I went to an event on the ‘Future of Tech’ in the charity sector. The panel discussions were fairly broad ranging but regularly returned to the impact that technology has had by changing the pace of society and how charities can catch up. I wrote notes while at the event and highlighted in bold the areas I thought were most relevant/interesting.

Put human rights at the centre of everything.

Charities need to figure out how to rebuild society’s architecture to resolve problems of misuse of social media. Each time we haul the tech giants in front of parliamentary committees, work with them, etc. each time we say ‘you have to fix this for you’, we give away the power to define the problem and define the solution. It has never worked. When we do this, we try to turn them into something they are not, which is a company whose core value is not to make a profit. The solutions we are offered will never be disruptive. Because it takes time for legal systems to catch up, a tech company is less regulated than a crayon manufacturer. What we should have been doing the past 10 years is to change the legal, moral, social, architectures.

Charity sector has a voice that can be raised to build trust. There are new possible allies in the tech world of groups who have been creating the concepts, the theories, behind ethical use of technology. — (Ed: like Newspeak House?)

It is part of a charity’s core role to gather information to help itself change. A good example is Reach Volunteering who provide matchmaking platform between skills volunteers and charities — the person who sits at the telephone desk and answers the phone always asks some standard questions of charities who call which provide key insights into the charity’s understanding of their ‘industry’.

The Government’s prevailing narrative on technology is that it is dangerous for young people. The charity sector can bring to light the positive counter-narrative, the expertise and potential of young people with technology. People assume that young people are either incredibly vulnerable or digital natives. The research shows that young people express more confidence in their use of technology than their actual use indicates. But what is definitely happening is that young people are spending a lot of time online without being given instruction on what it is to be a moral digital citizen. The hate speech and harassment that is seen online is because the online space is seen as a very different space; one of quasi-anonymity and with moral turpitude.

If you want something to go viral, tie an idea to an emotionally rousing piece of content. You have to within half a second make someone be outraged, laugh or cry long before they engage with the material consciously. This sort of thing is used in political campaigns or in the immediate wake of terrorist campaigns. The way to fix this is to deal with the ways platforms work (e.g. slow down the speed of sharing), or to educate on how to recognise this primordial reaction and take a moment before sharing something.

Fullfact’s technology is advanced because they have access to tools and datasets that were not public; however, if they were open to the public they could be used for commercial reasons. However, organisations like open corporates are able to have both open data and a business model.

Funders look for force multiplier opportunities. Some charities are creating information products between themselves which might be valuable. There may be a collective bargaining opportunity for charities to access data from tech giants instead of the current beg, borrow, steal model. There could be some sort of foundation to host and bring together data sets.

Charities could collaborate by having more combined goals between them (e.g. homeless link put together different data sets from different charities to put together a clearer picture for policy lobbying). — (homeless link is a great example!)

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



James Curtis

Co-founder of Radical Engineers. On a mission to create a world where passion can inform ambition. Interested in how technology can expand creative industries.