Four Big Trends for Social Good | npENGAGE

Four Big Trends for Social Good

By on Feb 6, 2017


An example of working together for social good - children's hands cupping clean water

As a leader at a company that sits at the intersection of tech and social good, I came away from this year’s World Economic Forum inspired on both fronts. The emerging technology driving the 4th industrial revolution has incredible potential to change the way we work, live, connect and do more good. And the social good community – across the entire social economy – has powerful potential to ensure that these changes benefit the world.

Here are 4 emerging trends for social good

1. Organizations are embracing the paradigm shift

If one thing was clear at Davos, it was that companies are already shifting rapidly to a new paradigm, preparing for the ways that the 4th industrial revolution will change the world.  Social good organizations (nonprofits, foundations, education institutions, etc.) need to shift too in order to not be left behind – and to ensure that the enormous potential of the fourth industrial revolution is used to lift humankind, not to widen inequity.

What’s more, we’re going to see the paradigm shift directly impact the way we work in the social good space. In the near future, I predict that the tech trends driving this shift will continue to place more pressure on peer-to-peer and “do it yourself” fundraising capabilities.  And institutional funders will continue to place increased emphasis on outcomes and accountability into their grant-making.

Are you building these paradigm shifts into the way you plan, monitor, report and operate?  (See 5 key questions you should be considering as you do here.)

2. Social good organizations will adopt new technology

The tools powering these revolutionary changes in the corporate space can also be leveraged by social good organizations to drive dramatic shifts in effectiveness, scale and outcomes. Nonprofits are going to become more reliant on enablers like AI and quantum modeling, which will drive everything from financial models to marketing campaigns to donor engagement.

If your organization is ready to embrace the new tools of the fourth industrial revolution, but don’t know where to start, start small: with some of the postures that have driven the most innovation. First, embrace agile development – this buzzword simply means an iterative development process shaped by data-driven feedback. Secondly, develop a willingness to “fail.”  The agile approach minimizes the scale of “failure,” allowing your effort (technology or otherwise) to more rapidly adapt to changing needs and to more quickly discover where you are not achieving your objectives.

3. Cross-Sector partnerships will take on a new level of importance

For companies, keeping a small CSR program on the periphery is no longer enough.  As companies re-imagine their corporate social responsibility as what we at Blackbaud have termed human social responsibility, corporations are finding ways to contribute within their core competencies.

At #WEF17, I met Samantha Stein, founder/CEO of Hacktivision, who is leveraging Silicon Valley techniques to coordinate volunteerism in the high-tech community through hackathons benefitting the social good community.  Ericsson is using their technology to sniff out human trafficking—but this required partnerships with experts in the nonprofit and foundation space, to name a few. And companies like Unilever are not only focused on their supply chain, but re-structuring their advertising practices to better support and promote gender equality.

If you’re coming from the nonprofit side, are you leveraging this shift and thinking expansively about the potential good your corporate partners can contribute to your goals?

4. Organizations that embrace the SDGs will lead

At the World Economic Forum this year, I was blown away by the common focus I saw on the Sustainable Development Goals – a UN initiative of 17 Global Goals for sustainable development that set an agenda for the world to achieve by 2030.  Public, private and social sectors are aligned like never before around a common set of indicators. The organizations and companies who come together to embrace them first are going to be on the leading edge.

This is why at Blackbaud, we’re building the Sustainable Development Goals taxonomy into all of our cloud software products, so nonprofits, foundations and corporations can not only track and dialogue around funding and but stay connected to the larger global conversation.

The collaboration and innovative thinking around building a better world I saw at Davos this year encouraged me. We’ve been asking some big questions lately about what it would look like to come together across sectors to build a stronger social economy so that everyone working for good can achieve more.  As I travel home from Davos, I’m even more inspired to push into these concepts to advance the social good space.  For me, that will look like working to push the boundaries of innovation across our software platforms. What will it look like for you?

Part 2 in a 2-part Davos report for the Social Good Community (See Part 1 here)

How will we grow the social economy?


Kevin McDearis is a leader, visionary, and proven business and technology innovator with global experience across a broad spectrum of industries. As Executive Vice President, Chief Products Officer at Blackbaud, Kevin is responsible for strategy, product management, engineering and operations of the company’s global portfolio of products. Working with business and technical teams, he oversees technology strategy to develop solutions that exceed quality and performance expectations for Blackbaud’s customers across 60 countries worldwide.  Kevin has a track record as a pioneer in the online payments space. As a senior leader at Fiserv (formerly CheckFree), a leading global provider of financial services technology, Kevin played key roles in tech innovations that developed the online bill pay capabilities leveraged by millions of individuals and organizations today.

Kevin has a strong commitment to nonprofit leadership and has served on a number of nonprofit boards supporting economic growth, women in technology, and STEM education. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Technology Association of Georgia, TAG, since 2011 and as Vice-Chairman of the Board in 2014. During his time on the board, TAG has grown to be the largest technology association in the country. Kevin most recently joined the Board of Directors for the USS Yorktown Foundation.


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