By Ildiko Almasi

Technology has the potential to address some of the most pressing issues faced by society today.

As you can tell, I am a technology optimist, inspired by the incredible initiatives in healthcare, education, environmental sustainability and social impact initiatives. For businesses, particularly those led by women, or those with a strong focus on gender equality, integrating technology into their social impact strategies can drive meaningful and measurable outcomes. Women are particularly important in driving the innovative use of technology.

The European Institute for Gender Equality conducted a study in 2019 and found that young women aged 16-24 are more likely to use technology creatively for sharing online compared to men in the same age group. Now, the AI revolution can also create opportunities for women across industries through automating tasks, and some might also argue that AI has the potential to contribute to equal opportunities by eliminating biases in recruitment for instance. Technology can also help women decrease the time spent on ‘office housework’ by automating tasks such as scheduling events, taking notes, organising leaving presents or ordering food. Because let’s face it, women are responsible for most of these tasks.

If you are a woman business owner, I’m sure you’ve wondered how you can work more efficiently, not only on your core business tasks but also on extracurricular initiatives. Let’s see what technology can do for companies to improve their social impact:

Strategy

Technology – and I’m not talking about search engines – can support your company to define and refine your social impact strategy. AI is a powerful tool to be leveraged to do research for your industry, company size, customer base and social impact targets. Research assistants can go through large scale data to tailor social impact strategies specifically for your needs. Whether you want to work on education, healthcare, or supporting vulnerable women in your communities, maximising your social impact happens through researching the topic, understanding the needs and aligning your actions to those needs. AI research assistants can also help you change your strategy if your priority areas, budget or resources change. Remember, these bots are trained on millions of data points. It means that you have access to this wealth of knowledge within seconds to improve your strategies. This was unimaginable a few years ago!

Technology to donate and fundraise

The most basic – and I don’t mean this in a bad way – a form of social impact initiative is supporting existing charities or organisations on their journey. Donating and fundraising are well-known concepts in this field that require pragmatic approaches which are fine-tuned to the realities. Charities were amongst the first organisations to realise how useful contactless payments were and enabled them to be smarter with their fundraising efforts. Nowadays, charity workers carry contactless payment machines to ensure that whoever wants to make a donation can easily do it without having to have cash.

Blockchain has also been mentioned as a great way to streamline microfinance and crowd-funding efforts, making it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to access funding. Smart contracts can automate and enforce loan agreements, reducing the need for intermediaries and lowering transaction costs. Microfinance platforms – that you can support – using blockchain can provide transparent and secure lending processes, ensuring that funds are distributed fairly, and repayments are tracked accurately.

Measuring and demonstrating your impact

The more I work with social impacts, the more I realise that in today’s world, impacts that are not measured don’t get credit. Data analytics platforms are among the most powerful tools for measuring social impact. These platforms can process vast amounts of data from various sources, including surveys, social media, and real-time monitoring systems to provide a detailed picture of an organisation’s influence. There are countless options for tech enthusiasts to deploy software to automate data collection and measure the impact created by their initiatives. There are also solutions to automate report writing in line with certain voluntary and mandatory standards. Whatever your social impact goals are you can certainly find the technology to automate your impact measurement and reporting.

Platforms for social impact investing

Impact investing, and more specifically social impact investing, has been a hot topic for many years now. Various platforms have emerged to facilitate this form of investing, providing investors with opportunities to fund projects and companies dedicated to addressing social and environmental issues. These platforms largely serve as intermediaries, connecting socially conscious investors with ventures that align with their values, thereby fostering a more sustainable and equitable economy. Interesting initiatives have emerged where for instance individuals can lend money to low-income entrepreneurs and students across the globe. Investors can fund microloans to support small businesses, education and healthcare in underserved communities. This peer-to-peer lending model not only empowers borrowers by providing them with the capital needed to improve their livelihoods but also allows investors to see the tangible impact of their contributions.

As we continue to innovate and leverage these tools, we realise secondary use cases that might result in even more social impact for our purposes. The focus on long term sustainability, whether we are addressing social or environmental issues, should be a priority to ensure a brighter future for all of us.


About the author

Ildiko Almasi Simsic is a distinguished social development specialist with 15 years of experience in the realm of development finance. She has worked with organisations such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme. Her expertise spans a multitude of sectors, including mining, agriculture, renewables, oil and gas, energy, water, transportation, and financial intermediaries. Her multidimensional background encompasses labour and supply chain management, involuntary resettlement, livelihood restoration, and environmental and social management system assessment.

Ildiko is also author of What Is A Social Impact? which is a comprehensive guide to achieving social sustainability, providing clarity on what it really means to be socially impactful, and analyses the key social impact tools available for individuals and organisations alike to drive positive change.  Ildiko is also Founder of E&S solutions which has developed the world’s first E&S specific research assistant – myESRA™ which saves hours ESG research.