Could you be a Digital Superhero? Julie Dodd (Camp Digital 2016)

Here’s a summary of Julie Dodd’s talk at this year’s Camp Digital conference.

Julie argues that digital superheroes…:

  1. Make products that really help people

    e.g. the Ugly Mugs app, built for sex workers to make sex work safer, or Tony Canning’s use of 3D printing to reduce the cost of prosthetic limbs from £20,000 to £40 – and reducing production time from months to hours – and making the technology available open source so that others can use it.

  2. Use any tool or platform that they can get their hands on

    BBC used Whatsapp at the height of Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014 to provide information. Largely simple infographics. Reached 20,000 people in the first 3 months who were otherwise very hard to reach. The BBC used existing technology as it was cheaper, quicker and more effective.

    Crowdfunding sites – e.g. Kickstarter and IndieGogo – reduce the need for people to go through a middleman. Charities need to think what this means for them.
    Girl Scouts in America used IndieGogo to raise funds after rejecting a $100,000 transphobic donation. The troop of Girl Scouts that turned down the donation started a crowdfunding campaign that raised 4 times as much money – and sent out a powerful message about inclusion. They also changed the policy of how the national organisation takes donations.

  3. Aren’t frightened to try new ways to do things

    For example bringing in service design thinking or agile methogologies.

    St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington has created the ‘Helix centre’ innovation lab. It’s focused on lean, iterative solutions and combines online and offline. Projects include increasing rates of bowel cancer screening, offering guidance for clinicians on how to communicate about end of life care, asthma management tools for kids, dealing with storage of IV fluids.

    The Town of Jun use twitter for civic discourse and interactions – e.g. booking an appointment with the doctor or making a complaint. Everyone was trained. Saw a rise in public workers being thanked.

  4. Can be found anywhere – not just in tech.

    Google studied a favela in Rio, and didn’t expect to find much technology. Rather, they found a flourishing ecosystem, with radio stations, cyber cafes. With the proliferation of smartphones, people often ‘leapfrog’ the desktop ‘stage’ of development.

  5. Can have significant impact on organisations.

    The British Library now conceives of itself as a data institution, rather than a custodian of physical objects.
    The #tweetmythesis movement encourages academics to share their thesis in a tweet.

  6. Can have an impact in major commercial brands too.

    Barclays set up Digital Eagles programme, driven by the profit motive of reducing cost by moving more people to online banking. (And thereby reducing interaction costs, e.g. staff and branch costs). So it has trained 20,000 staff to train people across the community.

  7. Should work for organisations interested in changing.

    When researching “The New Reality” Julie found some organisations just weren’t interested in digital transformation. She thinks many won’t survive a decade, and wants to spend her energy not fighting those ones to change, but working for the ones that do want to change.

A few miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Recommended meetups: Citizen Beta and Tech for Good
  • “Apps without marketing are pointless”
  • If you do pro bono work with a charity, make clear the equivalent financial value. Otherwise they won’t value it because it’s free.
  • “Asking people to experiment is easier than asking them to commit”

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