Social enterprise is growing at a fast pace. It’s estimated that more than 70,000 social enterprises operate in the UK and more than 20,000 here in Australia.
This doesn’t count the hundreds of thousands of others operating in the rest of the world.
But what is social enterprise? What’s the difference between social enterprise and nonprofits? According to serial entrepreneur and humanitarian Atul Tandon, the for-profit and nonprofit labels are entirely tax related, as nonprofits have different taxation rules. Social enterprise to Tandon is “an enterprise that is focused on building the social good, the common good. It could be for-profit, it could be nonprofit, it could be a cooperative.”
Social enterprise in the technology space is exciting and diverse. In this post we showcase 5 technology focused social enterprises making a difference to our world.
Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees with its ad revenue. Since its launch in 2009, the site’s helped to plant more than 4 million trees around the world.
Christian Kroll founded the business after a round-the-world trip exposed him to the devastation caused by deforestation. The platform offers an in-browser extension, which makes it easier to search on the go. The business also stands out as it is completely transparent. Business reports are available to view at any time, as are donations to the organisations that coordinate the tree planting.
Free Code Camp is an open-source community helping people around the world to learn to code. What makes this organisation stand out is their commitment to helping nonprofits. To begin, a new coder goes through 1,200 hours of free coding challenges. After this, the coder then begins working on projects for nonprofits in pairs and under the supervision of a volunteer project manager and a stakeholder from the nonprofit. So far, Free Code Camp’s donated more than $1,000,000 word of pro-bono coding. In total a coder completes a 2,080 hours of free training to complete a Full Stack Developer certificate.
GlobalGiving is a crowdfunding platform for connecting nonprofits, donors and companies. The platform’s main aim is to make it possible for local organisations to access funding, tools, training and support to make the world a better place.
So far, more than $228 million have been exchanged by 533,604 donors to 14,844 projects. Many projects are seeking funding, from securing teachers in Afghanistan for girls to helping raise money to buy seeds to grow food for Honduras, the projects are diverse. GlobalGiving takes 15% of each donation to run the platform, cover credit card transaction fees, administration costs and help put more into the website. Considering the average American believes an NGO or nonprofit should spend 23% or less of on overheads, GlobalGiving is doing well to come in at 8% less at 15%.
Umoove is a face and eye tracking software that does not require any special hardware add-ons and can work on almost any smart device. The original aim of the startup was to improve access to health care. Health issues such as ADHD, concussions, strokes, autism, Parkinson's and more can all be detected through the eyes. Umoove says this means that with no extra hardware, any mobile can become an advanced medical device diagnosing and tracking brain activity, dramatically impacting major healthcare markets around the world.
FairPhone is a social enterprise that is building fairer electronics. Their first product, FairPhone, runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop, has 64gb of space and two sim card slots. The Amsterdam based company believes there are many sociological and ecological standards that can be improved on. And while they admit they’re not perfect, their transparency is what makes this technology company interesting. They only work with suppliers who have high-standards for their employees. They use conflict-free tin and tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo, their design also enables users to repair their phone’s broken elements, instead of completely replacing the entire unit.
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Can you think of any more technology-based social enterprises we should cover? Let us know in the comments below.