The need for tech volunteering in the social development sector

Over the last couple of years, a few of us volunteering under the umbrella of FOSS United, have been helping non-profit organisations working in the social development sector with tech capacity.

I have realised that this sector has extremely limited technical capacity which seriously affects their ability to do the important social development work they set out to do, be it work with civic issues, poverty, education, or climate. Here, tech isn’t the solution to these problems (it rarely is), but is aid to solving problems better, reducing wast of time, money, and effort. Even tiny optimisations can be deeply impactful and meaningful in social development.

Here are a few examples where volunteers actually built software pro-bono for social development orgs. Many of these were quickly built on top of Frappe (instead of something like Django) as it comes baked with a lot of high level workflows and components that most of these orgs require. Turns out, often, it’s CRUD, forms, views, reports, permissions, and data based workflows. Case studies for these are pending.

Volunteering to help social development orgs and non-profits

After having spoken to dozens of non-profits and helped them in whatever ways I can, I’m now convinced that it is possible for technologists to create significant impact by helping social development orgs become efficient with tech, often with surprisingly minimal time and effort. This is an area that we, the tech community, seem to have neglected.

Often, trivial advice can save an org significant amounts of time and money (which NGOs are always struggling for). Here are some actual examples from my experience:

  • “No need to do all of that, just use WordPress. If you don’t have any way to install it, you can signup online on wordpress.org
  • “You don’t have to build a mobile app. A simple static site will solve the problem, has no maintenance, and can be done for free by using X, Y, Z …”
  • “Just use Metabase for creating and publishing dashboards. No need to get any software built.”
  • “Why not just use Whatsapp or Telegram instead of trying to build an app?”

The amount of money that the NGO world loses to proprietary from-scratch software development when there’s absolutely no need to, is astounding and saddening. Why? For the simple reason there are very few tech folks in the NGO world as opposed to the industry. This is not going to change because the NGO world can never compete with the industry when it comes to money to attract tech talent. Also, due to this systemic lack of tech capacity in the NGO world, most NGOs do not even know whom to ask for help or what to ask even.

Alongside the time I spend working on my hobby projects, I’ve decided to dedicate time to helping as many orgs this way for as long as possible. Sometimes advice, sometimes hands-on software dev. Whatever I can. I’ve started to see this as a hobby even!

I think every tech person, especially FOSS folks who are interested in contributing to projects, should consider volunteering time to help NGOs and orgs in the social development sector. The impact there can be immense.

For those who are interested (please do leave a comment here), maybe we should create a group or a mailing list or something to share volunteering opportunities that come our way.

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I will be interested in contributing in whatever way possible.

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Definitely interested in volunteering whenever I can

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A hundred times this! I don’t have time to volunteer because I’m already struggling to meet the 100 volunteering things in this sector. Will happily share some opportunities

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Interested in volunteering. :smile:

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I started my side projects by creating a static website for an NGO 13 years ago , I would like to contribute to Social cause technically

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Interested!
A group sounds like a good idea.

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Interested!

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Interested to help in whatever way possible.

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I’m interested to volunteer, feel free to reach out :raised_hand_with_fingers_splayed:

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Interested in volunteering.

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I’m interested in volunteering too.

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I would love to get involved and help wherever I can.

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I am interested in volunteering. My developer journey started as a consultant for a non profit org so I will be glad to go back to my roots.

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Interested in helping

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Happy to volunteer and contribute to this initiative in any way I can.

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I too would love to volunteer.

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Interested in volunteering. I have some understanding in working in setting up mesh networks, Indic language computing. Feel free to reach out.

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I am also interested in contributing in whatever way I can.

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I would be happy to help :+1:

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