When we first launched the Tech Advisors For Social Change program in 2022, we hoped for it to address a big gap that we had observed in the tech capabilities of social enterprises. Through our engagement with multiple such organisations, both in and outside of our portfolio, we realised that they often didn’t have the deep expertise needed to build a scalable tech architecture – something that hindered their ability to grow.
As an organisation that’s rooted at the cusp of the venture capital and startup ecosystems and deeply believes in the power of collective action, we instinctively knew that leveraging external tech experts could not only give social enterprises the advisory they needed, but also give such volunteers an opportunity to contribute towards creating social impact in a meaningful way.
It all started as a tweet by Mekin Maheshwari, our ACT For Education investing committee member, that invited fellow techies from his network to apply for the Tech Advisors For Social Change program – that single tweet catalysed 80+ tech experts to raise their hands and our journey began in the most serendipitous of ways!
Our first cohort had 8 senior tech experts, each of whom we matched to a social impact organisation in the education space that had identified a very specific tech challenge statement. The 3-4 month engagement saw these advisors collaborate with their respective matched organisations on areas that ranged from restructuring backend operations to influence scale or creating effective data dashboards to gain user insights.
Saraswati Chandra was one such Tech Advisor who helped Rocket Learning, an ed-tech non-profit working on early childhood education, create a product testing framework that gamified their Whatsapp based solution and accelerated the participating children’s engagement!
“Building products and technologies that work at scale is hard. Through my startup journey, I have benefited from advisors who inspired me to pay it forward. It was great to apply product-building concepts to solutions that are designed for Bharat,” she says.
Our experience with the first cohort bolstered our conviction in our approach and we focused on fine-tuning the program structure to enable a better experience for both sides involved. Our biggest takeaway was the need to foster a growing community of tech experts that could go beyond short-term 1:1 relationships to become universally accessible to social enterprises when they encountered challenges and needed custom-focused mentorship.
So this year, as we get the 2nd cohort in gear, we’ve fine-tuned our approach to match a resident advisor to each participating organisation as well as match a visiting advisor for specific use cases. We have also expanded the program to organisations within the healthcare and climate action spaces and are working with the social enterprises to hyper-define their tech challenge in a way that it’s realistically solvable within a 3 month time period.
Tech Advisors For Social Change 2.0 has greatly benefited from a strategic collaboration with Vidyasagar Bedida, who has helped us evaluate the submissions by social impact organisations on product scope, urgency of the problem statement as well as the founder’s vision. We’ve shortlisted a diverse group of 10 organisations solving crucial issues through telemedicine solutions, personalised learning platforms and renewable fuel production etc. that need support with optimising data architecture, building data analytical capability and improving the UX/UI of the platform.
Simultaneously, we leveraged ACT’s community to invite seasoned tech experts from the for-profit/startup world and received 90+ signups from folks across companies like Groww, Amazon, Google etc. They were invited to join demo sessions by participating social enterprises to give them an opportunity to understand the challenge statement with the founder and gain insight into its complexity. Finally, we facilitated the final matches based on the skill requirements for the project and the preferences indicated by the advisors.
We’re excited for the 2nd cohort to deep dive into their 12 week engagement and hope to build this program into a thriving community that takes ACTion!