The Social Innovation Council
It’s clear there’s an immediate need to bring about change for the sector, and when we were approached by tech for good start-up Lightning Social Ventures to become a founding partner of the Social Innovation Council, alongside leading charities Turn2us, End Furniture Poverty and the Charity for Civil Servants, we jumped at the chance to be involved. We’ve also since welcomed the Royal British Legion to the founding group.
The aim of the Council is to co-develop a collaborative online grants platform; a centralised portal that will enable people to apply to multiple sources of support, when they need it. Not only will this make the process of applying for support easier for people in financial hardship, but it will also streamline processes for charities - folding in financial technology solutions to speed up processes and reduce fraud. It will also facilitate collaboration across organisations and ultimately get help to people faster.
We’ve made swift progress; from initial vision setting in mid-June we’ve designed and developed the first beta version of the portal which just went live at the end of November. Alongside fortnightly workshops with the founding partners, we’ve also held additional workshops with the wider Social Innovation Council membership of 40+ organisations to gather feedback and insights to inform the development of the portal. We’re really excited with what’s been built and for rolling this out with real users, which Lightning is now starting to pilot with the Smallwood Trust, Teaching Staff Trust and Electrical Industries Charity.
Lessons learnt and the future
Being part of the Social Innovation Council has been an enjoyable and hugely valuable process. It has been a learning in how agile product development in the tech space works, and by working collaboratively with other charities throughout the process, the ACO has deepened their understanding of the needs of their members - from learning more about the systems they are using to the challenges their grants teams are currently facing.
Using a human-centric approach has meant that both grant-making charities and people with lived experience have been at the centre of the development of the portal. By gathering insights from potential end users, and the organisations that support them, throughout the iterative process, we’re ensuring that the portal is meeting the needs of both groups.
For the Smallwood Trust, a key benefit of the portal is the potential to reach those women who are most eligible for their support, to understand more about their needs and to get grants to them quicker. The portal also has the potential to allow them to become a more responsive funder – quickly changing their focus and getting timely support to women in need in response to regional, national or world policy changes or events.
This has been an exciting example of what can be achieved when our sector takes a collaborative approach to solving a problem. With a clear vision set by a core team, and working with a human-centric approach to develop a product that meets the needs of users and organisations, we’ve developed a potentially game-changing solution for the sector, by the sector.
And with benefits for both organisations and individuals, it represents a much-needed technological transformation to grant-making.
The early beta version of the application portal is now live and may be shared with people in need of financial support. If your organisation would like to get involved in the pilot or find out more, please get in touch with the Lightning Social Ventures team.
You can find out more about the Social Innovation Council and sign up to receive monthly updates here.
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Visit this collaboration's listing on the Funders Collaborative Hub