UK – Be part of the tech for social good revolution: £5.75m programme to address the changing world of work

What if we could use technology to solve some of the most challenging social issues we face in the UK today? Well, the tech for social good revolution is doing just that. According to Tech Nation’s Tech for social good in the UK report, there are already 490 tech for social good companies throughout the UK.

If you thought ‘doing good’ was reserved for not-for-profits and charities, think again. Tech for social good companies in the UK are valued at more than £2.3 billion. This is an industry that has the potential not only to do good for society, but for investors too. Indeed, the potential of tech for social good companies to turn a profit hasn’t been overlooked by investors, with more than £1.09 billion raised through venture capitalists in 2018 alone.

So, what sorts of social issues has digital tech been used to address so far?

Homelessness

According to Shelter, 320,000 people in the UK are homeless. After Alex Stephany got to know a homeless man at his local tube station, he found himself asking what he could do to make a real difference.

In 2017, Alex launched Beam, a crowdsourcing platform providing training opportunities for homeless people in London.

So far, 3,773 people have donated over £530,000 to Beam across 143 campaigns – each one for a different homeless person seeking support for training. 49 people who have been supported through the programme, are now in work.

Food waste

The average UK family throws away £700 worth of food each year. That equates to £12.5 billion worth of food, much of which ends up in landfills and contributes to rising levels of greenhouse gases, in addition to the waste of resources it takes to grow and transport the food in the first place.

In 2015, frustrated by the food going to waste in their own homes, Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One launched Olio – a food sharing app designed to help busy people share food with their neighbours so that nothing goes to waste.

Olio now has more than 1 million users worldwide and has expanded their services, charging larger companies for consultancy around achieving zero edible food waste scores.

So, what’s next? How about employment…?

Nesta research suggests that more than six million people in the UK are currently employed in occupations that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear by 2030. The sectors most likely to change as a result of automation include retail, manufacturing, construction, transport and healthcare.

In the five years prior to 2017, 43% of EU employees had already experienced a change in technology at work, requiring them to develop a range of capabilities to adapt (Cedefop, 2017). On top of this, those in the roles most susceptible to change often lack access to training and education. People in low-skill jobs are at higher risk of displacement, yet we’re not seeing a sufficiently high-level of job-related training and skills development that can prepare them for these changes.

It’s time to equip workers with the right tools and technologies to prepare for their futures. Armed with the right information, people can plan for secure and rewarding future careers. But they need to understand the skills which are likely to be most sought-after, and the pathways to get the jobs that require them. Although this information exists, it is not always easily accessed by those who need it most, with most current offerings targeting higher paid workers.

We need new flexible and accessible ways for workers to gain new skills and  envisage their future careers.

The opportunity…

The CareerTech Challenge is a new initiative calling for innovations to help future-proof adults in the roles most likely to change as a result of automation. The proposed solutions must be digitally driven, as digital technology has the power to personalise career support to meet individual needs.

The challenge is made up of a Prize and a Fund which are both open to any individual, organisation or group based in the UK, or who have a lead partner based in the UK.

Applications for the Fund close on 9 December 2019, and for the Prize on 29 January 2020.

If you have the skills, experience and ideas to bridge the gap between career information and applicants, or learning opportunities and learners, Nesta would love to hear from you.

Find out more about the opportunity here and be part of the tech for social good revolution.