Tech for Good Dublin was launched in 2017 as a way to bring people together and explore the possibilities of tech for social impact. Since launching they have gone from strength to strength, holding networking events, highlighting projects with purpose and creating training and hackathon events. A recent event led to the development of online tools to help Ukrainian refugees settling in Ireland. I caught up with co-founders Ellen Ward and Máirín Murray to find out more:
- How did TechForGood begin? What’s its origin story?
We (Máirín Murray and Ellen Ward) met on Twitter and as they were both interested in TechForGood decided to start a Dublin group to explore the topic. We co-founded Tech for Goof Dublin in 2017 and began running events with speakers and discussions on a wide range of themes under the umbrella question: ‘How can tech be used to help People, Communities and the Planet?’
Inclusion and Diversity was something we both wanted built in from the start so we made sure to have 50% women speakers, and to encourage a wide variety of people to join. We chose topics what would appeal to different people, and asked for feedback from everyone.
In 2019 we were thrilled to be asked to talk at TedX Limerick about our work and share examples of T4G projects. It really helped us reach more people and share the good news. You can watch our Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTYeb6g4ivY
- What has the organisation grown to now?
We started with 2 people and in a few short years our community grew to over 2 thousand people before the pandemic and even more since we went online. We have held over 50 free events, and met hundreds of people from all walks of life who understand why we need to push for tech to be used to support people, not just make profit, and that projects with purpose are a catalyst for wider change.
We have also made connections with other innovation and social impact organisations in Ireland and talk often to other Tech for Good groups around the world, giving us connections to so many great people and ideas. Ellen and Máirín also volunteer their time to talk at conferences and to businesses and universities about why tech belongs to all of us and should be used for good. We really are part of an ecosystem of change makers and there are so many great opportunities for us to do more in the future.
- You’ve done a number of networking events to boost your profile. What have been some of the highlights?
Our speaker events have covered a wide range of topics including how Tech has been used to connect people during the pandemic, as well as examples of tech being used to tackle Domestic Violence and Abuse, Alzheimers, the Homeless crisis, Saving Bees, Irish Sign Language, Neurodiversity and Virtual Reality to support mental health. We have learnt from experts in Robots and AI, 3D printing and Coding for kids.
Our workshops have focused on useful skills like crowd sourced digital mapping, easy App Development and Design Thinking to solve problems with technology. We have brainstormed ideas for Men’s Sheds Ireland and ways to help Ukraine, and the response from people who want to help has been really great. Tech for Good really brings people together.
- What would your 3-4 biggest tips for organising a networking event be?
- Remove barriers to participation. One big barrier could be cost, which can remove by making everything free. For in-person events check there is wheelchair access at your venue, and for online content add transcripts to videos, and alt text for images. Ask your community to help you see the invisible barriers too!
- Speakers can be anyone. Once you allow anyone to speak about something they are involved it, this make diversity of speakers much easier. We all have something we care about and could speak about, and reflecting this is important. Expertise is not always on a certificate, it is often lived experience.
- Open the conversation. Carefully scripted events look professional, but can be a bit boring. Bring different people together and see what happens. A code of conduct is useful to keep things polite and focused, but allowing space to see where a discussion goes can lead to wonderful things.
- You’ve recently launched Pryvit.ie to help Ukrainian refugees. How did the website come about? What impact has it had since it launched?
Tech for Good Dublin held an event in March focused on how Ireland can support Ukraine and there showcased a number of projects that were under way and explore how to get new projects launched.
pryvit.ie/ was created by a core team including Máirin Murray, Anton Krasun and Talita Holzer as a result of a recent Tech for Good Dublin eventand and is a simple tool that allows Irish companies to make a welcome offer of generously discounted or free goods or services to people arriving in Ireland displaced by the war in Ukraine.. It is a fabulous idea and has appeared in international press and on Irish TV news since launching. Tell your employers and friends about it !
finedeeds.com is co-founded by Paulina Kwasniak a member of the tech for good community and is a fundraising platform that makes your donation go further. You can support the campaigns of small grassroots charities and not for profits supporting those impacted by the war in Ukraine who are now in Poland or in Ukraine.
helpingirishhosts.com/ provides information for people who want to host refugees and was written by people already doing so. It will be updated as things progress and is an excellent starting point for anyone thinking of welcoming refugees into their home or area.
http://goingfar.co/ is offering fast track mentoring for Ukrainians who want to find work in Ireland and anyone can sign up to be a mentor or support this practical project.
It has been amazing to see how quickly these tools can be built and the amazing response from people. It is important to remember though, that the refugee crisis is wider than just Ukraine and that Ireland has many thousands of people waiting to be given the same opportunities and we need to focus at national level on how to ensure anyone fleeing their country can thrive in Ireland.
- If someone reading this wanted to help Ukrainian refugees what would be 2-3 biggest tips?
Explore ways you can get involved in supporting those arriving in different and ongoing ways. Reach out to people from Ukraine arriving into your local community. Organise initiatives with your local clubs, churches, schools etc. Encourage local groups to consider a welcome offer with www.pryvit.ie
You can also organise fundraising events or join one already happening – a quick google for people in your area who are helping should uncover facebook groups and other ways to get involved. You could also consider supporting campaigns on www.finedeeds.com
And if you want your money to pay for things that people stuck in Ukraine and neighbouring countries urgently need, donate directly to: Concern Worldwide who are working inside Ukraine to support people forced to feel their homes and are without shelter, water, food or medicine. The Irish Red Cross are also taking donations as well as UNICEF and MSF.
- How did the pandemic affect the organisation? Are there any positives you can take from this time?
Like a lot of community groups, we missed our community and in person events were too risky, so we paused and held some online events which could be attended by anyone, anywhere which was great. We missed some of the informal networking and chats that happen, but we reached new people and would hope to be able to manage both (hybrid events) in the future.
We are excited to start meeting people in person too, and our next event in May will be a walking tour of Dublin city to look at how smart technology is changing our urban landscape for the better. You will find this event and previous ones on our website https://techforgooddublin.org/
- Have you won any awards in recent years? What were some of the highlights?
We were thrilled to be shortlisted for the Innovation for Change Award at the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards in 2018. The winners were FoodCloud and we were chuffed to be mentioned alongside them and to attend the awards to meet wonderful people working to change the world for the better.
- If someone wanted to become a member what should they do?
Our MeetUp Group is a good place to join as all events get posted there, but we also post on EventBrite. You can follow us on Twitter and we love to get tagged in any stories of tech being used for good, or other similar events. And you can learn about our community, ethos and goals on our website https://techforgooddublin.org/
- Are there any other organisations in the diversity and inclusion area in Ireland that you’re big fans of?
We love the work of wonderful Furkan Karayel (DiverseIn.com) who is part of our community and has been a guiding light in Ireland for the past few years. A lot of our Tech for Good storytellers are tackling inequality and exclusion with their solutions, for example WayToB is a smartphone and smartwatch solution to empower people with higher support needs to travel independently. Evelyn Nomayo is the founder of Phase Innovate is a non-for profit organisation dedicated to helping the underrepresented in STEM fields and supporting NGOs with technical solutions. In 2020 Evelyn Nomayo mentored, three Nigerian-Irish teen girls in Drogheda to create an award winning Technovation app called Memory Haven to assist people living with dementia and their caregivers. We are also big fans of Lydia Gratis – an amazing black role model who is an activist for the deaf community. Our work has enabled us to meet so many cool people working in this area, so join our MeetUp if you’d like to meet people who care about inclusion in tech and solving problems together.