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Tech Matters

Tech Matters

Author: Jim Fruchterman

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In a landscape where the tech industry's reputation often precedes it, veteran social entrepreneur and Tech for Good pioneer Jim Fruchterman, along with many extraordinary change-makers, have been rewriting the narrative by using their tech skills to build a better world and drive positive social change.

Through in-depth interviews unveiling the workings of some of the most transformative social impact organizations, you'll discover how individuals have harnessed the power of technology to confront the world's most pressing challenges. Prepare for a wealth of insights about how to enter the Tech for Good field, best ideation practices, effective exit strategies, ethical use of data, funding wisdom, and more.

Whether you're part of a nonprofit, the tech sphere, government sector, or at the helm of social change, our podcast is your compass to ensure that, when designing software, you're putting people first.

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Hosted by Jim Fruchterman. Production: Gabriele Sha. Sound Engineering: Phil Kadet.
15 Episodes
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Open Supply Hub is more than just a database; it's a movement towards a more ethical and sustainable future. By crowdsourcing data and providing a unique identifier for facilities, they've created a system that benefits everyone from brands to auditors and even the workers themselves.   Today's conversation covers the inception of Open Supply Hub and its evolution. Executive Director Natalie Grillon recounts her time in Uganda, working with an agricultural development company as part of a global fellowship with Acumen. This experience, coupled with her exposure to the aftermath of the heart-breaking Rana Plaza collapse, fueled her determination to make a change. She realized the powerlessness of consumers and farmers alike within the opaque supply chain and set out to empower them with the data they deserved.   Open Supply Hub is at the forefront of a revolution; its impact ranges from remedying worker's rights violations to facilitating collaborations that lead to better standards and reduced emissions.    > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
Dive into the heart of social tech innovation with Heejae Lim, the trailblazing founder and CEO of TalkingPoints. Heejae recounts the inception of her groundbreaking app, which stands out as a rare success story in a sea of well-intentioned but often ineffective educational apps. TalkingPoints isn't just another tool in the edtech arsenal; it's a game-changer, using AI to bridge language gaps, fostering meaningful connections between teachers and non-English-speaking parents, and ultimately improving educational outcomes for students—particularly those from underserved communities.   This episode is an inspiration for anyone looking to leverage technology for impact, offering a masterclass in designing with purpose, scaling with intention, and measuring real-world effects. Whether you're an aspiring social entrepreneur or a seasoned tech enthusiast, Heejae's story is a testament to the transformative potential of tech when aligned with a deep understanding of community needs.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
"What could the nonprofit sector do if every nonprofit had Google's engineering team?" (J. P.)   In this thought-provoking episode, we sat down with Jake Porway, the visionary co-founder of DataKind, to explore the transformative potential of harnessing data science for the nonprofit sector. Jake takes us through the journey of the organization from its early days of hackathons to its evolution into a beacon for long-term, impact-oriented projects.   Today, DataKind is made of many chapters worldwide, as data scientists and social workers meet to face challenges in their home countries. But we asked Jake about high-level issues as well — aspects he has put much thought into: Do nonprofits need their own data science teams? If not, what is the right model to leverage data science skills when the alternative is an incredibly high-paying job in the for-profit sector? Are organizations like DataKind suitable for generating products that scale or does their true value lie in creating a platform for much needed (and underfunded) Research and Development in the service of social impact?    This episode is a must-listen for anyone who is working in tech, and is looking for a way to put their skills towards something more than ad campaign optimization.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
"It takes a network to fight a network" (D. S.)   In the labyrinth of global corruption and organized crime, a beacon of truth shines through the data-driven work of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). This episode takes a deep dive with co-founder Drew Sullivan as he shares the story behind the most comprehensive database on international corruption.    By aggregating billions of data points, from public records to leaked documents, OCCRP empowers journalists worldwide to uncover the intricate networks of criminal activity. But the journey wasn't simple. Drew recounts the organic evolution into a robust, open-source platform that serves as an indispensable resource for investigative journalism.   The conversation also explores the critical role of a tech-savvy vision within nonprofits, the necessity of a mission-driven CTO, and the importance of building an ecosystem rather than an empire. As OCCRP continues to lay the groundwork for a more transparent world, their work stands as a testament to the transformative power of technology when aligned with unwavering dedication to the public interest.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
“Seeing is no longer believing. You need to fortify the truth.” (Y.A.T.)   Generative AI, deepfakes… we’ve known the risks for a while, but the dangers feel ever closer given the amazing advancements of orgs like OpenAI. Meanwhile, human rights activists have faced these risks for years (think of doctored videos, misleading evidence, or the total absence of context).    Witness was ahead of its time by giving people tools to document human rights violations (departing from conventional notions of “acquiring data”) and prioritizing authenticity, personal security, and safety, particularly through its focus on human rights use cases. This issue of authenticity is a major one: Despite the ongoing challenge of combating weaponized misinformation and disinformation, organizations like Witness have been navigating all the complexities of trust - trusting the source, but also trusting those who are making the tools to document the truth, especially across cultural and social barriers.    Yvette is an advisor/consultant/board member, and previously Executive Director of Witness, with decades of experience leading org design and ecosystem thinking at the intersection of human rights, video, and technology. Tune in to hear about how she has been addressing the issue of trust and authenticity in media!    > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
Picking up where we left off with Owen Barder, Jim digs deeper into how tech enters the discussion, in particular what Precision Development has been doing to tackle major sustainable agriculture challenges in developing countries. Key topics: When to do AB testing (à la Facebook) vs. a full-blown Randomized Control Trial (the typical government approach); the fact that data helps flag a problem, but you still need to dig deeper to understand exactly what that problem is; and the fact that farmers today, especially in developing countries, are operating under more uncertainty than they need to.     > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE Be sure to leave us a rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought — was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn! 
Throughout Owen's journey, one central question has been: How do you navigate market failure, especially when the stakes are sky-high? The typical choice between government intervention vs. private investment vs. third sector solutions often can't cut it. Owen and innovators like him don't have all the answers, but are able operate at the highest institutional level, crafting and implementing new models that go beyond a single ideology in order to tackle some of the most formidable global economic challenges.   With a distinguished career as a civil servant in the UK Treasury, the UK Department of International Development, private secretary to the Prime Minister, and Vice President of the Center for Global Development, Owen Barder has worn many hats. As if that's not impressive enough, he's also the CEO of Precision Development, a nonprofit on a mission to bring tailored data and services to smallholder farmers in developing countries, fostering economically and ecologically sustainable practices.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Wicked problems require more than one line of thought. Was there anything you agreed or disagreed with? Anything you'd like us to explore further? Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org and follow us on LinkedIn!
As we learned from Nithya Ramanathan in Season 1, data = money = power. To understand what this means for our future, and what we can actually do about it, we're coming back strong with a whole new lineup of interviews in Season 2. You'll hear from Jake Porway, co-founder of Datakind, Yvette Alberdingk Thijm of Witness, Owen Barder of Precision Development, and many more about the importance of human-centered design, field-based learning, and the needs, challenges, and power of data for good. Tune into the biweekly Tech Matters podcast by following and subscribing on your favorite platform! 
As we draw the curtain on Season 1, Jim takes us back through some of the most captivating insights shared by our remarkable guests. It's a reaffirmation of why technology serves as a catalyst for monumental social change and why it's equally crucial to grasp the boundaries of technology and its ethical development.    Join us for a retrospective that underscores the pivotal role of tech in driving positive global impact while maintaining unwavering ethical integrity.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
Get ready to meet Emily Jacobi, co-founder of Digital Democracy, a non-profit on a mission to harness the transformative power of technology for marginalized communities. Join us as we delve into their remarkable work, from empowering local partners in Haiti to Peru to track cultural and geographical data. This data, in turn, becomes compelling legal testimony against corporate practices causing harm.   Uncover essential lessons in co-design and accompaniment, the profound impact of mapping one's political and cultural presence, and the extraordinary potential of data sovereignty. It's a conversation that will leave you inspired and enlightened.   >  Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
Join us in an insightful journey with Rebecca Masisak, the dynamic CEO of TechSoup Global, as she unravels the fascinating evolution of the organization's mission. Starting as CompuMentor, their initial focus was on providing tech volunteer services to nonprofits. Over time, they expanded their impact by offering donated software and hardware at steep discounts, setting the stage for remarkable success.   Discover the pivotal moments when TechSoup adapted to the changing tech landscape as software transitioned to the cloud, redefining their business model. Explore their transformation from a local network to a global force, giving birth to TechSoup Global. Learn valuable lessons about the factors and motivations driving strategic shifts, building strong relations with funders and donors, and the art of nurturing local networks... on a global scale.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
Meet Sanjay Purohit, the visionary Chief Curator of Societal Platform, on a mission to orchestrate a vibrant ecosystem of changemakers, organizations, and initiatives committed to tackling grand-scale challenges head-on. In this episode, he takes us on an illuminating journey through the intricacies of his role.   Uncover the secrets of designing, not "just" for thousands, but for millions if not billions of users; the need to focus on simple, core interactions that scale; and what it takes to be an effective leader when collaborating with existing networks and organizations, rather than reinventing the wheel in isolation. Join us for an inspiring conversation on shaping change at an unprecedented scale.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
In this recap episode, Jim steps in to reflect on the insights we've gathered from our exceptional guests, Mike, Ana, and Nithya. He also shares the personal journey that brought him to becoming a social entrepreneur. Join us as Jim dives into the essence of human-centered design, the art of navigating skepticism on the path of social entrepreneurship, and the critical role technology must play in addressing the pressing global challenges of our time. It's a candid reflection that'll leave you inspired and informed.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
As industries and governments forge ahead in the era of digital transformation, Nithya, the co-founder and CEO of Nexleaf, emerges as a champion of responsible data use. With a potent blend of data insights and profound engineering expertise, she's on a mission to ensure data serves a greater purpose with unwavering equity and meaningful impact.   Discover how Nexleaf's groundbreaking temperature-sensing technology is making a real difference, bringing life-saving vaccines to countless children worldwide. Join us for a captivating discussion on the need to make data transparent in order to achieve real impact, while also making sure that equity and social value take precedence over just trying to change people's behavior.   > Transcript on website   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
Meet Michael Sani, the co-founder of Bite the Ballot, a groundbreaking UK voter registration app, and the visionary behind Play Verto, a Tinder-style platform where young voices meet policy. In this episode, we unravel the inspiring journey of how he and his team harnessed the power of data and social media to ignite a political spark among youth people.    Explore the art of planning an exit strategy, even when your project thrives. Discover the ethical ways data can empower individuals, and dive into the profound connection between political engagement and social consciousness. Join us for a thought-provoking conversation on making a real impact in the digital age.    > Transcript on website   FURTHER READING Still skeptical about gamification for good? We are too. But we wrote a thought piece on when this can actually work, based on Michael's wisdom.   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
Get ready to be inspired by Dr. Ana Pantelic, who is now Executive Director of MIT D-Lab. In this episode, she shares her remarkable journey, including her impactful tenure at Fundación Capital where she pioneered the LISTA initiative. LISTA introduced tablet-based financial education experiences to uplift low-income communities, with a special focus on empowering women.   Discover the transformative power of human-centered design, learn the art of designing for scale right from the outset, and gain insights into the unique challenges and opportunities of working as an NGO in the Global South.    > Transcript on website   FURTHER READING Dive deeper into the importance of fieldwork when designing software: check out this thought piece!   RATE, WRITE, SUBSCRIBE If you like what you hear, leave us a 5 star rating on Spotify or a review on Apple Podcasts!   Write us a note at podcast@techmatters.org or follow us on LinkedIn.
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