22 Jan 2020

Tech for Good meetups in 2019

By Dama Sathianathan

What happened in the London Tech for Good meetup scene in 2019? The short answer is: a lot! We wanted to share some highlights from running last year’s London Tech for Good meetups with you and let you know our plans for this year.

  • We ran eight meetups in 2019 that were attended by 561 people. 
  • We varied the format quite a bit, with panels, talks, learnings sets, citizen assemblies, workshops and more 
  • We partnered with our friends at #YouEqualTech to bring you an event about tech powering the circular economy, with the Cyberdelics Society to host a Citizens Assembly about radical civic tech and hosted two events as part of Mozilla Festival all about responsible AI
  • Other themes ranged from lean impact with an expert introduction from Ann Mei Chang, future scoping, service design, equality, to organisational sustainability, and climate change 
  • 1,484 people joined the meetup group bringing it to a total of 9,192 at the end of 2019 
  • From 19 speakers overall at our meetups, 11 identified as women and 8 as men 

With eight meetups (down from 11 in the previous year) we focused a lot of our attention on bringing you a wide range of speakers from all walks of life and trying out different formats for engagement. And here’s what we’ve learned:


Interactive formats – trials, tribulations and successes

We varied the formats of our events a lot to see more focused conversations with members through citizen assemblies and workshops, bigger events with talks and presentations, and roundtable discussions with peer-to-peer support. What we’ve learned is that such interactive formats were really useful to dive deeper into issues, but do not necessarily allow for greater visibility and access to material for people who cannot attend in person. Our larger events have largely been live-streamed (although it occasionally happened that our phones were melting, especially at the meetup on the hottest day of the year!), and we certainly want to ensure that the wider community can benefit from insights and resources shared during the events. For this year, we’re committing to produce write ups of the events, so more people than the ones attending have access to them. 

 

Reiterating why we do what we do

“Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral” (Melvin Kranzberg 1985). 

Time and time again, we’d like to reflect on this little nugget of wisdom. We’ve seen the role of tech and its use as a force for good exponentially grow over the past years. We’re encouraged to see that the movement is maturing and becoming more diverse – not just in London, our friends in ManchesterSouth West and elsewhere are doing excellent work providing a space and platform for people to connect and learn. It’s incredibly important that we acknowledge that technology on its own is not the solution. Tech is inherently shaped by social, economic and political factors, and we definitely do not want to contribute to an increasing tech frenzy. We deeply care about the intentional use of tech to tackle social and environmental challenges and its potential to do good in the world. 

And we will continue to offer our meetups as a platform for companies, organisations and individuals from all walks of life to come together and explore synergies.  

 

Community announcements – for the community by the community

We love this part of every meetup! It’s incredible to see how many individuals always come forward to share jobs, funding opportunities, collective intelligence, resources and more. Sending out the announcements post meetups is also appreciated by the wider meetup group, and we always make an effort to share them openly in a simple google sheet, for people to add announcements post-meetup as well. We’ll make sure to give more advance notice as to when our events are happening as well!

 

What to expect in 2020

As more and more verticals/niche meetups and events are happening (check out the Climate Tech meetup, the AI for Good meetup, Hacks/Hackers LDN, just to name a few) we’re reflecting on the purpose of our meetups and come directly to you to ask you what you want to get out of these events. What topics are you interested in? Is there anything we change to make our meetups even better? If you have some ideas, then please fill out this quick survey

 

Thank You Notes

We’re incredibly grateful for the generous support from the amazing venues that offered up their event spaces for our meetups – thanks to Zopa, Toynbee Hall, Google for Startups Campus London, Newspeak House and the RSA.

And our excellent speakers – Ann Mei Chang, Matt Stokes, Janet Gunter, Gauri Kangai, Aisling Byrne, Craig Melson, Cassie Robinson, Indy Johar, Carl H Smith, Jose Montemayor, Alice Piterova, Alex Fefegha, Eleanor O’Keeffe, Sébastien Krier, Charlotte Newman and Kayleigh Walsh! 

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone who attended our meetups, watched our live-streams (and told us to flip our phones!), shared news as part of the community announcements, helped us promote our events. We’re excited to see what 2020 brings and continue to fuel the movement! 

With contributions from Ellie Hale (CAST) and Will Spurr (BGV)