The world of tech has a conscience too. We’ve rounded up a few coders who are giving something back. Here are some of the individuals, organisations and apps striving towards a fairer, more community-minded society…
Fairphone is a social enterprise that makes smartphones, ethically. Based in Amsterdam, the company aims “to develop smartphones that are designed and produced with minimal harm to people and the planet”. The idea is to manufacture mobile devices that do not contain ‘conflict minerals’ (in smartphones that tends to be gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten) whilst also insisting upon fair labour conditions for the workforce along the supply chain producing it. They are also dedicated to the safe recycling of mobile phones and parts, and want to raise awareness on how to extend your phone’s life. Read more about their values here.
Buycott is a phone app that lets users scan barcodes when shopping to learn about the product’s history and make an informed decision before buying. Created three years ago by LA developer Ivan Pardo, aged 26 at the time, Buycott shows you a corporate family tree, letting you see the complex network of corporate ownership and helping you avoid giving money indirectly to companies that you find objectionable. Users set up an account, choose which campaigns they care about and which companies they wish to blacklist (and which they want to support), and then Buycott alerts you when you’re making a purchase.
Room For Tea
This is ‘a sociable housing idea’ set up four years ago by Milena Bottero when she was 22. It’s essentially a social network that connects interns and apprentices who need short-term, affordable housing with an older generation of hosts who want the company. The website has separate tabs for hosts and guests, and offers the double benefit of extra income for those with a spare room, and the opportunity to get involved in unpaid internships that would otherwise be impossible.
SharpFutures is “a social enterprise that supports young people into employment in the creative digital sector”. Based in Manchester, the company offers a range of apprenticeships, work experience and volunteering opportunities, to make it easier for young people to enter the world of work, whilst also meeting the ever-changing needs of creative digital businesses at the same time.
For example, SharpFutures’ apprentices staff the reception at The Space Project, a purpose built TV production stage complex, as well as providing running services for onsite productions. SharpFutures also hosts monthly meetings for Manchester CoderDojo, a volunteer-led community group for young people learning to code and make things. They meet up at The Sharp Project, a large warehouse that is now an affordable rental space for over 60 digital entrepreneurs and production companies specialising in digital content production, digital media and TV and film production. Encouraging women into tech is also high up on SharpFutures agenda.
Scottish Ethical Finance Hub
In October last year, Scotland became home to the new Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH), based in Heriot Watt’s School of Management and Languages. The SEFH, the first of its kind in Europe, establishes Scotland as a leader in the growing field of ethical finance, and FinTech (finance technology), a sector which generated 17,000 jobs in Edinburgh last year. The hub has emerged after five years of round-table discussions led by the Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), and follows on from the inaugural Global Ethical Finance Forum held in September 2015 in Edinburgh. SEFH will help meet growing demand for socially responsible and stable forms of banking and finance. It will work towards developing rules that organisations can sign up to, as well as principles and behaviours that are considered ethical. The Scottish Government is supporting the SEFH project with up to £50,000 of funding.
This fashion label has a social conscience, and aims to work towards universal access to education. Fikay is run by 24-year-old Aaron Jones, and the lifestyle brand produces fashion accessories using recycled cement bags. As well as making sustainable, upcycled goods, Fikay employs co-operatives and members of fair-trade organisations and, for every purchase made, Fikay donates to educational building projects in south east Asia. Fikay puts profits from the company back to makers around the world and has already helped to build one school in Cambodia.
What Leads To
This is “an award winning platform for people to work together on big social change”. It began life as a startup called CauseHub, founded by 15 year-old Jamie Davies. He originally wanted it to be a “youth led social causes hub for youth to start blogging about social causes”, but it has since evolved into a tool that can be accessed more widely. What Leads To is a place where activists can work out the best actions to take with the help of their community. It is also designed to help young people feel more engaged with politics and achieve goals, however simple – be it improving the private housing rental sector, or getting better exam results – through forums, discussions and their handy flowcharts.