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The growth in tech social ventures

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This month the Young Foundation launched the Accelerator, a four-month programme intended to prepare small social ventures for delivery of social impact at scale.

Each venture will benefit from a tailored package of support that develops and shapes their business models, helping them to become ‘investment ready’ and to access markets for their services.

The ventures on the Accelerator programme are tackling a multitude of social issues, such as youth unemployment, emotional resilience and social exclusion. Many have value propositions that will appeal to the public and voluntary sector - health services, local authorities, schools, housing providers and community development organisations.

Two participants on the programme are technological ventures: The DoNation and The Giving Machine.

The growth in tech social ventures, driven by minimal barriers to entry and low-cost routes to scale, has been quite phenomenal over the past two years. But many start-ups have struggled with their business models: their markets have not been as strong as they anticipated.

This is likely to change as local public services adapt and evolve over the coming years. The propositions of many tech social ventures will become more appealing and there will be opportunities.

Take, for example, The DoNation, a behaviour change tool that encourages people to sponsor good deeds - not through money, but by committing to doing good deeds too. It has the potential to mobilise local communities around the issues that matter to them.

Tools such as these can be ‘white labelled’ and applied to a multitude of issues that are on the agenda of local agencies, from cutting carbon emissions to encouraging active living.

Barnet LBC has done this with a couple of mySociety websites - FixMyStreet and PledgeBank - and it seems to have been a successful partnership. Barnet is a happy customer and mySociety has earned some income.

If relationships such as this begin to flourish there will be a genuine market.

It’s not there yet, but if entrepreneurs continue to hone their propositions and evidence their impact, and more councils take well-judged risks, it won’t be long.

Mandeep Hothi, programme leader, the Young Foundation

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