Opinion

Are we finally entering an era of social good?

There was a clear theme running through the talks of day one of SXSW this year, and it was the theme of social good, writes Will Harvey, innovation lead at VCCP.

SXSW: Casey Gerald, CEO of MBAs Across America, says tech must focus on 'doing good' over 'doing well'
SXSW: Casey Gerald, CEO of MBAs Across America, says tech must focus on 'doing good' over 'doing well'
Currently, only 18% of the computer sciences work force is women and so google.org are working on a number of initiatives to bring that number up to 40%.

Referring to "a good or service that benefits the largest number of people in the largest possible way", there was much debate around how companies, whose main measure of success is usually the return for their shareholders, could bring this to the forefront of their agenda.

Casey Gerald, CEO of MBAs across America, discussed the importance of social good in the interactive community, highlighting the need for a shift of mind set from a commercial standpoint, telling us that companies should focus on "doing good, over doing well". And I couldn’t agree more - with brand loyalty as fickle as the next Snapchat video, today’s millennials want a world that is more socially conscious and brands to go with it.

Diversity in the tech space

Jacquelline Fuller from google.org (the company’s charitable arm) delivered a great talk on 'Disruptive Philanthropy in the Digital World’. During it, she discussed the financial investment ($100m) and resource (100,000 man hours) google.org is putting towards getting more women and ethnic minorities into the tech and stem sector. Currently, only 18% of the computer sciences work force is women and so google.org are working on a number of initiatives to bring that number up to 40%.

To understand the human impact of this disparity, Fuller explained how Google are encouraging their employees to undertake unconscious bias testing, using tools such as word association, to measure how their subconscious sees things. Fuller explained how, surprisingly, she discovered she had negative subconscious bias against women in the tech space - potentially attributed to the challenges she has faced in championing women in leadership roles.

President Obama made an appearance

If we use technology to join forces around problems, then there is no problem we can’t solve - 

Barack Obama, 

44th U.S. President

Even Obama came to town to discuss the matter with the interactive community - marking the first ever sitting president to speak at the festival during its 30-year history.

And he delivered a very clear message: "If we use technology to join forces around problems, then there is no problem we can’t solve. This will be driven by talent of different sectors coming together, wanting to give back and do something good".

Touching upon his original presidential campaign message of not ‘Yes I can’ but ‘Yes we can’, he reminded us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Obama also iterated his commitment to working with the interactive community on its role in civic engagement, and reminded the tech community of its responsibility in influencing the next generation of their industry.

Social good and diversity in all its forms are set to be the hot topics of this year’s festival. And although nothing new for the tech industry, it seems like now is the time brands are finally taking them seriously. They’ve realised that consumers aren’t going to have the wool pulled over their eyes with PR stunts or cloaked agendas - and excuses just aren't going to cut it. 

We want brands to stand up and vocalise their commitment to doing good from the off - instead of waiting to be called out on it and then taking action.