5 digital technologies that could radically transform development

8 March 2017
Author: Kate Wolfenden

This month’s Futures and Innovation group meeting looked at “transformational collaboration for impact”. Reflecting on it, I feel really lucky that I get to catch up regularly with other innovators on the same journey as me.

Ian Lobo, managing director of strategy and growth with Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), shared a recent report that has instigated progressive dialogue around the world since its launch in Davos in January 2017.

The report highlights five key emerging digital technologies with the potential to radically transform development:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Internet of things
  • Blockchain technology
  • Data as a service
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Ian and his colleague Leonie Pendred shared some examples from the report of these trends in action. An exciting AI collaboration between Plan International and Accenture is using an intelligent photo analyser with digital facial recognition technology to ensure the quality of photos of sponsored children to leverage data in new ways and improve sponsor engagement. Having impressed upon us digital’s power to amplify and accelerate the social, environmental and economic impacts of our work, they left us with a wonderful provocation: “Here’s the dream: what if we focused on issue first, agency second?”

This bridged beautifully into our next talk from Kevin Waudby and Lauren Currie from Good Lab, an independent transformational innovation lab working on behalf of twelve of the biggest charities in the UK. Call it a skunk works if you will: Kevin and Lauren’s mandate from these charities is to drop the brands, assume the risk, work hard, dig deep and find the next £250m idea for the entire charity sector – all in the next 3 years.

Embarking on your innovation journey

This is no mean feat, so we were really grateful they shared some insights on their lessons and achievements so far.  Not only did they crack open how such a lab works behind the scenes, but shared a little on the innovations we will soon see hit the market, details of which we look forward to sharing when they are wider public knowledge.

The Good Lab team guides participants through entire innovation platforms from needs analysis to proposition development every 12 weeks – a prospect that is as much exhausting as it is awe inspiring! With 12 cycles planned over the next three years, potentially resulting in 24 validated business propositions, the first platform (the Care Industry) has already been completed and a sensational, potentially industry-disrupting new business has already emerged. With the second platform, on Happiness and Well-being, mid flow and a third, Fixing Hated Companies, firmly on the horizon, the impact and fundraising potential of this venture look transformational.

Lauren also shared some fantastic tools which could prove useful in any organisation as they embark on their innovation journey. My two favourites are below:

The session ended with a room full of people chatting, reflecting on how this relates to them and what they could do next – and for me, the key takeaway came from Kevin: “One person, one team or one organisation cannot solve these problems alone.”

Join our next Futures and Innovation group event Failing in Style on Wednesday 3rd May at 3-4.30pm, at Method Studios, 7th Floor, the Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ. Capacity for this event is 35 people, so please register early on MyBond or by contacting Liz Lowther, head of innovation and learning. 

Hear more about innovation at the Bond Conference, 20-21 March. ADP will be speaking in sessions on using mobile technology to innovate and what NGO leaders should be doing to defend aid.

About the author

Kate Wolfenden
Project X

Kate is a serial creative entrepreneur turned serial innovator with 8+ years experience in the sustainability sector.