Digital DNA pitch success for Techies in Residence

Digital DNA pitch success for Techies in Residence

Six participants from the Techies in Residence social innovation programme celebrated success today after securing over £85,000 in funding from a panel of experts at Digital DNA. The programme, which had over thirty initial applicants, will provide £85,000 in support to Mencap NI, Children’s Law Centre, Shelter NI, uHub, Housing Rights NI and Parenting NI, all of whom will take forward delivering on their respective social innovation projects.

The programme supported by Building Change Trust brings together social challenges from charities and social enterprises with digital and technology professionals to produce innovative digital products and services over up to twelve weeks.   This the third year the programme has been run by Innovate-NI with support from Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

This morning ten VCSE organisations pitched for additional funding, having started the process in early 2018 and received support and mentoring at various milestones.  Like the Trust’s ‘Social Innovation Skills’ programme, charities and techies go through a creative problem-solving process, where the needs of the end user are the focus, rather than what the charity or the techie thinks they might be.

Successful projects include a one stop online resource developed by uHub which will enable those with mental health difficulties to self-support and access services and a Housing Rights NI resource to help make it easier for tenants to navigate the private rental sector.  Funding was also awarded to Mencap NI who will harness virtual reality to enable people with learning difficulties to be engaged with society, and Parenting NI who want to reach as many parents as possible and make them aware of the help and support available to them through a new app. In addition, Shelter NI have secured funding to deliver a trusted trader scheme for vulnerable housing tenants, and the final recipient the Children’s Law Centre will create an anonymous chat bot to provide information to young people on their legal rights.

Reflecting on the Techies in Residence programme and the funding announcement, Paul Braithwaite, Programme Leader at Building Change Trust said,

“We’ve been so impressed by the quality of the pitches today, it was difficult to make a decision from the ten shortlisted.  Those who have been successful demonstrated that their new solution could have multiple applications beyond the immediate problem for which it was developed. This is particularly important in the resource constrained environment of the VCSE sector.”

Congratulating the winners, Clare McGee from Innovate-NI added;

“This is our third year running the Techies in Residence programme.  We are delighted that so many organisations want to make real progress in addressing these social challenges.  This seed fund will support the final six to continue their journey and reflects the appetite for social innovation within the VCSE sector.”

Meet the Techies- Damgeo

Meet the Techies- Damgeo

We get to work with excellent tech talent, solving social challenges, and now we sit down with Damien Caldwell from Damgeo, who is working closely with uHub.

  • Tell me a little about yourself and your organisation

I am a digitisation consultant for DAMGEO LTD, we specialise in the conversion of processes, content and learning into engaging and interactive digital experiences:

  • What attracted you to the Techies in Residence Programme?

It was recommended by an old colleague that now works for Work West Enterprise Agency (Helen Lunny).

  • What attracted you to working with (the organisation you’re working with)?

Initially it was suggested by Clare McGee, once I realised the amazing aim of this web application and met the team at the residential there was no turning back.  Cara and Pam are a force of nature and have been brilliant at delivering all comms and the message that I need to digitise from the start, they are never afraid to say they don’t like something, but always have an enhancement suggestion, which is all a developer can ask for when designing a solution like this in such an agile way within a pretty tight timeframe.

  • Tell us a little about what’s exciting about this project?

Working with 2 people that are doing this because they care and have no interest in profit or what they actually get in return.  Cara and Pam have been an inspiration to me, in the computing/digital world it is all about profit margins and networking to win contracts.  They are making me see what is over the commercial proposition, which has just been an amazing experience for me and the company.

  • What challenges do you think you’re going to face in this process?

This solution has vast potential, the initial challenge is realising what is possible in this programme, however, we also want to push forward the other items outside scope of this phase that could make this app very special and become a universal solution to mental health issues.

  • What scope do you see for your solution beyond Northern Ireland?

Mental health issues are not exclusive to NI, with consideration of languages and localised content coming through automated APIs there is no reason why this is not shippable to anywhere in the world.