AWS Public Sector Blog

Where mission outcomes and technology come together for impact: IMAGINE: Nonprofit Online recap

At the fifth annual AWS IMAGINE Nonprofit event—the first online—nonprofits from around the world shared stories of how technology came together in support of their mission to impact the communities they serve. The annual event brings together nonprofit leaders, technologists, and innovators to discuss how technology can help drive a positive impact for both people and the planet.

In a year with its share of challenges, nonprofits used a technology-centric approach to quickly shift resources and focus. Vice president of nonprofits and US government at AWS, Dave Levy, introduced nonprofit speakers who shared their journeys to solve for big challenges and how they’ve achieved their desired outcomes. Read on for more on what you missed. And watch the sessions, now available on demand.

Pivoting and transforming to serve the needs of the community using digital tools

“Industries are seeing disruption from places they’d least expect…Organizations are quickly having to transform to take advantage or find themselves antiquated. Philanthropy is not unique or immune to this challenge,” said Chris Ticknor, chief transformation officer (CTO) of nonprofit Orange County United Way (OCUW). Chris spoke to the power of technology as a “bottomless tool chest” to help nonprofits execute on their mission.

For example, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, OCUWrecognized they needed to help their diverse community, suffering financially after the fall of the tourism industry—a big economic driver in the community. OCUWhad always focused on helping the homeless community, which was a big challenge even in normal times. In a matter of weeks, using cloud tools on Amazon Web Services (AWS), OCUW digitized their manual intake process to relieve their inundated call center, and also helped community members on the brink of homelessness to quickly apply for and receive financial assistance.

Changing community-centric behavior and addressing the needs of most vulnerable communities

Nonprofit Atma Connect believes in the power of people helping people build resilient communities. Meena Palaniappan, founder and chief executive officer at Atma Connect, shared the story of their tool

AtmaGo, a hyper-local social network for neighbors to help each other in communities impacted by disaster. The app helps people become agents of change instead of being data points or data consumers. The app has evolved to meet the needs of these communities around the world, including places like Indonesia and Puerto Rico.

“People who happen to live in vulnerable communities are resourceful and ingenious. Through our human-centered design approach, they’ve driven the design of AtmaGo to meet their needs,” said Meena. An independent evaluator found that if just 10 percent of the Jakarta population used AtmaGo for early warning purposes, it could prevent $106 million in property damages and $4.6 million in healthcare costs. Using the cloud also helped them quickly launch a telehealth service to address rising anxiety and cases of domestic violence.

Breaking down information silos to advance conservation

Organizational silos can be a big barrier for nonprofits. The Nature Conservancy shared how to build success systems in the cloud to overcome this barrier and help meet your mission. Focused on “conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends,” they created common data models—and made them available to the public—to help them prioritize their efforts using the cloud. Geospatial information officer at The Nature Conservancy, Zach Ferdaña, said, “The mapping types that describe all of our conservation science and planning work boil down to three categories: predictive modeling, prioritization, and monitoring and evaluation.”

Zach shared how The Nature Conservancy did their enterprise cloud migration, how it is helping them maximize the value of their data, and the ways insights are evolving how they do their work on the ground.

Systems change approach: How digital transformation is driving financial inclusion

Nonprofit Kiva is focused on improving financial access for people around the world particularly in underserved communities. More than one billion people around the world cannot prove who they are, and this lack of identity is the primary barrier for financial services, like getting a bank account or a credit card. Chief strategy officer of Kiva, Matthew Davie, said, “Financial inclusion is a systemic problem…the underlying problem is the financial system is not built to be inclusive.”

While Kiva is known for their microlending site, which has enabled $1.5 billion USD of giving from one million lenders, Matthew shared the story of newer offering Kiva Protocol. Kiva Protocol is an open source digital identify platform that can enable cheap, verifiable identity for everyone. The solution was implemented in Sierra Leone for example, which required almost no changes to their existing identify infrastructure. After the implementation, anyone could visit any financial institution in the country and prove their identity with a fingerprint.

High-tech solutions in low-tech environments

Nonprofit Viamo is a social enterprise that helps organizations across Africa and Asia connect with remote clients using mobile phones. “Viamo started out with a question: how can we help nonprofits and governments use technology and basic mobile phones that are now ubiquitous in everyone’s pockets to create new feedback loops at scale, driving better development services?” said Mark Boots, co-founder and chief technology officer of Viamo.

Viamo realized early that mobile phones could be used to get crucial information out of remote populations to help governments and other nonprofits provide better services, as well as provide life-changing information to those remote individuals. One such solution is their 3-2-1 Service, a free on-demand information service.

Using technology to innovate and find a cure

In a fireside chat, Dave Levy spoke to EB Research Partnership (EBRP) chief executive officer, Michael Hund, and founder and vice chairman, Jill Vedder. They spoke about how they’re working to treat and cure Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). Using technology, they’re innovating while also enabling patient-centric care. “What if we could build a platform that makes navigating your journey with EB as easy as using the navigation on your phone? Except for us, the destination that we seek is a cure.” Pointing to Amazon’s “working backwards” approach, they discussed the similarities between AWS and EBRP in starting with the outcome in mind—“outcome-based believing.” They also discussed their unique funding model as well as their focus on inspiring organizations to share data to accelerate research.

Turning passion to purpose: Black Girls CODE

Founder and chief executive officer of Black Girls CODE, Kimberly Bryant, started her nonprofit to help girls like her daughter, an aspiring gamer, build a community where there wasn’t one. Kimberly shared the story of Black Girls CODE’s founding more than a decade ago, its growth, its future, and how to address the talent pipeline of Black women in tech. Through the on demand site, don’t miss Kimberly Bryant’s conversation with Werner Vogels, chief technology officer of Amazon.

Check out these talks, the speakers, and this event by registering on the AWS IMAGINE: Nonprofit Online website, where all content is now available on demand.