7 Social Good Trends For Entrepreneurs To Ride On In 2014

We are currently in a new golden age of social good, with entrepreneurs at the helm of solving the world’s problems through their appetite for experimentation and doing things differently. We’ve seen new trends emerge and spread over the past few years. Dutiee’s been on top of these trends as we reported about them through 2013.

Some of these trends continue to show results and are proving more effective in current times, we believe in 2014 these trends will see stronger growth as more entrepreneurs will be eager to apply and realize their benefits.

1. Commerce is gaining ground as a way of combating poverty. A growing class of social startups are using consumerism to raise funds, to create fair employment and to improve the living standards of the poor. They are building  products and companies with the highest most ethical standards – fair wages, organic, recyclable materials, mindful manufacturing, transparent supply chains. Startups are producing everything from shoes to soccer balls to empower the disadvantaged and using models like buy one give one to drive sales and do good. The Consumer Trends Report of TrendWatching also predicts exciting opportunities for brands that can satisfy people’s endless status seeking consumption with indulgences that do not harm planet, society or themselves.

A recent global study identified 2.5 billion ‘aspirational consumers’ (representing one third of the global consumer class). These consumers defined by their love of shopping (78%), desire for responsible consumption (92%) and their trust in brands to act in the best interest of society (58%), BBMG, Globescan and SustainAbility  2013

Surge in ethical products and growing consumer interest has led to the rise of ethical marketplaces and subscription commerce, with  Roozt, Zady, TOMS Marketplace, Blissmobox, Sevenly being few of the major players.

Outsourcing digital micro work to unemployed in developing countries is another model of using commerce instead of aid that’s seen growth, driven by players like Samasource, MobileworksCloudfactory. On the other hand there has been a constant upward trend of startups building products specially designed for the developing word from solar energy products to cookstoves, irrigation systems, utility apps etc. There is also a new trend of raising capital for development work through sale of products to the western markets, like the Biolite Model. The new breed of entrepreneurs are  aggressively using commerce at all levesl to drive sustainable social impact.

2. Crowdfunding  is increasingly the preferred choice of entrepreneurs to fund their startups. 2013 saw a burst of social good projects on crowdfunding sites like  Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others doing phenomenally well in their fundraising endeavors. Face:Watch a stylish wrist watch created to raise money for various causes raised more than $350,000, with over 6000 people backing their campaign on Indiegogo. Ricefield Collective a brand new startup helping Filipino Indigenous raised close to $100K on Kickstarter to go from idea to execution. Impact Hub, the global network of co-working spaces for changemakers took to Kickstarter to raise funds to open a new hub in Oakland, raising close to $150K. The 10 year Hoodie promoting slow fashion and reduced consumption, raised more than one million dollars with over 9000 backers. Even Skoll Foundation used crowdrise to raise funds for their portfolio organizations, raising  $2.4 million dollars.

2014 will continue to see an upward trend of social and eco conscious projects going to the crowd to get funded. Entrepreneurs will consciously opt for crowdfunding over traditional funders as the funds give the entrepreneur flexibility and freedom to build his startup the way he wants to.

The biggest advantage of raising funds on Kickstarter was the unrestricted funds – Meredith Ramirez, Ricefield Collective

3. Data small and big will increasingly be the driving force behind every activity in the social good space. At the organizational level, entrepreneurs are more conscious of the data they are generating daily. They are constantly measuring and analyzing data to drive business decisions and to optimize for success. The number of easy to use data tools have further propelled this trend. From Google Analytics to Facebook insights, Buffer, Tweet deck, Mixpanel, CRM databases, changemakers are digging into all types of data be it marketing, customers, donors to make better decisions.

The past year also saw the application of big data to tackle big problems. Data startup SumAll started a foundation to provide expertise and resources to use data to tackle global issues. Google partnered with Palantir and other tech companies to use big data to fight human trafficking. DataKind a nonprofit founded by data experts connects top data scientists with high impact social organizations. Experts from the Obama Campaign Analytics Team started Edgleflip to help nonprofits make use of big data to run more effective web campaigns. They are now focused on creating easy to use data tools for social good organizations.

The data revolution in the social good space is just taking off, in the years to come we will see many more resources, experts and actors coming in to help the sector gather, process and understand data to make tangible social impact.

 4. Proof, 100% transparency is the new, emerging trend that many entrepreneurs are embracing. Charity:Water was the first nonprofit that initiated this, proving how every dollar raised is making a difference on the ground. They call it the dollars to projects tracking, showing donors precisely how their donation is being utilized on the ground, using photos and GPS coordinates on Google Maps. Seeing the benefits of 100% transparency in raising public support, other entrepreneurs have been quick to adopt this approach. Watsi has made its financials publicly available on a Google document, providing every little detail of the patients they are funding including screenshots of funds transferred. Samahope, a similar medical crowdfunding platform as Watsi  also makes 100% transparency claim on its website. Give Directly has adopted a more radical approach, directly transferring donors money to poor, using MPesa’s electronic transfers, eliminating the need for nonprofits and other intermediaries. The world’s largest micro-lending website Kiva was also quick to follow direct transfers with Kiva Zip allowing people to directly send loan money to the borrowers. In an interview with Dutiee, Milaap’s Founder mentioned that they too like Charity:Water plan to initiate a similar dollars to projects tracking model in order to provide complete transparency to their lenders. Though the direct connection, complete transparency trend  is still in its infancy with top social good brands leading it, the coming year will see many more social good organizations adopting to raise large public support.

5. Hackathons though originally organized by and popular with the tech community have taken the social good sector by storm. Viewed as an excellent medium to get smart people to come up with fresh ideas and to build working prototypes quickly, the social good community is using hackathons big time to tackle every possible cause. From civic Hackathons such as the NYC Big AppsHackforChange, to hackathons for food, environment, health, education and others are being led by both nonprofits and corporations. Facebook and Gates Foundation organized HackEd which saw more than 150 people come together at Facebook HQ to build apps to help young people get into and stay in college. The global Random Hacks of Kindness that takes place in over 30 countries, the intense global DataDives organized by DataKind, the Rice Hackathon organized in the Philippines  to improve the livelihoods of rice farmers, Under the Hood Hack to tackle urban poverty in Singapore, Hackathons for Social Good are taking place in every corner of the world, attracting smart people to hack new solutions to address some of society’s biggest issues.

6. Visual marketing is a major trend online that’s only growing more and more popular. Driven by the rise of mobile devices equipped with great cameras and the apps that makes it easy to share beautiful pictures on the go, visual content has been big on the web, attracting high engagement. Seeing the rise of visual content, popular social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also made changes to their newsfeed to give more exposure to images. People are more responsive to visuals than text, they are more likely to comment, share and like which in turn means they have a higher potential for going viral. A small nonprofit driven Share My Dabba video saw close to 400,000 shares on Youtube. Another small nonprofit Peace Gospel and its Founder made diligent use of Instagram to share their work which has won them wide exposure and powerful network of over 25000 followers that’s helping them raise more support. Here are few more examples of big social good brands using visuals to get more supporters. Entrepreneurs are using apps like Instagram, Camera+, Vine to share beautiful pictures and videos of their day to day work, bringing people closer to how they are making a difference. 2014 will see a continued rise of visual storytelling as more entrepreneurs catch-on to this phenomena.

7. Design is gaining tremendous importance in the consumer tech world and the spread of the design thinking can be seen across social good space too. As new social ventures are formed providing similar products and services, design and user experience will play a critical role in driving success. People across all income levels are moved by design. Design is what led to the phenomenal success of Apple, Pinterest and Tumblr. Seeing how tech startups are capitalizing on design, social entrepreneurs too are focusing on design to attract consumers. Charity:Water, More Than Me, 31 Bits, SamaHope are just few examples of how social good brands are using design to drive donations and sales. Facebook’s former lead designer started Designer Fund to invest in designers who are building companies with positive social impact. They made their first investments in four social startups, Neighborland, Angaza Design, Solar Mosaic and Launchpad Toys. The staffing pattern of nonprofits and social ventures today also reflects this new focus on design.

We focus a lot on design. I have a team member who is a Graphic Designer. If its looks nice, people think your programs are good – Katie Meyler, Founder More Than Me