Getting better at doing good

The popular technology site VentureBeat recently published a blog post by Microsoft’s director of corporate citizenship, Sid Espinosa, touting the benefits of corporate philanthropy as being both good for the soul and good for a company’s bottom line. Espinosa’s article references a recent study from the Reputation Institute that shows a 10 percent improvement in perceived corporate citizenship can translate to an 11 percent improvement in a company’s reputation and up to a 14 percent improvement in a company’s market value.

As organizations see benefits to both the bottom line and the brand, we’re seeing a greater convergence of business and social enterprise. But there’s a third – and equally compelling – catalyst when it comes to social enterprise: technology.

Many companies, nonprofits and foundations are just now starting to realize the impact technology can have on the success of social initiatives. In many cases, executives perceive it to be easier to write a big check or give employees time off to volunteer, then put a check mark in the “philanthropic” box. While these initiatives are extremely valuable, so is a thoughtful technology solution designed from the core of the organization for the greater good.

For example, at HiDef, we have a program in place called “CauseLabs” through which our employees work on social projects of personal interest to them. We vote on ideas as a team, and those with the most support turn into real products that we launch. Such was the case with MyStory, a simple story maker/book creator for the iPad that was born in the mind of our creative director.

After just two years, MyStory has been downloaded by more than 100,000 people worldwide and has been sought out specifically by companies around the globe who want to integrate this type of storytelling technology into their social programs.

Imagine an app that allows patients at children’s hospitals across the country to “tell” their story through books they create as a way to keep family and friends apprised, or another that enables female entrepreneurs from third world countries to share their stories with each other. And it’s easy to dream up new ways technology can help organizations do good, even better.

Of course, like any technology investment, finding the right project – and the right partner to help you implement it – is key. Watch for the second article in this two-part series for tips and advice on how to make a mobile app or web site a catalyst for your social programs, and how to find the right partner to help you change the world.