Digital innovation in the charity sector

We take look at what charities might learn from the health sector to harness digital innovation

NPC (New Philanthropy Capital) published its "Tech for common good" report recently, about the need for the charity sector to embrace digital technology more fully. They argued convincingly that this can be achieved most effectively as an industry, rather than one organisation at a time.

This resonated with IE very strongly, because we're closely involved with a key project in the health sector to address this very same issue. It makes perfect sense to share knowledge, innovation and - crucially - development costs across the sector, where many organisations are facing similar challenges. 

"To tackle social problems in their entirety, organisations need to mount a collective approach and tackle problems at the sector level."


Public Health England (PHE) has been putting a four-stage endorsement process in place to give a quality stamp to health apps. As a result of IE's extensive experience of developing apps for the likes of CLIC Sargent and Healthtouch, we've had the privilege of consulting with PHE throughout the project. We've helped to shape what the process looks like and the scoring criteria they use, before building the system itself. Following an alpha trial, we've now progressed to beta, to create the online self-assessment forms that developers need to complete before they are passed to clinical/peer review. Once successfully validated, it will become one of PHE's trusted apps, meaning that professionals can recommend it to patients with confidence.

Back in the charity sector, financial education charity PFEG has for a long time awarded its Quality Mark to those educational resources it recommends. For the first time, it's awarded this mark to a third party smartphone app -Jangle - which is designed to teach money management skills to kids. The app has been created as open source, enabling others to benefit from the technology. 

With new apps springing up at a rate of knots, and becoming more and more about service delivery rather than merely promotional or information-led, it makes complete sense to create a system to 'kite mark' the apps that deliver a high quality user experience and that are effective in helping service users. 

I'm sure we'll see more and more not for profits collaborating to create digital innovations and deliver solutions to mutual challenges. If the charity sector can somehow put in place a similar mark of quality to that in healthcare, the cream of the apps should naturally rise to the top, to the benefit of everyone.