2020 in review, our hopes for 2021

Launching Academy 2021 and more...

Greetings 👋 

2020 was a whopping big year at SIDE:

  1. Our Covid response work at Refugee Action won them a nomination for Charity of the Year

  2. Our Digital Candle service made over 300 introductions between charities and volunteer tech experts – saving a few hairs being lost, countless hours Googling and probably a fair bit of money as well. 

  3. It was a bugbear that there is no central list of #techforgood agencies. In 2021 we did something about it: meet Dovetail

  4. We went on a spiritual, emotional, but mostly design journey with 10 wonderful charities, guiding them through a digital discovery programme, in collaboration with Catalyst.

  5. We grew 150% from two people to five, bringing in two talented digital apprentices – Jaymie and Maryan – in our inaugural SIDE Academy cohort

SIDE was still only a blob in 2019, so it was perhaps inevitable that 2020 seemed big by comparison.

Here are our hopes for 2021: 

🍒 No-code 

In 2020, we delivered projects using a veritable smorgasbord (our word of 2020) of no-code tools including Webflow, Glide, Typeform and GitBook.

We are hugely excited about no-code. It increases the benefits and reduces the costs of implementing software – making it quicker, more equitable and user-friendly. It also changes the skills required from a digital agency… which is where SIDE Academy fits in nicely.

Because no-code keeps improving, it is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a train we are excited to be on board. 

📈 SIDE Academy 2021

A highlight of 2020 was SIDE Academy, our ‘no experience required’ training scheme, designed to help young talent break into Tech For Good. 

Everyone is a winner with Academy:

  • Charities get talented young no-coders to work on their problems.

  • Academy trainees get the chance to work on interesting, worthwhile projects right at the start of their career.

  • We get to work with fantastic young talent, preventing us from getting too crusty in lockdown. 

A couple of things Academy has taught us:

1. Prior to launching SIDE Academy, I was nervous about anything that smacked of positive discrimination. Six months on, I’m more aware of how first opportunities like these are distributed very inequitably. And that is a problem because your first opportunities have a huge impact on your career trajectory.

2. There is a bottleneck. Charities don’t provide that first tech job because they don’t have the skills or capacity. Agencies struggle because it is too risky making long-term commitments when their contracts are short-term. Experienced contractors earn a fortune; inexperienced individuals struggle to get a start. (A fortunate side effect is this disparity in wages makes Academy self-financing.)

We start recruiting for Academy 2021 today. If you know anyone who might be suitable, point them to the Academy 2021 page. Or we’d appreciate any shares on Linkedin or Twitter.  

🤲  Effective Altruism

Having spent a year in charity land, it amazes me that I’ve not heard anyone talk about Effective Altruism. Not even once. 

How wild is this fact?

“One additional unit of income can do a hundred times as much to benefit the extreme poor as it can to benefit you or I. It's not often you have two options, one of which is a hundred times better than the other. Imagine a happy hour where you could either buy yourself a beer for $5 or buy someone else a beer for 5¢. If that were the case, we'd probably be pretty generous – next round's on me! But that's effectively the situation we're in all the time.”

writes Will MacAskill in Doing Good Better. (Or in podcast form, Will is great from minute 30 on Waking Up with Sam Harris.)

I used to assume that the relationship between Effective Altruism and charities was something like the relationship between startups and incumbents. Startups either force the incumbents to improve, or they replace them. In reality, they are different worlds, with no communication between them. There must be ways to bridge the gap.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2021? We’d love to hear. 

Best wishes

Andy