Moscow event: ‘Digital transformation of the charity sector’

Predictions, bots and blockchain: Student programmers develop technology solutions for NGOs




Students and graduates from universities across Russia attended an All-Russian Summer School on “Digital transformation of the charity sector”. During the event, participants came up with a series of high-tech solutions to help resolve some of the problems faced by NGOs. The results of the discussions were presented in Moscow.


Over a two week period, the students and graduates were able to familiarise themselves with blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies, while at the same time learning about the work of NGOs. The work of the young IT specialists was guided by the needs of NGOs who had been successful in a competition for project ideas that could be enhanced by the introduction of digital technology.


“I was really impressed with all those who took part in the summer school, some of whom were very young. As I was listening to their proposed solutions and what they were saying about NGOs and their work, the realisation suddenly dawned that the future was already upon us and that we urgently need their help as colleagues and partners”, said Inga Moiseeva, Executive Director at D-Group Social.


Student proposals for NGOs


Project teams demonstrated nine working prototypes, each of which should improve the performance of charities and their staff.


  • Web-tracking/behavioural analyser (For the “Help is Needed” charity)


The developmental team has come up with a solution that can broaden the charity’s target audience by analysing how people use their website. The web-tracking facility will provide more precise and detailed information on which of their web pages and social media publications are most popular with their readers.


  • DBetter: Registering deaf and blind people based on computer programmes (For the “Con-nection” charity)


This student model will speed up the process of tracing and registering deaf and blind people a hundred times over. Over the past five years, the charity has managed to register around 5,000 deaf and blind people.


  • “Legal immunity” (For the “Sunflower” Foundation)

This proposed solution will create a fully automated system that processes requests from people in need of medicines. Its developers have suggested putting a chat-bot on the VKontakte webpage and a special form on the website. This means that staff will no longer have to prepare standard applications for such requests – instead, they will be generated automatically.


  • Family ledger – a decentralised system for retaining information based on blockchain technology (For the “The Way Home” charity)


This is an example of how blockchain technology can be used not only for fundraising but also in facilitating equal access for charity staff and social institutions to information held on disadvantaged young children and families, e.g. what action has been taken on a child, where donor funds have been allocated etc.


  • An integrated solution for the work of an animal welfare organisation (For the “City and Us” NGO)


Students have proposed an all-purpose solution that will enable people to respond quicker to instances of animal cruelty. This consists of a form on which witnesses can record details of the abuse; a bot-telegram which relays information to NGO staff in a structured way and appendices which form an official complaint to the relevant authorities with information taken from the website. This will relieve charity staff of routine work.


  • Automation of social project design (For the “Evolution and Philanthropy” NGO)


The students have created a model that can predict the social impact of a project based on an analysis of data collected from the results of those that have already been implemented. This will help project managers in one of their most important tasks to assess a proposal’s potential social impact and recommend the actions required to ensure a specific social outcome.


  • An information support system for participants (For the charity fair, “Spiritual Bazaar”)


A team analysed existing and potential audiences for the Bazaar and developed two solutions for each: a chat-bot and special website page that provides information to people who want to take part in the Bazaar, e.g. how to get there, what items can be brought along, and how you can help the organisers.


  • An information system for registering the number of homeless people in Moscow (For the “Samiu sociyal Moskva” charity)


This solution will enable staff to record the volume and level of medical care provided to homeless people by the charity and other social institutions. This will give the charity a complete picture of who provided help and when, as well as the end result, thereby enabling assistance to the homeless to be more targeted and effective.


  • An aggregator of events taken from NGO websites (For the NGO Development Centre)


This collects information about scheduled events taken from NGO websites and social media pages. Details are updated automatically which will allow organisations in St Petersburg to synchronise their events without duplicating what others are doing.


“I very much look forward to seeing the subsequent dissemination of the results. It is important to highlight not only the nature and quality of particular solutions, but also identify what general objectives can be set and the potential digital solutions that can be used to help resolve problems facing NGOs”, said Natalya Freyk, a specialist working for the “Evolution and Philanthropy” charity.


Information note


The All-Russian Summer School is part of the Smart Social programme, an IBM partner initiative involving the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics, the Donors’ Forum and the Greenhouse of Social Technology. It aims to increase the digital potential of Russian NGOs to help improve the quality and competitiveness of their services, as well as enhancing their performance and social impact.



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