Edinburgh-based tech company transforming the lives of the homeless

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Bella Combest from StreetChange, a tech company based in Edinburgh dedicated to fighting urban poverty in the UK. Bella is certain that technology has the power to make the world a better, more equal place and has partnered with Johnny Watson, founder and chief executive of StreetChange, to make it happen.

Starting as a hackathon winner in 2015, StreetChange allows individuals affected by homelessness to raise money for an item or activity that meet their specific needs using an online profile.  “People see poverty in the streets and they want to help, but it can be discouraging not knowing where your money is going. We want to address this by offering transparency and accountability–allowing donors to make a direct and meaningful impact on someone’s life without the uncertainty” says Bella.

Member profiles are individual ‘crowdfunding’ campaigns, that offer people who are in need an opportunity to set up fundraising goals, have their stories told and their voices heard. This allows the donor to see exactly where their money is going and its direct impact. Donors also have an opportunity to send supportive messages once a donation has been made.

The National Philanthropic Trust reported that 70% of potential donors agreed they would be more inclined to give to charity if they knew how their money was directly helping others and StreetChange does just that.

It also shines a light on the varying types and causes of homelessness. Although street homelessness is the most visible form, sleeping rough only accounts for 8% of people experiencing homelessness. The opportunity to fundraise for a specific item such as a bike or laptop – particularly in a world where everything is done online – may be the deciding factor on whether an individual can find a job or a permanent home.

My take; StreetChange does not just transform the way people give, it is also puts control back into the hand of the receiver. As a society, we are happy to help those in need but often fail to transfer autonomy to those we give to. StreetChange breaks the giver – receiver relationship of fundraising that often erodes the dignity and confidence of people on the receiving end and creates a platform for people to exchange money, stories and services.

Technology has a reputation for breaking down relationships but StreetChange want to use technology to create and support positive human interaction by creating a personal dimension for both the donor and the receiver that – if you ask me –  has been lost in the world of charitable giving.

If you would like to donate to StreetChange please visit streetchange.org.uk

Watch this space: FutureScot is teaming up with a number of charitable, third sector and tech organisations to discuss how digital technology can be used to alleviate poverty and inequality in Scotland.