Open Credo

August 14, 2019 | Culture, News

Technology, Kindness and Bananas

Here, in our little nook of the internet, we usually write about our experiences of emerging technologies, the tricky coding problems we’ve solved and how we have enhanced our clients’ businesses. We do this because we are very proud of this work. It truly matters.

Today is a little different. Today I’d like to share something a little more personal. Something that brings loneliness, kindness and technology together in an oxytocin-generating, slightly awkward embrace. Because hugs matter too.

WRITTEN BY

Donna Burgess

Donna Burgess

People & Portfolio Manager

Technology, Kindness and Bananas

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them” – Steve Jobs.

I am Donna, OpenCredo’s People and Portfolio Manager. As such, I take a keen interest in both the wellbeing of our people and the health of our company. My role covers a myriad of strategic, growth and organisational activities. I am deeply interested in human behaviours, connection and community, and hence pay careful attention to our company culture.

Part of how I do this is by facilitating company-wide Retrospectives throughout the year. This is an opportunity for everyone at OC to share the things they feel are working well (or not so well!), and to suggest new activities and behaviours we should consider adopting. The format is super simple: One facilitator. Numerous post-it notes. Umpteen sharpies. 10mins of ideas. 45mins of discussion.

The topics that surface are as diverse as we are – from improving how we engage with our clients, to running lunchtime hack sessions, to establishing the critical number of bananas for our weekly fruit delivery. Sometimes the smallest of things can make the biggest difference. Plus, banana-fuelled people do the best work.1

During one such Retro, we discussed how we could do more for charitable causes. Our previous efforts have included a sponsored Mud Run for the Feel Good Bakery (part of the Regenerate Charity), and wrapping gifts for Bankside’s ‘Together at Christmas’. Brilliant causes that we’ve enjoyed supporting; and ones which led us to wonder: if, as technologists, we’re able to make a positive difference to our clients – could we do the same for individuals, and in a non-corporate way?

Kindness is contagious

Keen to find a way to pay it forward, we began by introducing a volunteering day policy, allowing each of us a paid day off work to undertake voluntary work of our choosing.2

And within a week, serendipity struck.

We were approached by Dr Amy Pollard, founder of the Mental Health Collective (MHC), who was seeking some technical help with her Kindness-by-Post initiative.

She described it to us:

“Kindness-by-Post enables strangers to exchange homemade cards with messages of goodwill, kindness and encouragement at difficult moments in the year. Our pilot project, #GreatBritishValentine, saw over 1000 beautiful cards criss-crossing the country with the most extraordinarily lovely messages. People took part from every county in England and two-thirds of the counties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we had some incredibly moving feedback from participants on what a heart-warming experience it was. Our vision is to build a new tradition of exchanging messages of goodwill between strangers for Valentine’s Day, as well as running smaller exchanges at other difficult moments throughout the year that are nominated by our community.”

It was hard not to be moved by Amy’s passion for this project. These homemade cards are treasured and gratefully received. It’s seemingly so simple, yet it has the potential to take the edge off loneliness, the statistics on which makes for difficult reading.3 And not only this, it transpires that the act of giving provides benefits to more than just the receiver. It brings a plethora of goodness for the giver: stress reduction, perspective, a sense of belonging, better physical and mental health.4
And can even benefit an entire organisation.

The perfect candidate for a ‘Tech for Good’ project

In 2018, Amy ran the first Kindness-by-Post campaign using a mixture of Google products and WhatsApp. It was an enormous undertaking, and its unexpected success created a significant manual overhead for her and the MHC team. She needed a better solution.

As an unfunded social enterprise, the project presents some unique challenges:

  • How to use the most cost-effective versions of modern technologies to allow The Mental Health Collective (MHC) to meet its campaign objectives.
  • How to ensure the platform is built in such a way so as to ensure the MHC team can manage much of it themselves.
  • How to ensure they can easily take it forwards with other technologists in future.

Right now, we’re at the beginning of this journey. We have a very small team working on it, part-time, and in close collaboration with The Mental Health Collective team. Our plans are to create a prototype application and test-run it with university students in November – beautifully timed to coincide with World Kindness day.

We’re delighted and honoured to be involved in this. We’ll keep you posted as the project develops.

“It’s hard to overstate how crucial the support of OpenCredo is for Mental Health Collective’s Kindness-by-Post project. The skills and expertise that they are offering will take this project to a whole new level, and enable us to reach 1000s more people in our work to support better mental health. OpenCredo’s contribution is the difference between a nice idea that exists in our minds, and a concrete tool that is helping spread connection, humanity and hope across the country. It’s a watershed for our work and we really can’t thank them enough.”
– Dr Amy Pollard, Founder and Director of The Mental Health Collective

PS. We recorded a day in the OC office – do take a look – and if OpenCredo sounds like the kind of place you might like to work, please do get in touch!

Footnotes
1 Not scientifically proven
2 When not on a client engagement
3 Source: Campaign to End Loneliness
4 Source: Mental Health Foundation

About the Author

Donna is an organiser, planner and pro-level nerd herder. Prior to joining OC, she worked for a number of private, public and charity organisations. She’s partial to a bit of data and afflicted with an eternal desire to learn. She holds degrees in Engineering (with German) and English Literature (with Creative Writing). Plus she’s a CTI trained Coach, a CMI accredited Manager, an ILM certified Diversity and Inclusion Leader, and a spreadsheet warrior.

Beyond the tech, Donna is an amateur yogi, a tentative outdoor swimmer and prolific reader of real, paper-in-your-hands books. A covert creative and supporter of seven charities, she believes in the magical powers of homemade herbal tea.
Connect with Donna on LinkedIn.

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