This is the fifth in our new blog series featuring Giving Circles – groups of friends, family, and neighbors who gather to learn about issues that interest them and pool money to fund greater impact. Giving Circles are democratizing giving, shifting the power, and changing the face of philanthropy – allowing all voices to be heard and empowering anyone to become a “philanthropist.”
This week, we spoke with Andrew Means, who founded the brand new Good Tech Giving Circle, which aims to demonstrate how data and technology can create social impact.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background and how did you end up in the social good space?
I have been interested in social entrepreneurship most of my life and it has been the focus of my entire career. I have done everything from lead research and analytics at the YMCA of Metro Chicago to launch the social arm of an industrial AI unicorn to found companies that serve the social sector. I have spent most of my professional life helping organizations that want to create impact use data and technology to do so. I am really interested in how we can create a more effective and efficient social sector. How can we change the incentives and the structures so those that are creating the most impact can be found and funded.
What inspired you to start a giving circle?
To be honest, the giving circle is mostly due to my own frustration. I have talked with so many people over the last years about the lack of funding for innovative, sustainable, and scalable data and technology initiatives in the social sector. I was always for the big players to get moving but I have just gotten to a point where I felt something, anything needed to be done. So I thought what if I could create a vehicle where those of us who are already passionate and interested in this work can gather together, pool our resources, and do something. I have been amazed by the level of interest we have already received and am excited by what is to come!
What are you hoping to accomplish with your circle? What will you fund?
I have three objectives with the giving circle. First, that we simply create a really easy vehicle to bring together those individuals and institutions that are interested in data and technology with those individuals and institutions that have exciting initiatives that need funding. I want our giving circle to be a community more than anything else. Second, I want to create a place where others that want to fund data and technology but are hampered by their ability to evaluate these projects can come and find exciting, vetted projects. Essentially, my goal is that we put all our applications online and are freely searchable to others that want to fund in this space even outside of our giving circle. Third, I want to innovate and test new ways of funding sustainable and scalable data and technology initiatives. Traditional philanthropy doesn’t work very well in this arena and so can we test and pilot ways of funding this work that others can copy. I want us to be the R&D center for data and tech philanthropy.
Who will your members be?
Our members will be both individuals and institutions. Some might already be quite philanthropically engaged and others this will be new for. We will be focused on funding data and technology that is sustainable, scalable, and impactful. I don’t want us to fund one off pilots or projects that are simply recreating the wheel in a new institution. I want to find projects and initiatives that have a path to scale, that solve problems the sector and our world is facing, and where we can potentially be a long-term partner in helping them accomplish their goals.