Have you come across the concept of jugaad? Most commonly associated with Indian entrepreneurs, the Hindi word roughly translates as ‘the gutsy art of overcoming harsh constraints by improvising an effective solution using limited resources.’
Everywhere in the world where challenging social or economic circumstances prevail, entrepreneurs make creative use of whatever assets are easily or freely available to deliver the most value at the lowest cost.
Jugaad, sometimes referred to as ‘frugal innovation’, offers valuable principles for your company’s social impact strategy.
Your social purpose should be an enhancement of what you already have, not an add-on, afterthought or burden. That means taking the resources you’ve got – including your products – and getting them into the hands of social innovators to do incredible things.
This applies to every business, but here I’m using the technology sector to illustrate the possibilities.
Your technology could be used to track the reproductive cycle of a cow, support micro-sanitation projects in Africa, manage wastepickers in India, identify human traffickers, provide better services to homeless people in the UK, or a myriad of other things.
You don’t need to know how your technology can be used to improve lives; you just need to create an environment where social innovators can access and experiment with it.
By embracing the spirit of jugaad, your business can do what it already does, using the resources it already has, to contribute to achieving social value in a way you may not have anticipated.
You don’t need to be Microsoft or Salesforce
The technology sector has been providing products for social good for many years. In 1987 TechSoup was founded in the US ‘as a bridge between the social sector and the products, services, funding, and knowledge that are essential for improving lives.’
Now a global movement, TechSoup acts as a Nonprofit Tech Marketplace for companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec, AWS, Google, Dell and Cisco to distribute donated or discounted technology to verified eligible nonprofits.
Other companies, such as Salesforce, Atlassian and Twilio, have in-house programmes offering donated and discounted tech for nonprofits through their .org entities. They are part of the Pledge 1% movement of companies that have signed up to give 1% of their product, equity, time or profit to nonprofits.
But you don’t have to be Microsoft or Salesforce to make a significant social impact.
You might be a unicorn start-up with the coolest bit of future tech on the planet, or in a rapid-growth sector such as AI or RPA, working within the constraints of tight resources as you become established.
Or you might be an older IT organisation, with an existing legacy of CSR-activities which does not include your products or services.
Whatever stage you’re at, you can discount or donate your product for nonprofits who otherwise could not afford them, to ensure that they benefit from the same services as commercial organisations.
From accounting to mining
There are many ways that technology products can contribute to achieving social good. For example, Sage, the UK’s largest IT company, provides accountancy, HR and enterprise management tools to businesses around the world.
Sage had a large existing nonprofit customer base, using its products to operate more effectively.
In 2015 Sage successfully introduced a global donation and discount programme for four of its products. This has enabled nonprofits to benefit from a range of Sage’s core products – and helped to maximise the impact of their work.
In a different scenario, in 2016 I worked with a small IoT company who provide sensors to mines in Latin America to assess water quality and availability.
They quickly realised that communities near the mines had to have their water delivered by truck several times a day, while the mines had an unlimited supply of fresh water.
By helping the company find an NGO partner that was working with communities and government to develop water infrastructure, as well as working with other companies with vested community interests, we realised that their technology was a vital part of the solution to provide readily-available fresh water.
Not only did the company provide social value, but it was able to showcase its product to target clients and government in a non-commercial environment.
Whatever your business does, you can contribute to achieving social value: it’s all about finding the most effective route for you.
Do they need a Rolls Royce or a Mini?
Once you’ve decided to donate your product, it’s good to develop a social purpose vision for the change you want to make in the world – then you can work out how to apply your product to achieve it.
If you have a complex, expensive bit of tech that needs a high level of implementation you might choose to work end-to-end with just one or a handful of nonprofits; using your technology to support a focused, shared outcome.
If you’ve got a widget that you think could be used widely for social benefit, you might want to make it freely available on an unlimited basis to organisations that you never speak to or support.
Nonprofits are as varied as for-profit companies, and have widely ranging technology needs, budgets and abilities. There is a new generation of tech-savvy nonprofits springing up, but many are still struggling with the basics
Before you start donating or discounting your product, you need to think about what size or type of organisation it is going to most benefit. You do not want to give your product to organisations that simply aren’t equipped to make use of it, nor create a burden for your company by having nonprofit customers that need more help than you can give them.
As a colleague at Salesforce once said to me, ‘we don’t want to give a Rolls Royce to a charity that needs a Mini.’
Setting some barriers to entry can be a good way to sort the enthusiastic tech messers from those who’ve made a strategic decision to adopt your specific piece of technology. This will enable you to focus your resources on the organisations making innovative use of your product – not those who can’t remember their password.
Free, donated or discounted?
How you provide your product to nonprofits – in essence, whether it’s ‘free’, donated or discounted – is important.
B2B technology can rarely be ‘free’ – there is always a cost to implementation and configuration to ensure it does what the organisation wants.
A better way to describe the gift of technology is a donation; giving away the technology means that the nonprofit can spend any money it has on making it work for them.
An alternative is to offer a very deep discount– or to donate a set amount and then discount any further product needed.
Or you might offer something in between by creating a sliding scale price offering tailored for the sector.
Nonprofits may be suspicious of ‘free’ offers, having been burned in the past by something ‘free’ that ties them into unwanted long-term use of outdated or unsupported technology.
They may also want to understand why a company would offer something to the sector for free, and whether the company is genuinely engaged in creating social value or simply trying out a new product that they don’t think is yet fit for commercial use.
Nonprofits talk to each other and develop a broadly common vision about a technology offering based on both its merits and the perceived motivation of the company. They may prefer to pay something for a fully supported product than to receive a ‘free’ version.
Be open about your intended social outcomes, and work back from your vision to define the best model for your strategy.
When considering the options, bear in mind that nonprofits are often cautious about any investment in IT and prioritise spending on programmes rather than infrastructure, so you need to quickly show how your product contributes to them making better social impact.
Are you flogging tech or partnering to deliver social value?
Creating a sustainable programme for discounting or donating your product also means considering where this work sits in your business – and how that reflects your aims.
To be a true partner to nonprofit organisations it’s essential to build a relationship on trust, and this can be immediately undermined if you’re seen as solely profit-oriented.
Consider how your sales and support teams will work with your nonprofit partners. Ensure you have a sales team motivated (and rewarded) by the social impact of the product as well as meeting their quota.
You might want to create a dedicated nonprofit sales team to keep the programme sustainable, to have clear ownership of the sector within your sales hierarchy, and to ensure that the donation or discount isn’t seen as cannibalising a potential revenue stream but as central to the delivery of your social purpose.
Reinvesting any revenue you earn from nonprofits directly into your social impact programme can make it sustainable and is a great message to the sector. Reinvestment could take the form of programmes or grants to support nonprofits using your technology, funding tech innovation or developing nonprofit-specific functionality.
If your programme ‘washes its face’ financially it’s easier to see it as another effective part of the business, not a ‘drain’.
You might also want to invite your partner network to join in with delivering social outcomes by donating or discounting their own services and products.
Your company can then feel very proud when showcasing how nonprofits make use of your technology in amazing, world-changing ways.
Giving stuff away needs good governance
Determining who you will share your product with is important. It should be entirely at your discretion, and have good governance and process.
Working only with legally registered nonprofit entities will help to ensure your product isn’t used for something reputationally damaging – and that you are delivering the social impact that you intended.
You can set up processes in-house to capture nonprofit registration documentation before making product donation. Pretty much every country in the world has legislation by which it identifies social-benefiting organisations.
Or you can outsource the determination of nonprofit eligibility to a partner such as TechSoup, or Givingforce’s charity-checking service.
Jugaad in practice
Delivering social value doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money. In fact, the most sustainable, effective social impact strategies are founded on the principles of jugaad – making the best use of what you already have.
This principle extends far beyond the technology sector to every business. By placing a new lens on your product, and defining a model that’s aligned with your objectives, you can use your offering to deliver social, as well as commercial, value.
Isabel Kelly set up and ran Salesforce.org’s international product donation and discount programme for 12 years from 2002, getting Salesforce into the hands of thousands of nonprofits in 110 countries. She learned a lot and likes helping other tech companies to avoid reinventing the wheel or falling into avoidable holes when using their own product for social benefit.
Read more how Profit with Purpose works with companies here.