05 Mar A Conference Out of the Ordinary
On March 1st, the IE Net Impact Club, in conjunction with MakeSense and Impact Revolution, hosted the Tech 4 Change conference. The conference was sold-out, with students, professors, and many others from the greater IE community coming together to discuss technology innovation and social impact. The conference format was quite innovative itself, consisting of a panel discussion with breakout challenges and networking; thus creating an environment of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and fun.
Panel of Technology Experts
For the open panel discussion, Alex Casas, Francisco Martinez Sanz, and Pedro Calveria took time out of the busy schedules to share their expertise and experience in the technology-social space and their social ventures.* In addition, Professor Conchita Galdon, director of IE Social Innovation mediated the event and shared her own insights from her expertise and experience in this space as well.
The panel touched on the applications of innovative technology, from using drones to assist in the delivery of critical supplies (such as medication of food) in hard to reach areas to using biometric data of people in rural India as a form of identification. Interestingly, the panel also discussed creative uses of non-hi-tech solutions where resources may be particularly constrained, one example that Prof. Galdon shared was a simple invention, made of cheap materials to locate and detonate landmines safely (read more about it here). Both aspects are social innovation developments that one should keep in mind when solving challenges.
The second part of the conference turned attendees into active participants. Participants got a taste of applying new technologies to social challenges in break-out sessions. The teams were made up mostly of people that haven’t met before, tasked with a challenge that they needed to solve in 45 minutes. Each team had an expert mentor to provide knowledge in the tech space of the challenge.
For the artificial intelligence challenge, due to unforeseen circumstances, Raul Arabales was unable to attend, but fortunately, Professor Eduardo Pedreno, who teaches Innovation in a Digital World, among other courses at IE, stepped in to mentor the group. After the event, I got a chance to speak with him. He loved the collaborative environment and he was excited to see the level of interest at IE on technology in the social sector. While he’s excited of the developments in the social space, he believes the key to success lies in the implementation of the solutions.
I also got a chance to speak with a few of the attendees who participated in the challenge. Matilde, an IE undergraduate psychology student said she came to the conference because she’s heavily involved in social entrepreneurship but wanted to learn more about how new technology can make a social impact. She was surprised to learn about the various applications of blockchain technology in the field, initially thinking it was only used for finance. Matilde joined the case challenge team that needed to efficiently use drone technology in hard to reach islands.
Bringing It All Together
The conference culminated with each team presenting their solutions to their peers, with everyone voting for the best solution. In the end, the blockchain group won with their proposal to use blockchain technology to securely transfer funds to refugees with low transactions costs. The team won €240 that will be donated to the It Will Be organization – an NGO using biometric information to provide vulnerable children better access to aid, health & education.
While the challenge could only yield one winner, the conference had something for everyone. It was a great way to share knowledge and also provided attendees with a taste of it. Hopefully, it swayed opinions and helped transform someone’s interest into a new passion.
Did you attend the conference? Share your experience in the comments below!
*(The fourth speaker, Raul Arrabales, unfortunately was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.)
Article written by: Ali Birouti
Ali is an aspiring social entrepreneur. He has 10 years of experience helping organizations develop software solutions. Currently, he is pursuing his MBA at IE Business School. You can find him on LinkedIn.