In March, NHSX launched TechForce19 in partnership with PUBLIC, AHSN and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. A month later, 18 companies were announced as winners of the TechForce19 program and began testing their digital solutions across the UK. In this interview we spoke to Chris Martin, Co-Founder of TechForce19 winner Team Kinetic, to hear more about the company’s TechForce19 journey deploying technology to manage volunteers support the most vulnerable in communities across the UK.
1. What do you do at Team Kinetic and why did you embark on this venture?
TeamKinetic provides the UK’s leading white-label volunteer management application with 150,000 volunteers donating 1.2million hours over the last 12 months. Our software enables the safe and effective recruitment, on-boarding, deployment and recognition of volunteers.
Volunteers are a very rare and special resource, who are so committed to what you are trying to accomplish, they are willing to give their time, skills and energy for free to see it succeed. Our mission has always been to develop a product that empowers volunteers and enables volunteer-involving organisations to scale their volunteer involvement and impact.
As active volunteers ourselves, each and every one of our team has experienced first hand the challenges of trying to get people working together towards a shared goal, but we have also all experienced the joy that comes when it all goes right and you make a real difference to people’s lives.
2. How does your solution help the vulnerable and isolated?
During the pandemic large numbers of people have been forced to shield in their homes and communities have had to rally around to support and provide basic services for those people and others who are at high risk of COVID-19. Local government, the 3rd sector and mutual aid organisations have come together to provide the human resource and support required to provide these essential services.
This has meant an army of volunteers has been recruited. These volunteers needed to undergo vetting and criminal record checks, all remotely. TeamKinetic’s unique locality-based approach has meant communities have been able to leverage our technology at the grassroots level, making it easier for people to help and support their neighbours in a safe and sustainable way.
It’s our ambition that post-Covid-19, TeamKinetic will remain an active part of our customer’s communities and will provide a legacy of social inclusion and support for other community activity.
3. How has your company adapted to tackle Covid-19 related challenges?
The last few months have been really challenging, but extremely productive for TeamKinetic and it’s been amazing to watch the team raise their game in response to this crisis. Initially, we developed some improved communication features that allowed our customers to identify Covid-19 related opportunities and be able to share that information via email and SMS text to their volunteers.
We soon realised that Covid-19 presented some unique challenges, specifically in relation to individuals personal information. How could we broker opportunities and tasks that we needed volunteers to undertake in a manner that did not put at risk the personal information of the people they were helping out. Our solution was to develop a Covid-19 progressive web app for volunteers. This new workflow ensured we could link a volunteer to someone who needed help whilst maintaining the privacy of individuals.
Developing new technology, at speed, in a crisis environment, whilst all our team were readjusting to working from home was a real challenge, but we have seen over eight thousand tasks complete to date, which is really rewarding to know we have been able to make a really meaningful difference.
4. Can you tell us more about how you’ve deployed your technology as part of the TechForce19 challenge?
Working with local partners, TeamKinetic worked to embed our technology into their existing networks. This meant we developed a deployment strategy that involved key stakeholders in a co-design approach. TeamKinetic’s strength lies in its flexibility, with features like our public API and admin controlled privileges. Working with our partners we were able to develop a sustainable methodology for opportunities and tasks to be created by staff and the general public, which were then brokered to local volunteers.
The TechForce19 project presented an opportunity to refine and speed up our development methodology and to develop some high-quality implementation resources that mean our customers can be actively deploying volunteers in hours rather than days.
5. Have you learned any valuable lessons during this period of change and uncertainty?
The significant upheaval caused by Covid-19 did present some new and interesting opportunities, that meant we quickly pivoted to a new technical solution. Making that decision early and then executing a minimum viable product quickly ensured we remained relevant to our customers.
Deploying technology during times of crisis has been very educational for us as a business. With most of our customers operating way beyond their normal capacity and scope, we learnt very quickly that our contribution to their work needed to be simple, effective and almost instantly deliverable.
6. Advice for GovTech founders?
I’m not sure I’m too qualified to offer much advice, as we have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I would say learning quickly from your mistakes and having a relationship based on trust with your client has been key to our survival over the years. New technology and change management are difficult on your best days, if you are fighting with the customer at the same time, it rarely ends well.
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