María José Greloni might have over a decade of experience working with NGOs under her belt, but it didn’t take a decade for the communications pro to understand the financial limitations NGOs face. That’s why the native Argentinian has made a career out of helping nonprofits get their hands on innovative technologies that give them a leg up in the marketplace.
Those technologies, which range from customer relationship management software to virtual reality, allow NGOs to compete with the private sector and offer high quality social services that governments aren’t usually built to provide.
Ironically enough, Greloni does that work through a NGO called Wingu, a spinoff of U.S.-based nonprofit Idealist that works with tech developers and communications experts to empower organizations through technology.
“One of the things that I believe is that NGOs and social projects should have a profitable or sustainable way to get money,” said Greloni. “Many times, the people who work at NGOs are not professional enough because NGOs don’t have the money to pay as well as the market does.”
That’s where Wingu steps in. While Greloni herself hones in on communications and data, she’s seen her organization develop some seriously game-changing technologies for NGOs across Latin America.
1. Digital donation platforms “Donar Online is really big. What we have built is a platform where NGOs from all of Latin America can receive donations. Right now, we have more than 1,000 NGOs from the region that have received more than $4 million and we don’t charge anything. Our model in this case is sponsorships. Big companies are sponsoring this tool.”
2. Bringing transparency to underserved neighborhoods “Before we did Caminos de la Villa, the slums you see in Google Maps were just a grey hole. We have walked all the slums in Buenos Aires and have mapped them in alliance with another NGO that works in human rights. The citizens who live in slums can report the state of the slum. For example, if the government has promised to build something or do something with water and hasn’t provided a solution, citizens can report it. One of the challenges we have with this mapping is that once the platforms are built, it’s not that easy to get the citizens to make reports. If we wish for them to participate, we have to invest our resources in communication.”
3. Virtual reality for cancer patients “This is a different because what we did was create an alliance with a virtual reality company. When a patient goes to take their long term chemo treatment, we give them virtual reality lens and they can choose where they want to be when they get their medicine. It was an experiment that got huge. One of the things virtual reality does for patients is relax them so they are not so focused on the treatment. In a way, that anxiety gets lowered. We want to get this treatment to other private and public hospitals. That’s the dream.”
4. Crowdsourcing citizen data “We have a project that is related to crowdsourcing of citizen data called DataShift in four countries. What we’re doing, in alliance with CIVICUS, we’re trying to create solutions so that the citizens come report on the platform and make the invisible visible. In many cases, the data governments have show one side of reality. What we’re trying to do is show the other. Many countries in Latin America are part of Open Government Partnership, and in Argentina right now we just got access to this information. Just two weeks ago, we had the first Open Government Forum. I think Argentina is walking the good path.
5. Data-driven communication campaigns “There’s a need to communicate. We are doing Camp-Camp right now to help NGOs think their campaigns. We’re collecting data and helping a few organizations do that. For example, our project with health centers right now is in a testing phase. What they do is ask citizens to answer a very brief questionnaire about their socioeconomic conditions and how they are received by services. Usually, the service is terrible. We will be able to have that data and go to the government with that. It’s super, super new.”
Greloni is attending the Salzburg Global Seminar which happens in Austria until October 16th.