Solidaritech CIC is one of ten community businesses funded by the Power To Change Makers & Maintainers programme, which supports community businesses who are already on a journey of creating community tech – technology that can meet their specific needs, respects their autonomy and creates value that sticks to places.
About Solidaritech CIC
“Technology plays an increasingly crucial role in the prosperity of a place, with digital exclusion and a lack of access to technology and connectivity impacting people’s long-term health, wellbeing and economic prospects. Community tech helps us to tackle this head on.”Ben McKenna, CEO, Solidaritech
Established in 2017, Solidaritech is proudly rooted in Bradford and serves communities across Yorkshire and the Humber. Solidaritech refurbishes donated technology – such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and computers – for use by asylum seekers and refugees who are facing digital exclusion.
Solidaritech works in communities that have benefited from waves of migration over many decades, but that also experience significant socio-economic disadvantage and digital exclusion. In the past year, they have provided more than a thousand machines to asylum seekers and refugees, and demand continues to grow.
Solidaritech’s ethos is based on the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’, working with people to understand their needs and ensure the tech they receive will meet their requirements.
How Solidaritech is creating and using community tech
Solidaritech works closely with local migrant support organisations who both help with donations and refer clients for help. To help them manage this process, Solidaritech has developed its own customer relationship management system, SolidCRM.
Already, the development and adoption of SolidCRM has enabled the team to build a clear picture of donations, workflow and referrals – and in doing so, respond better to people’s needs.
While Solidaritech is an organisation with charitable aims, it also needs to generate income to ensure its longer-term sustainability. SolidCRM helps to generate increased revenue from sales thanks to its e-commerce sales and donation integrations. This information also allows the team to gain greater insight into potential donors, find the correct machines for users with specific needs, and track and manage requests in a timely and consultative manner.
Solidaritech’s aspiration is that Makers & Maintainers funding will enable them to consolidate their strong relationships with partner organisations, ensuring that their services are co-produced for and by the local community, and influenced by their volunteers.
The funding will give Solidaritech the capacity to address one of their biggest challenges; identifying people and/or companies willing to donate technology. They aim to develop SolidCRM to better manage the process around donations, handling enquiries, scheduling callbacks and providing a tracking function so people can see how their donation has been used.
The team also hopes to develop SolidCRM to equip ‘remote’ volunteers with access to case-management and referral progression functions previously only available to office-based volunteers. This will widen participation to people without the means to get to Solidaritech’s offices.
Whilst the team can currently provide language support for Arabic, Spanish, French and Russian speakers among existing volunteers, reducing physical barriers to participation will allow Solidaritech to take advantage of Bradford’s diversity, helping to find people support in a language they speak. This will facilitate greater language support for people with less widely spoken languages like Tigrinya, Uighur, and Farsi.
How community tech is strengthening communities
“Volunteering at Solidartech helps me help other people. These people are in the same situation that I was in, so I understand their needs and how much our help means to them.”Solidaritech Volunteer
Every day, Solidaritech is helping to reduce digital exclusion faced by refugees and asylum seekers living in Yorkshire and the Humber. Their early interventions help people from migrant communities to meet immediate, urgent needs, such as being without a phone. But they also help address longer-term technology needs, such as families with children who don’t have access to digital equipment to complete their schoolwork online.
Solidaritech volunteers are drawn from local migrant communities. They have found that volunteering aids and encourages social integration and offers a meaningful way to contribute to society for people – many of whom are highly tech-literate – whose immigration status means they cannot work or earn a living. It also means that when people are granted leave to remain, they have gained valuable work experience, connections, and contacts.
Beyond this, Solidaritech beneficiaries have used their tech to start businesses, convert their qualifications to British equivalents, learn English, access therapy, progress their immigration cases, and unite their families.
Solidaritech is also able to use its influence to bring stakeholders together and influence broader social change. For example, their Chair convenes and hosts the Leeds Migration Partnership, which brings together local activists and services and in turn feeds into local migrant and digital strategic planning.
Solidaritech contributes to the wellbeing, productivity and economic performance of Yorkshire and the Humber, with cities such as Bradford reliant on immigration to thrive. Solidaritech wants to ensure that people who come here as refugees or to seek asylum are not only afforded a warm welcome but are provided with the best possible start to their lives in the UK.