The Four Pillars: Social Good

This blog post is the fourth in a five part series on the "Four Pillars". If you'd like to start from the beginning, you can find the first post here.

At Bitlink, we want to work on projects that we find to be personally meaningful and we want for our work to have some kind of positive impact on the world. It's for this reason, that we have included social good outcomes as one of the Four Pillars. However, it might not be immediately obvious why a for-profit company would choose to focus exclusively on projects that have some kind of social good outcome, or how that actually influences the company as a whole.

The first thing to be aware of, is that even though Bitlink does focus on projects that have a social good outcome, we don't focus on the social good outcome to the exclusion of each of the other pillars (or ignore the financial implications of working on a project that has a social good outcome, but doesn't help us pay the bills). Rather than thinking of Bitlink projects as having a social good outcome exclusively, it's better to think of them as requiring at least one outcome which is predominantly a social good (and no outcomes that are so bad that they would undercut any social good value that might be accrued).

How this works in practice, is that when we assess the financial impact of any given project (will it make us money and help us to sustain our business), we also assess potential projects according to how much social good is likely to result from our efforts. For example, if a project will earn us a lot of money but won't have a social good outcome and we have another project available to us that might earn us less money, but will lead to positive outcomes for the wider community, then we're more likely to select the project that has a social good outcome as part of its stated aims.

The concrete effect of this focus on projects that have a social good component is that we find ourselves working on projects with an environmental, education or health focus of some kind most of the time. We also work with universities, schools, hospitals and research institutes more frequently than many other software development companies. Conversely, we decline a lot of work that is bread and butter for many web development companies, such as marketing web sites and promotional mobile apps.


Social Good

While there's a broad range of social good outcomes that a project might potentially have, we've found that, for us at least, they boil down into three main categories.

Health

A number of our projects have outcomes that fit within a broad definition of "technology for health". In some cases, the projects are about preventative health, such as a web application to help encourage office workers to be more active in their daily lives. In other cases, the projects have a more clinical focus, such as a tool for helping physiotherapists guide patients through their exercises remotely and track their progress.

Education

Another common theme for us is projects that have an education focus. In particular, we have quite a few projects coming our way that involve using technology as a hook to get young people to more actively engage in learning topics that are commonly taught in schools. However, just about any project that involves teaching and learning is likely to be something we jump at.

Environment

We also work on a number of projects that involve a positive environmental outcome. In particular, we've worked on a number of projects that have involved sensing the environment, or sensing resource use and making this information available in a way that effectively supports decision makers to make the right decisions as they try and weigh up resource use with environmental impact.


Ensuring that each of our projects has a social good outcome of some kind in turn ensures that we feel good about the work that we're doing and that the world is a better place as a result of the work that we do. While we always need to balance this ideal with the need to bring revenue into the company, maintain positive cashflow and ultimately keep the lights on and salaries paid, we've found that there's no reason you can't do all of that and still focus on projects that have the greatest potential for positive impact in the wider community.

One of the advantages of focusing on projects that have a social good outcome is that it's lead to us developing some areas of specialisation and expertise around the sorts of projects that commonly come our way. As such, we're starting to develop some sophisticated domain knowledge when it comes to our health, education and environment related projects, which in turns makes it easier to pitch for those sorts of projects in the future.

By focusing on the sorts of projects we want to do, we increase the chance that more of those sorts of projects will come our way, while also increasing our capacity to deliver on those projects if they do happen to come our way.

If you have an idea for a project with a social good outcome, or if you'd like to talk to us about this blog post (or anything else that might be on your mind), then head on over to our contact page and send us an email.


This blog post is the fourth in a five-part series on the "Four Pillars" that the Bitlink team use to determine which development projects to focus on at any given time. Projects that align with the four pillars are actively pursued, projects that don't fit the mould are declined or referred on.

If you'd like to read more, you can find the other posts in the series here:

  1. The Four Pillars
  2. Novel Interaction
  3. Creativity
  4. Social Good
  5. Research

James Riggall

Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

James is a Tasmanian entrepreneur who found his start as a teacher at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab) in Launceston, Tasmania. James worked at the HITLab for five years. During that time, he taught courses in virtual reality, augmented reality, entrepreneurship and video game design. In his teaching career, James worked extensively with international lecturers, including the founder of the original HITLab in Seattle, Professor Thomas Furness. James also helped facilitate many guest lectures from international speakers, including staff from Microsoft, Valve Software and Gas Powered Games, as well as numerous independent video game developers. James left the HITLab in 2012 to establish Bitlink. Bitlink is a technology consultancy and software development house which is based in Launceston. As consultants, the Bitlink team help local businesses get the most out of technology and build their own success in the digital economy. As developers, the team build mixed reality and data visualisation applications for a variety of hardware platforms. James serves as a director of Startup Tasmania, a not-for-profit organisation and networking group for Tasmanian entrepreneurs. James is also one of the key proponents of the Macquarie House Catalyst Project, an initiative which aims to convert an iconic historic building in Launceston into a coworking space for Tasmanian innovators.