How can we make democracy work better? What are some practical improvements that we can put into place? These are questions that the Practical Democracy Podcast hopes to answer.

Bex (or Rebecca, she doesn’t mind) is a service designer, serial podcaster and kitten fosterer who has dedicated her career to making tech for good. In practice, that means making things like apps and websites for charities, as well as organising events that connect people working in the third sector to people working in tech who are happy to share their expertise.

In this episode of the Practical Democracy Podcast she and host Ben Fowkes talk about what tech for good means and its context in the world today. Listen on Buzzsprout/Spotify/Apple or via the embed at the bottom of this post.

00:00 Introduction: foster kittens and ‘sadvertising’

Bex talks about how she came to do design work for the third sector after realising that the world of service design often isn’t as cool as people make it out to be – her work designing websites that sell soap just wasn’t reflective of her personal values.

6:04 Tech for good or tech for bad?

Is all tech that isn’t made for good automatically tech for bad? Is it binary, or is it a bit more ambiguous than that? Bex and Ben get into the semantics of what it means to do good.

9:58 Tech For Good Live

What TFGL is all about – namely, free events in Manchester as well as a weekly podcast featuring different guests, with the aim of getting tech companies and the charitable sector in one room or having a conversation. 

19:49 On Reply, her consultancy

Bex talks about her company – a current project is working with a charity that supports rape survivors – and the difficult conversations that can arise with clients who aren’t tech-savvy or are set on an idea that isn’t right for their needs.

32:36 Online vs. offline

How has Bex’s work changed as a result of COVID? In this section she discusses the benefits of online vs. face to face working and tips for being really good at remote workshops.

38:14 On ambulance chasing

This section wanders into the philosophical. Some have been shamelessly capitalising on the pandemic – companies, yes, but also ‘plastic thought leaders’ who you may have seen clogging up your Twitter feed. Is it our responsibility to call people out if we think they’re having a negative impact, even if they think they’re doing things for the right reasons? Bex remembers calling out an organisation & getting some signatures on a letter – following which the organisation threatened each individual who signed it.

Check out Bex’s consultancy or follow her on Twitter.

Check out Tech For Good Live for their podcast and event listings.

Practical Democracy Podcast: Episode 1 with Dr Rebecca Rumbul from mySociety

Practical Democracy Podcast: Episode 2 – #NotWestminster Special (part 1)

Practical Democracy Podcast: Episode 3 – #NotWestminster Special (part 2)

Practical Democracy Podcast: Episode 4 – Democracy in a time of misery with Dr. Nicole Curato

Practical Democracy Podcast: Episode 5 – Carolyn Hassan of Knowle West Media Centre