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Why a simple text message could be future for charities

gadgets Updated: Apr 15, 2013 23:01 IST
Aylesbury estate

In January more than 300 residents on the Aylesbury estate in south London, Europe’s largest social housing project, found out about job opportunities through a text message.

The message was sent by Patrischia Warmington of Creation Trust, a charity that aims to transform the Aylesbury Estate into a thriving neighbourhood through delivering social and economic change.

The text helped to ensure that more than 200 people turned up to the showcase, and attendance was significantly higher than previous employment events in the area. Patrischia and Charlotte Benstead, the manger of Creation Trust, had a very positive response from residents about the text. They are both certain that the message played a major part in the success of the showcase and have used texting regularly ever since.

In the middle of a long running economic downturn and austerity programme, charities are feeling the pinch, with small local charities like Creation Trust often most at risk, according to the thinktank IPPR North. In this climate, new digital technologies can help, as they have the potential to deliver ways of working more effectively for less money.

However, digital technologies and especially social media are not a silver bullet.

Creation Trust followed this process when they chose to use text messages. They knew that almost all residents had mobiles and that texting is a good way to send timely reminders that are easily shared. So sending information by text would be a great way to achieve positive outcomes.

The only difference between Creation Trust and most similar organisations is that they knew about a simple web based services to manage texting to groups of people – in this case Activist SMS, built with support from the Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change, the Young Foundation and Thumbprint Co-operative, an organisation with more than a decade of experience in using texting in socially valuable ways, including the Guardian’s text message poetry competition in 2001.

Most organisations don’t know about Activist SMS and other similar services, but once.

Guardian News Service