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Top 100 Changemakers 2020: Tech

Welcome to The Big Issue’s Changemakers Top 100: celebrating the thinkers, creators and agitators. Here’s our rundown of the tech pioneers creating a better world in 2020

George Anderson

Anderson is already familiar to Big Issue customers in London as a vendor from his time selling the magazine at Oxford Circus and the BBC. But over the last few years he has gradually built up his own business, drawing on his previous experience working in biomedical research and with support from Wellcome Trust, where he worked part-time while selling the magazine. Anderson is now publishing research papers, and in 2020 aims to grow the editing service he provides for scientists whose first language is not English, through his company CRC Scotland & London. “My work as an independent researcher has resulted in over 150 publications over the past four years on a range of areas,” Anderson explains.

Charity Bank

Driven not by profit but a vision for a better world, Charity Bank supports charities and social enterprises with loans they couldn’t find elsewhere, while simultaneously showing individuals, businesses and charities how their savings can be invested ethically for greater good. Like our social investment arm Big Issue Invest, it is run by and for organisations with a social purpose. Their loans are used for a huge spectrum of social purposes, from building affordable homes to launching renewable energy projects to promoting unity and peace among young people in divided communities. Last year more than 1,000 loans were made to organisations the length and breadth of the UK, totalling almost £289m. Arts, community, education and training, environment, faith, health and social care, sport and social housing have all benefited from the social impact of Charity Bank, and recipients report added bonuses ranging from improved financial management and services they offered to increased sustainability.

Shwetal Shah

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Tackling gender imbalance head-on while working to harness the power of technology as a force for social change and give a voice to marginalised people across society, Shah is a changemaking powerhouse in the tech sphere. From TEDx Talks to the Dalai Lama Leadership Programme, a Young Leader at the EU Commission and as a Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, her work crosses international boundaries and unites major corporations, government at all levels and organisations working to make the world fairer. Working at MediaCom as an International Technology Partnerships Planner is only part of the story: a UN Empower Women champion, her award-winning documentary on women in tech led to the creation of a year-long tech-skills programme through the Feminist Library in London. She is a voice on the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, is on the board of Forbes 30 Under 30, and she has the ear of UK government and volunteers at local, national and international levels.

Kirsty Devlin and Anna Holland Smith, Recode

Offering an ambitious coding bootcamp free to all applicants, with a pay-it-forward model where past alumni can mentor and teach at future coding schools, Recode revolutionised the concept of digital inclusion. It’s increasingly recognised that a vast talent pool is being overlooked because of lack of opportunity open to people in deprived areas. The harm that digital exclusion does to social mobility is also well documented, and by taking these bootcamps into the heart of communities Recode, a community interest company, took direct action to change that, most recently with a
12-week Recode course in Bolton. Each place was worth thousands of pounds, but provided free with support from companies seeking to put something back into communities.

Bevis Watts, Triodos Bank UK

Triodos is the biggest of the UK’s ethical banks. CEO Watts has been in charge since 2016, having made waves working in the recycling industry and as chief executive of the Avon Wildlife Trust. Since Watts took over the bank it has launched a crowdfunding platform for good causes and loaned more than £900m to sustainable organisations in the last year alone. The bank finances housing projects, including community land trusts and social housing providers. Watts is calling for the banking industry to take radical steps to be part of the solution to the climate crisis instead of one of the contributing factors (research commissioned by the bank last year showed that UK banks invested nearly £150bn in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement). Through Triodos he’s pushing for greater transparency from banks about where they invest their money, showing that the financial industry can use their customers’ money for good if they choose to.

Chris Hildrey, ProxyAddress

Hildrey’s innovative tech solution looks to solve a simple problem that affects so many Big Issue vendors. Without an address, what seems like very straightforward yet vital everyday essentials like accessing benefits, getting a bank account, passport or driving licence or seeing a GP becomes a gruelling process. ProxyAddress aims to solve that by drawing on the thousands of empty homes in the UK, using a ‘virtual copy’ of one of those addresses to give homeless people an address they can use for data purposes. The tech project has come a long way since architect Hildrey launched it in 2017, earning the Royal Institute of British Architects’ President’s Medal for Research in 2018 as well as a £5,000 grant from the Museum of Architecture (MoA) fund. ProxyAddress is currently working with The Big Issue while it is being trialled in London. A nationwide roll-out is on the cards in 2020 and beyond.

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