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Nonprofit technologies that change the world


Imagine making distant realities accessible through the power of VR, like historical sites at risk of disappearing or a young Ethiopian girl’s daily quest for clean water…

Or setting the stage for the development of next-gen robots by providing entrepreneurs with resources and room to create…

All these developments in automation and robotics are taking place in the nonprofit realm, fueled by young professionals, engineers, and educators. Those looking to jumpstart their careers are increasingly likely to gain experience and find opportunities in the nonprofit sector. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nonprofit employment grew by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2016, while for-profit didn’t crack 5 percent7.

Nonprofits are not only adopting automation, they are innovatively applying it to solve endemic challenges that once threatened their very existence. Automation ensures consistency, guarantees completion, frees up staff time, and makes optimization possible.1

Meet some of the organizations breaking new ground in nonprofit tech for good.

CyArk3: Originally a reaction to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, CyArk was founded to digitally record, archive and share the world’s most significant cultural heritage sites and ensure their accessibility for future generations. The nonprofit also provides engineering drawings and maps to assist with conservation work.

CyArk shares its data in multiple ways, most notably as 3D recreations and immersive VR experiences. In order to achieve this, the nonprofit puts together multidisciplinary teams –researchers, archeologists, engineers, digital technicians– and partners with universities and the companies such as Google and Oculus to get the best results possible.

MassRobotics4 5: The Boston-based nonprofit was created by a group of engineers, rocket scientists, and entrepreneurs who wanted to address one of the most pressing needs of the robotics community – infrastructure, testing space, IT, and business services. The engineering nonprofit hub currently fosters over 30 startups, with a goal to expand to 80, following a headquarters expansion from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet, to be completed in 2019.

Besides offering innovation space, MassRobotics connects early-stage companies with potential customers and provides workforce training to those considering a career in advanced manufacturing.
charity:water6: Chatbots are becoming reliable tools to educate communities and engage with potential donors. They deliver immersive experiences that convey the depth and complexity of a nonprofit mission.

The organization charity:water got the trend started with Yeshi, a bot version of a young girl in Ethiopia that walks people through the 2.5-hour journey she must undertake to access clean water. Conversations with Yeshi are “smart,” meaning that she asks and answers questions with a variety of images, maps, text, and videos. It also reacts to trigger words like “donate”.

This type of experience is infinitely adaptable to put donors in the shoes of the communities a nonprofit serves. Automating this on-the-ground view of the lives of recipients is a great way to provide deep knowledge of an organization’s mission at scale.

The growing importance of nonprofits in the job market signals a changing landscape, and cutting-edge developments in robotics and automation reveal an appetite for fresh ideas. Considering these developments, the time is right for career starters to venture into tech nonprofits.

(1) Guidestar (2016, August 2nd). The 5 Biggest Benefits of Nonprofit Automation. Retrieved from
(2) Sys-Con Media (2019, January 9th). Celebrating 20 Years of Economic Development and Innovation, Automation Alley Gains Global Momentum As Industry 4.0 Leader. Retrieved from
(3) Braithwaite, P. (2018, April 16th). Google’s 3D Models Are Saving the World’s Most At-Risk Heritage Sites. Retrieved from
(4) Kolodny, L. (2017, February 17th). Boston’s New Hub, MassRobotics, Is Like a WeWork for Robotics Startups. Retrieved from
(5) O’Brien, K.J. (2018, February 8th). MassRobotics to Triple South Boston Space with $2.5M State Grant. Retrieved from
(6) Liffreing, I. (2016, September 1st). This Facebook Bot from Lokai, charity:water and AKQA Recreates an Ethiopian Girl’s Long Walk for Water. Retrieved from
(7) Philanthropy News Digest (2018, August 31st) Nonprofit Job Growth From 2007 to 2016 Outpaced For-Profit Job Growth. Retrieved from
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