At the beginning of each year, I find myself operating with a fresh optimism. Sometimes that comes from the feeling of getting a completely clean slate. This year, however, I find that my optimism runs deeper. It’s rooted in the groundwork we laid last year and excitement and anticipation about a number of programs and partnerships beginning to bear fruit. I’m really pleased to share that excitement with the Avast Foundation community, and I invite you to come along with us on this journey!
In 2021, we launched our programs with a focus on Youth, and we will continue to develop programs in this theme throughout 2022. Through conversations with other organizations and experts working on initiatives such as digital rights, access, and inclusion, digital citizenship, and the future of technology, we’ve identified two additional thematic areas where we believe the Foundation can add value through our partnerships and by co-designing programs with communities.
Families, the Elderly, and Vulnerable Populations: There are a lot of digitally excluded people around the world, and even in the wealthiest countries, we know that there is a large overlap between those who are socially excluded or underserved and those who face a lack of digital access. We also know that many organizations working with these populations are under-resourced in their ability to effectively use digital tools and methods to reach their constituencies effectively. The COVID-19 pandemic’s emergence quickly revealed just how important digital access and skills have become for full civic participation, and its endurance is exacerbating these problems. We are looking forward to working with more organizations and communities to find sustainable solutions for reducing digital exclusion, as well as effectively transitioning services for socially excluded groups to online contexts. One component of our Spark Fund partnership includes Catch22, a UK based charity. Through our partnership, they are conducting service design research to help organizations learn what it takes to work effectively through online programs with youth who are excluded from formal education. Their findings should help organizations to develop more effective and sustainable practices and ensure greater long-term impact.
Activating Digital Citizenship: Innovation, technology, and social change go hand in hand. Over the last year, we have become increasingly aware of the creative ways in which communities and organizations are using digital technologies to tackle issues of local (and global) civic importance in cooperation with the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. From the Sustainable Development Goals to government transparency, public health and climate change, from crowdfunding to participatory grantmaking, digital technologies offer nearly infinite opportunities to get communities directly involved in determining the shape of their future, and we are really excited about our investments in this space - some of which will be announced very soon!
In the Youth area that launched last year, I’m really excited about two things. The first is the Spark Fund. This fund combines participatory grantmaking, youth leadership, and longer term investment into community organizations in a way that’s unique to the sector. A successful pilot was completed in Central Europe last year, and rounds in Africa, Central/South America, and Asia open in the next couple of months. I can’t wait to share more about the Spark Fund and the organizations that it’s supporting. The second is our Youth Leadership Board. This group, comprising 8 young leaders from around the world, was convened to help to guide our initiatives with youth. They’ve already been instrumental in shaping our thinking and I’m looking forward to a deeper collaboration with these incredible young people..
We will also be working more closely with the wider company’s employee community. Avast leadership have always been clear that leveraging employee energy for wider social good is paramount. We’ll be introducing a program for staff to find volunteering and fundraising opportunities, direct portions of the Foundation’s funding, and even get involved directly with some of our partners, helping to drive impact. We are so inspired by the company’s commitment to our vision and by the energy of the staff we’ve worked with so far. I can’t wait to see how much we are able to accomplish together.
We know - the world knows - that 2022 will be a year of challenges, some predictable and probably some totally unforeseen. But that means that it is also inherently a year of opportunities and immense possibility. How the global community approaches those challenges and opportunities, especially in the digital space, over the next year will have an impact for generations to come.