Can apps make aid transparent?


Veronica Celis is a Chilean architect turned tech innovator. Together with her partner she has developed EnlightAID, an app which allows social entrepreneurs to collect donations in a transparent and efficient way. At Oslo Freedom Forum, FNF Brussels’ European Affairs Manager Håvard Sandvik sat down with Ms Celis to discuss the role of technology in making aid more transparent.

There are many exciting social entrepreneurship projects, by strong-willed entrepreneurs determined to make an impact. Yet they all identified access to capital as the greatest challenge to their project´s success. Do you really think an app can help where traditional fundraising approaches have failed?

In my opinion, building trust is instrumental to reach success in any project and even more so in a socially oriented one, also establishing an emotional bond between the people who want to contribute financially to a project, the people executing it and the ones being benefited by it has become increasingly important, people want to experience life, people want to experience the amazing projects that are out there!

In the past, many social endeavours and charities have been based on the traditional model of presenting a potential case either on paper, in front of an audience or on a nice looking website. This way of raising money is static in the sense that it is like a brochure promising results in the future. We think this an outdated approach. What is increasingly clear is that people are expecting instantaneous, dynamic information. Just look at the use of social platforms today. Social businesses and charities that provide a  dynamic view of what is taking place and the benefit their contributions actually means to the people in need will in my opinion engage whole new audiences who take an active interest in seeing results. Not only to see the flow of money to the recipients but what activities take place as the they happen, appreciating true transparency.

What we all at EnlightAID hope to achieve, with our platform, is to build trust through a transparent and dynamic process, which will help people to connect with projects and choose the ones they want to become part of, following their progress and positive impact every day. We want to help contributors become invested in each undertaking. We believe this strategy may change the way people look at this kind of projects and can help the organisations executing them significantly by building a bridge of trust that allows them to show the great work that they do and how they do it.

Tech innovator and entrepreneur Veronica Celis Copyright: Celis

Doesn´t it cost a lot for social entrepreneurs to adopt the app though, taking away potential benefits in the making?

Our team comes from a project based background, both in technology and construction and we have been dealing for a while with the difficulties of implementing different software and tools to the actual delivery of a project. I think that gives us an advantage when it comes to building a platform that it is both practical and easy to use. What we are working on is much more than an app, it’s actually a platform made to be used by multiple social businesses. Each social business that wishes to work with us will be able, in the future, to set up their own projects, with descriptions, pictures, videos, budget, project plan, participants and recipients. Their own assigned project manager will control the payments, their project participants will through an app report back on project progress and payments executed.

Tell us, Veronica, where did the idea of EnlightAID come from? 

I think there is not just one origin to our concept, it is an idea that has been evolving for a while and it is definitely a combination of interests. Two thirds of our team come from South America, where sadly the trust level for public entities is not very high, we are used to see good ideas being tainted by corruption. As a team we wanted to develop our own social projects in Chile: re-building public education infrastructure. However, we felt like just having a good project idea would never be good enough, we needed to create a way for everyone to see that we will actually do what we say we are going to do, and that there is no possibility of money mysteriously disappearing or any other kind of bad practices.

Can an app make aid more transparent?

Definitely! As I said before, we think we are building something that is more than just an app, we are building a whole platform that is going to make it possible to be completely transparent. It is a disruptive technology, and we think it has the potential to challenge the status quo of what aid is today. Imagine defined budgets for specific projects that allows you as a contributor to choose where your money goes. Imagine automated payments done through the platform, that makes it impossible to redirect funds for personal gain. Imagine all of this information displayed on the website, open to the world! I have to say we do believe this can make aid more transparent!