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Barcode Donations for Rough Sleepers to Combat Cashless Society

27 August 2018 at 2:44 pm
Maggie Coggan
A new UK social innovation project has created wearable barcodes for rough sleepers, in a drive to increase cashless donations.

Maggie Coggan | 27 August 2018 at 2:44 pm


Barcode Donations for Rough Sleepers to Combat Cashless Society
27 August 2018 at 2:44 pm

A new UK social innovation project has created wearable barcodes for rough sleepers, in a drive to increase cashless donations.

Greater Change, supported by Oxford University Innovation, started the mobile donation system to combat an increasingly cashless society, and to create a more sustainable way for individuals to reach their long-term goals.

The participant works alongside a caseworker to create long-term goals donors can then donate to, either by scanning the QR code held by the individual, or donating to a partner charity through the app.   

Greater Change founder Alex McCallion said a big issue for people experiencing homelessness was they were “largely voiceless” and unable to share their story, leading people to “assume the worst”.

Support workers create an online profile for homeless individuals, allowing the donor to see where their money is going. 

“The profile includes what the person is saving for and a name. If the person would like to share their photo and story, they can,” McCallion said.

These long term payments can be anything from rent deposits, skills courses, or identification documents.  

McCallion said the lanyard and the code was an “entirely optional element”, and they were exploring a “more discreet positioning of the QR code”.

“It was added into the pilot use of Greater Change based on the suggestion of people who were homeless. If people would prefer not to use the lanyard, or the QR, that is entirely at their discretion,” he said.

“We are looking into options such having the code as a sticker applied onto business cards that are given to the participants, with details on the reverse about Greater Change, how it operates and what typically donations are spent on.”

CEO of Homelessness NSW, Katherine McKernan, told Pro Bono News any innovation that supported people experiencing homelessness was welcomed, however she wasn’t convinced that “placing lanyards with barcodes around people is the answer”.  

“I think that there are other ways to provide support to people experiencing homelessness that respects people’s individual dignity a little bit more than the way the app is proposing to do it,” McKernan said.

McKernan said the way the app “assumed” people experiencing homelessness needed support with how their money is spent, went against research.

“The research shows that people experiencing homelessness know how to budget and spend money effectively too,” she said.

“Making assumptions around goals or targets that people should be working towards or about how the funding of money could be best used really doesn’t respect the agency and the dignity of people who are sitting on the street.”

Greater Change did acknowledge this element of fundraising should not “replace the urgent need” to address affordable social housing or funding homelessness support organisations.  

While the program wasn’t operating beyond Oxford currently, if it did reach Australian shores, McKernan said she would be happy to work with the organisation to create a service they were also happy with.

McCallion told Pro Bono News they were hoping to expand the program nationally and then globally, but there was no set date for this currently.

“We’re aiming to expand to new cities within a couple of months. We’re also keen to scale it internationally but this does not have a formal timeline yet. We think if all goes well it will take under a year,” he said.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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