Homelessness is at an all-time high in the UK and is affecting more people than ever before, with more than 270,000 people living without a place to call home in England alone. Unify Giving, a tech-for-good initiative founded by Matthew Bamber and Sharon Truman, understands the urgency of this crisis and has leveraged technology to address the multifaceted challenges of homelessness in the UK and beyond.
Matthew Bamber, the driving force behind Unify Giving, was pulled from personal experiences that fueled his commitment to making a difference. Growing up in a modest town, Matthew witnessed the harsh reality of homelessness and the lack of support for those in need. Reflecting on the inception of Unify Giving, the founder shares, “Having spent many years in the finance industry and continually feeling frustrated for people experiencing homelessness, I decided to seek a solution.”
This frustration stems from witnessing the struggles of those on the streets, including an impactful moment where he observed a woman using multiple bank cards to buy a loaf of bread. The empathy and unease he felt at that moment became the catalyst for Unify Giving.
Sharon Truman, the Co-Founder, brings with her a wealth of experience, drawing upon 25 years of inspiration starting in sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry that led her on a journey to the start-up scene in Lisbon, where she joined a social impact start-up and raised significant funding from Portugal Ventures that sent the team to Silicon Valley to begin developing. Sharon’s vision aligned with Unify Giving's commitment to social impact through technology.
The heart of Unify Giving lies in addressing the homelessness crisis through technology. The founders recognised the limitations of traditional methods of charitable giving and sought to create a one-size-fits-all solution. Sharon and Matthew’s chance meeting in London, where the limitations of cash and card transactions became apparent, inspired them to develop a solution using RFID and phone technology.
Unify Giving offers prepayment cards to people without permanent establishments, enabling them to access traditional banking methods without waiting for activation. This allows charities to sign up recipients without physically visiting a bank.
For future iterations, Unify Giving plans to introduce an AI chatbot specifically designed for mental health issues. This AI chatbot will be built around empathetic communication, providing a more human-like experience for those who may feel lonely or unconnected. In addition to the chatbot, Unify Giving is also working with a charity to hand out SIM cards to help these people connect. This partnership aims to ensure that people can access their funds directly. The company aims to provide more accessibility for people to use financial assistance.
Unify Giving's approach goes beyond conventional charity models. The platform helps create profiles for homeless individuals. Donors can make direct contributions to these individuals through these profiles, ensuring transparency and accountability. Highlighting the uniqueness of their platform, Matthew states, “We want to build confidence for donors and give them peace of mind that their money is going directly to the end recipient.”
The company aims to provide the beneficiaries the liberty to purchase essential goods and services with bank cards with certain restrictions to ensure the money is spent appropriately. The founders are confident that this will foster independence and dignity. The platform's commitment to transparency is reflected in its decision to take a small essential fee on top of donations to cover operating expenses, ensuring donors are aware of the full financial picture.
The journey of Unify Giving is not without its challenges, particularly in the complex payment industry. The founders have gained a scholarship at Fintech House in Lisbon and actively seek additional partnerships with industry giants.
Unify Giving's immediate goal is to launch the platform by the end of the first quarter of 2024 and to achieve this, they have taken onboard Adam Rutstein, a go-to-market expert who has worked with leaders in the technology industry,
The company will focus its pilot on a small test market of three charities located in Stoke-on-Trent, London, and Glasgow to fine-tune its platform's effectiveness. Unify Giving plans to expand to major cities in the UK within six months and subsequently explore partnerships with additional charitable causes where individuals will benefit from direct donations.
Name: Harold Bedwei
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