Cognition Foundry enhances charitable giving with technology

By | 5 minute read | February 24, 2021

volunteers unloading cardboard boxes from truck

According to a recent study by Harvard Business School, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should have a primary goal of aligning “a company’s social and environmental activities with its business purpose and values” but companies struggle partly due to “poor coordination.”[1]  Cognition Foundry, an IBM Business Partner, helped impact startup Investors In Community (IIC) tackle this problem head-on with a technology platform that helps companies coordinate, track, verify and prove their charitable giving.

Founded in 2015, Investors In Community’s award-winning platform[2] unifies all aspects of community partnering across five ways of giving: donations, fundraising, volunteering, skilled volunteering and gifting of any item or service. The platform maintains an immutable record of each transaction, providing trust and transparency. And it does all this without taking any fees from charities.

Beyond addressing the imperative of transparency, the platform solves two other critical needs for effective CSR campaigns, fostering connections to charities and managing complex transactions. IIC’s founder, Phil Webb, had the vision of “a platform to support all giving methods; whether that’s money, fundraising, time, skills, or gifts and services in kind, that would allow businesses, individuals and charities to connect with each other, give directly through the platform, and track, verify and manage their impact.”

His bold vision of well-orchestrated and effective philanthropy was an inspiring—if lofty—ambition that fit well with Cognition Foundry’s expertise and experience tackling large-scale, complex challenges with elegant, secure and scalable solutions. “We use technology as an enabler to help social impact startups make their vision a reality,” says Ron Argent, CEO of Cognition Foundry. “Founders understand the problems they want to solve and the outcomes they desire to achieve, and we help them turn that vision into reality. We serve as a guide, creating technology where needed, or leveraging what already exists in new and powerful ways.”

One of the powerful ways technology has helped accelerate the realization of IIC’s mission is the use of Blockchain to accurately record the value of a business’s interaction with a charity. “The blockchain brings trust and transparency to the solution,” explains Argent. The blockchain acts as a trustworthy storage mechanism; it’s a shared ledger that businesses, individuals and charities can use to record and verify those transactions.

Blockchain’s inherent immutability is particularly important for companies who want accreditation for their corporate social responsibility (CSR) work from independent bodies. IIC works with these third parties to put the stamp of approval on its clients’ CSR transactions. IIC turned to IBM Business Partner Cognition Foundry to help move this mission to reality.

To pull the solution together, Cognition Foundry needed to apply insight, innovation and use a robust infrastructure to establish a dependable foundation. Cognition Foundry choose IBM’s LinuxONE as its cornerstone. LinuxONE provided an unmatched security model and the performance to help meet the needs and dynamics of the blockchain solution. This enabled the Cognition Foundry and IIC team to get to market quickly, while also accounting for rapid growth plans and the agility needed to make critical decisions quickly. Cognition Foundry received the IBM Beacon Award for the most Outstanding Enterprise Linux Solution award for innovation, illustrated through the deployment of this solution with IIC.

Leveling up

The blockchain issues a unique digital token measuring system called Community Credits for each act of giving transacted through the platform across all five forms of giving. It is the unifying measurement, allowing the giver to collect community credits for every act of giving. This can be used to compare, incentivize and even gamify between users, groups and companies. This easy presentation of company data makes CSR reports far easier to produce, dramatically reducing the cost of CSR initiatives.

For internal purposes, this reporting goes down to the employee level thanks to the inclusion of both individual and organization accounts in the system. It lets businesses track those employees most active with charities by looking at the number of community credits they accrued. They can use that information to introduce their own rewards systems.


Bridging the gap between charities and businesses

Many businesses and individuals struggle to identify suitable community projects. IIC’s platform helps them work more effectively together by creating profiles and projects on the platform to coordinate their activities. “Our goal is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things,” Webb explains. “People and businesses want to invest in local community projects, but have trouble finding them. Companies struggle to track and prove their CSR activities.” By solving the key problems of verification and managing complex transactions, IIC brings the community together for greater impact.

It’s working. The project has already driven a 300% growth at IIC in just nine months, registering 437 charities, 71 businesses and 1,072 individuals.  The platform has generated over 32,500 community credits within this time frame — demonstrating the power of collaboration and measurable impact made in society.


What’s next

The two companies continue to work together on driving more innovation into the project. Planned enhancements include a mobile app and integration with other systems including payment gateways, human resources software and ERP.

Webb also has ambition to use the IIC platform to disrupt the “give as you earn” service, reducing client costs by around 90%. This will give more businesses the option to offer this to employees, and provide savings to those who already do.

IIC plan to become the back-office delivery mechanism and payment enabler for other CSR applications in the next 12 months, while adding support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “Nobody is currently able to link activity at the granular level to the SDGs that are measured by the U.N. and used by many corporations as an international benchmark,” Webb explains. IIC aims to change that.

Backed by Cognition Foundry and IBM technology, visionary founders like Phil Webb are changing the world for the better, and demonstrating it is quite possible to do well by doing good.

Learn more about how other Beacon Award winners are changing the world through their solutions.