The pandemic has accelerated the use of digital technologies in all facets of our lives. Over the past year, most schools and universities have shifted to online learning, the workplace has evolved to video conferencing, and e-commerce online shopping rose by 44%. However, the pandemic also exposed dramatic inequities in technology access and utilization. Many low-income communities suffered from low connectivity, deficient digital literacy skills, security and privacy concerns, and an inability to utilize online payment mechanisms. These gaps in access to digital services widened the substantial inequalities and limited opportunities that already existed in our society, making it nearly impossible for many families to receive support services, request government benefits, access basic needs or have their children fully participate in remote learning.
In response, a Bay Area nonprofit, My New Red Shoes, has developed a transformative, innovative, and responsive program portfolio to close this gap and increase access to basic needs through digital technologies. Over the past year, MNRS, an organization focused on improving the quality of life and well-being of children and youth experiencing economic hardship, has produced an e-commerce platform and launched a cash grant pilot program to deploy resources and provide sustainability, stabilization, and dignity for the most vulnerable families in our community.
“In the year since the pandemic began, the economic pain coupled with social distancing requirements has forced us and our agency partners to look at how we operate, to adapt, and to be as nimble as possible. We invested in new and innovative approaches to deploy resources in a safe and contactless way to protect the health of our most vulnerable youth and their families. Through our online store, families have been able to order the shoes their children need and want using a voucher system. Orders have been fulfilled and the shoes delivered to the youth, while providing recipients with the dignity of choice and a normalized online experience.” says MNRS Executive Director, Minh Ngo.
As a leader of nonprofits deploying technology to advance social good and reduce the impact of economic inequity, MNRS recently was awarded a grant from Full Circle Fund’s (FCF) Tech Accelerator Fund reserved for tech-driven nonprofit organizations. In addition to funding, FCF will assign members from the private sector to work in partnership with MNRS staff in a six-month engagement to execute an IT/Digital audit and develop an enterprise application integration strategy to help the organization scale their e-commerce and digital platform services.
“My New Red Shoes has demonstrated resilience over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic challenged them to find new ways to community-based services,” said Jay Hirschton, CEO of Full Circle Fund. “Our volunteer Members are excited to apply their technology skills and experience to collaborate with My New Red Shoes to provide digital solutions to serve children and youth experiencing economic hardship.”
The partnership of FCF and MNRS highlights the impact that can be achieved when the private sector locks arms with community nonprofits to meet emerging and ongoing community needs with creative approaches and new solutions. Ngo says, “With the help of the Full Circle Fund, MNRS is uplifting vulnerable children and youth utilizing the new requirements of a digital first age, and we hope this partnership and effort will serve as a model to other charities."
About My New Red Shoes
Since 2006, My New Red Shoes has provided new shoes and clothing to over 100,000 children and youth experiencing economic hardship in order to build a stronger, healthier, and more inclusive community for all youth. Learn more at https://mynewredshoes.org/.
About Full Circle Fund
Full Circle Fund (FCF) is a nonprofit community that leverages its professionals’ financial and intellectual capital to accelerate nonprofits and build a better S.F. Bay Area. Full Circle Fund brings together socially conscious Bay Area changemakers to address today’s most pressing issues with local nonprofits, or Grant Partners, in a unique model of engaged philanthropy. www.fullcirclefund.org