Newsletter #5: Impact with no-code

Project updates from our new office: Impact Hub King's Cross.

🏢 New office: Impact Hub King’s Cross

After months of trialling co-working spaces in London, we’ve settled on Impact Hub King’s Cross. The plan is to work there two days per week and from home three days per week. We’re already loving the community vibes (and yoga).

💚 New project: Going Green Together

We’re working with VONNE to help charities in the north east go green. di:ga are helping develop a comms and engagement strategy. This is a 10-week project, powered by a suite of no-code tools. Launching mid-September.

🤲 New project: Chayn

Chayn is a global nonprofit supporting survivors of gender-based violence. We’ve always admired their mission and no-code approach. We’re kindred spirits, for sure, and we’re happy to build the new Chayn website in Webflow. (And in related news, we just became official Webflow expert partners.)

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 New project: CivTech Challenge

This 3-week project is part of an accelerator run by CivTech. Challenge: How can we create the most local and best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?

✍️ How to communicate well with a digital agency

We delivered a series of masterclasses with CAST. These help charities understand how to work well with digital agencies. Andy wrote up the  highlights: How to communicate well with a digital agency.

🌈 Our big idea: Migrant Services

Over the last year we’ve worked with a handful of migrant charities. We’ve seen the same information problems recurring  - resulting in migrants getting bounced from one support organisation to another. We’ve got an idea how to solve those problems on a sector-wide basis. Migrant Services is the first step. Self-funded for now. We’d love any help or thoughts on how to scale this plan.

🦉 Things we’re sharing in Slack

🙌 Thanks for reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading, please forward this newsletter to a friend. If you want to chat, just email Noam or Andy. Find out more about SIDE Labs.

Hope you’re enjoying summer. See you again in a few weeks! ☀️

Going on a SIDE Mission

Further explorations in using tech to make the world a less bad place

Hello all! 👋

A quick update from SIDE Labs:

  1. We are delighted to welcome Shivy and Elizabeth to SIDE Academy 2021, our no-experience-required apprentice scheme. Their first task: learn Webflow. They created this lovely new SIDE Academy page

  2. SIDE Missions: we now spend Fridays trying to launch a socially beneficial digital product. In the first month, we’ve been exploring ideas for Migrant Communities or Climate Action. We’d love to hear any feedback about our thoughts in either area.

  3. We’ve been working with 6 charities to improve the way they use digital.

  4. We’ve done a batch of work for Refugee Action: further developing their Good Practice site (in Webflow), building an Immigration Advisor Handbook (in Gitbook), and creating a Single Point of Access prototype (coming soon, in Webflow and Typeform). Yes, we are still loving no-code. 😂

  5. We created this Agencies for Good page, harnessing Noam’s twin passions of Webflow and emojis.

SIDE are always looking for new partners and opportunities to make an impact. Fancy a chat? Get in touch.


Andy and all at SIDE x

2020 in review, our hopes for 2021

Launching Academy 2021 and more...

Greetings 👋 

2020 was a whopping big year at SIDE:

  1. Our Covid response work at Refugee Action won them a nomination for Charity of the Year

  2. Our Digital Candle service made over 300 introductions between charities and volunteer tech experts – saving a few hairs being lost, countless hours Googling and probably a fair bit of money as well. 

  3. It was a bugbear that there is no central list of #techforgood agencies. In 2021 we did something about it: meet Dovetail

  4. We went on a spiritual, emotional, but mostly design journey with 10 wonderful charities, guiding them through a digital discovery programme, in collaboration with Catalyst.

  5. We grew 150% from two people to five, bringing in two talented digital apprentices – Jaymie and Maryan – in our inaugural SIDE Academy cohort

SIDE was still only a blob in 2019, so it was perhaps inevitable that 2020 seemed big by comparison.

Here are our hopes for 2021: 

🍒 No-code 

In 2020, we delivered projects using a veritable smorgasbord (our word of 2020) of no-code tools including Webflow, Glide, Typeform and GitBook.

We are hugely excited about no-code. It increases the benefits and reduces the costs of implementing software – making it quicker, more equitable and user-friendly. It also changes the skills required from a digital agency… which is where SIDE Academy fits in nicely.

Because no-code keeps improving, it is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a train we are excited to be on board. 

📈 SIDE Academy 2021

A highlight of 2020 was SIDE Academy, our ‘no experience required’ training scheme, designed to help young talent break into Tech For Good. 

Everyone is a winner with Academy:

  • Charities get talented young no-coders to work on their problems.

  • Academy trainees get the chance to work on interesting, worthwhile projects right at the start of their career.

  • We get to work with fantastic young talent, preventing us from getting too crusty in lockdown. 

A couple of things Academy has taught us:

1. Prior to launching SIDE Academy, I was nervous about anything that smacked of positive discrimination. Six months on, I’m more aware of how first opportunities like these are distributed very inequitably. And that is a problem because your first opportunities have a huge impact on your career trajectory.

2. There is a bottleneck. Charities don’t provide that first tech job because they don’t have the skills or capacity. Agencies struggle because it is too risky making long-term commitments when their contracts are short-term. Experienced contractors earn a fortune; inexperienced individuals struggle to get a start. (A fortunate side effect is this disparity in wages makes Academy self-financing.)

We start recruiting for Academy 2021 today. If you know anyone who might be suitable, point them to the Academy 2021 page. Or we’d appreciate any shares on Linkedin or Twitter.  

🤲  Effective Altruism

Having spent a year in charity land, it amazes me that I’ve not heard anyone talk about Effective Altruism. Not even once. 

How wild is this fact?

“One additional unit of income can do a hundred times as much to benefit the extreme poor as it can to benefit you or I. It's not often you have two options, one of which is a hundred times better than the other. Imagine a happy hour where you could either buy yourself a beer for $5 or buy someone else a beer for 5¢. If that were the case, we'd probably be pretty generous – next round's on me! But that's effectively the situation we're in all the time.”

writes Will MacAskill in Doing Good Better. (Or in podcast form, Will is great from minute 30 on Waking Up with Sam Harris.)

I used to assume that the relationship between Effective Altruism and charities was something like the relationship between startups and incumbents. Startups either force the incumbents to improve, or they replace them. In reality, they are different worlds, with no communication between them. There must be ways to bridge the gap.

What are you hoping to achieve in 2021? We’d love to hear. 

Best wishes


Newsletter 2: the power of no-code

This time I actually spoke to some people!

Greetings 👋 

At SIDE, we believe no-code will have a revolutionary impact on the social sector. I wanted to see if people at charities felt the same way.

The short answer is a big, resounding “YES”.

The long answer makes for an epic essay: part 1, part 2 & part 3

I spoke to three charities, all empowered by no-code.

Tech has gone from being a shackle to a superpower.

As well as being faster to implement, the other thing they highlighted was the reduced cost of maintenance. “It’s like having great engineers focused on your problems”, said Joey Ceunen at Carefree.

Just how much more productive?

A while back, I wrote that no-code made us 400% more productive. I feared that was an exaggeration.

This week I was speaking to a tech agency boss who said it is unfair to compare code with no-code, as no-code is an order of magnitude cheaper. 10 times cheaper!

To be fair, what he really said was more nuanced, but it is interesting that even a no-code agnostic agrees no-code is much, much cheaper.  

Fastest growing apps of 2020

A theme of the essay was that with no-code, a job is easy once you’ve found the right tool. Finding the right tool can be hard. Zapier’s list of the fastest growing apps of 2020 provides a snapshot. If it is popular, some people must be finding it useful. 

Discovery phase x10

Discovery is the first phase of product development. Over the next month, we are leading 10 charities through a user-centered discovery process. Crickey.

If you’ve got this far, you are very fashionable

Here’s a good survey on the resurgence of newsletters. Top line: simply by reading this newsletter you are wonderfully on trend.

How you can help

This newsletter is just getting started. Any feedback, I’d love to hear. If you enjoyed it, please share it with a friend or on Twitter.


Andy and all at SIDE 

Newsletter 1: Greetings

Notes about our Academy scheme, award-nominated clients and how co-founder Andy became 400% more productive

Greetings 👋 

Welcome to our newsletter. At SIDE Labs, we are focused on social impact and no-code. This newsletter will explore the crossover between these two topics. If you are interested in either, I hope you’ll find something of value. 

Why social impact? Why no-code? 

Social impact. When we started building web apps 15 years ago, it was a common assumption that tech was a force for good. It doesn’t seem that simple any more. Tech has huge power, but the impact can land anywhere on the moral compass. This newsletter charts our attempts to use product development skills to make a positive impact. 

No-code. There’s a new breed of tools that makes it radically easier to build digital products. This has all sorts of repercussions. Join us as we explore this new world.

How I got 400% more productive (while home-schooling my kids)

My favourite no-code tool is Webflow. Here’s how it has transformed our process for building websites.

SIDE Academy

We just started SIDE Academy, an apprenticeship to train young people in no-code skills and also increase diversity in #TechForGood. 600 applications later, we are delighted to have Jaymie and Maryan join the team.

Refugee Action, shortlisted for Charity of the Year

SIDE client Refugee Action has been shortlisted at the Third Sector Awards. SIDE helped create several Covid-response projects that are mentioned in their nomination

No-code != simple

There’s often the misapprehension that no-code equals simple. We prefer to think that if the custom code is building with atoms, no-code is building with Lego bricks and you can, of course, build super complex things with Lego. Here’s a super complex website built in Webflow.

This newsletter is an experiment for us. Any comments or questions, we’d love to hear from you.


Andy and all at SIDE 

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