24th December 2014 by Jason Vincent
What is the future of the Beat Bullying technology?
For anyone following the developments that have recently unfolded at the Beat Bullying Group charity, the past week was a particularly busy one. With the first creditors meeting scheduled for Friday (21st November), it was the first time ‘outsiders’ really got a feel for the scale of the problem – and boy was it a big one.
Setting aside the eye-watering levels of debt the charity managed to run-up (even excluding redundancy payments, payments in lieu of notice and unpaid salaries), one of the numbers that struck me the most was the charities ‘stated’ running costs: over £200k per month.
For a charity that was leaning so heavily towards digital service delivery, and based on an approximation of the cost of counsellors delivering the ‘actual’ service to children, I’m unable to rationalise this cost or even begin to derive how it could have ever been sustainable, outside of an ever-growing ambition to scale the charity in the blind hope that funding would shortly follow.
Aeguana has worked with The Beat Bullying Group for the past 2 years, developing and facilitating a wide range of projects – from the core capabilities of the counselling services, to add-on projects aimed at expanding the reach of the charity. These have included the likes of the Mindful visual mental health tools and the award-winning Big March campaign (among many others). As it currently stands, together with another major contractor, we have sought legal advice and hold a valid claim for a significant proportion of the Intellectual Property developed.
Rather than re-iterate the allegations that others have already made of financial and operational mismanagement, misconduct and misappropriation of funds, I feel that at this stage we should be addressing a far more pressing issue – what next? How can we minimise the damage done to the Beat Bullying (and associated) brands and how will this reflect in the good faith held by the community thus far?
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks personally speaking to numerous charities and individuals, and it has become abundantly clear that the underlying technology developed at Beat Bullying facilitated an online counselling and delivery service, unlike any other on the market. Perhaps more importantly, it provided a valuable service that is in demand. It was then, and still is now. So how do we make the most of it?
The Beat Bullying Group had spent a large part of 2013 and most of 2014 shifting their revenue model towards licensing their software and infrastructure to other charities and companies – it was already in the pipeline, and they had in fact already on-boarded several organisations. We feel this is actually the best way forward for a number of reasons.
Technological innovation is expensive in the short term. No one can deny that, and it’s usually the type of cost (particularly in a charity) that needs a damn good business case to back it up, otherwise it leads to cutting corners and constant compromise. This is something that Beat Bullying fully understood, and I think their commitment to getting this side of their business right should be admired – they were without a doubt ahead of the game.
However, in order to sustain this cost there needs to be a definitive diversification of this risk. By incurring it in its entirety as a single charity, you’re suddenly allocating a vast proportion of ‘unrestricted’ funds towards your technological innovation, with no guarantee that it will actually deliver a tangible return on investment.
This is the basis for our recently publicised proposal to create a consortium of companies and charities that could each benefit from the technology available, whilst abstaining from taking on the uncertainty and financial risk that comes with it.
Every organisation has its own objectives, and anyone delivering a valuable service to the community (such as Beat Bullying) will already have the right individuals – be it counsellors, mentors or volunteers – to deliver this service (hopefully) sustainably. We feel this cost isn’t one that should be borne by the same entity as the technology costs. It is part of their core business, whereas the technology should be positioned to facilitate this core business.
We envision a consortium of companies collaborating to develop the right tools that they can benefit from collectively. This will help ensure the right technology is being created. Every entity could reap the full rewards, whilst making marginal contributions to do so. The newly formed entity would need to mediate between each constituent organisation, to ensure that interests are aligned, but it would also be facilitating the sharing of experience across all the organisations, which we truly hope would bring far greater benefits to all than it would to a single organisation.
We currently have a handful of interested parties, but there are a lot of related organisations we would like to speak with that we haven’t yet had a chance to. We need your help to do this right.
If you feel you know an organisation (however large or small) who might be interested in taking part, or discussing the viability of such a proposal, please pass on my contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07868 192 968.