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“Innovation is part of our DNA”: the advantages of technology in a constantly evolving sector

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OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn, talked to Third Sector about the ways the sector can benefit from technological innovation.

Technology plays a major role for the sector to reach the broad audience and provide solutions that can influence change. For some not-for-profit organisations, the key to achieving this is by letting go of old paradigms in fast tracking the innovation journey.

CEO and Founder of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn, talked to Third Sector on seeing best results in an organization that thinks of things differently and takes inventive actions to implement change using technology.

“When I decided to start rescuing food 15 years ago, I was amazed that no-one was really doing it in Australia. Everyone thought it was a great idea and with a lot of support, it soon got off the ground,” Kahn said.

In the early days, OzHarvest encountered challenges that were routed in old paradigms, such as food donors having a fear of liability should someone become ill from mishandled food. Instead of bending to those current processes which were seemingly entrenched, with the help of pro-bono lawyers, the organisation successfully lobbied state governments to get the law changed. This enabled food rescue to take off.

Realising that embracing technology was fundamental, Kahn created a sustainable model around it for their food rescue operations. She said that innovation is part of the solution of addressing large-scale problems on hunger and food relief.

While Kahn agrees that some NFPs will survive without adapting to technology, she shares that it’s going to be a lot harder to thrive. Technology helps optimize operations so that an organization can focus on other challenges at hand.

“Just looking back on the last six years at OzHarvest, our food rescue operations went from a spreadsheet on a clip board and a telephone to using technology that provides an integrated communications and logistics platform,” Kahn said. “Technology is also helping us understand our supporters more, so we can make sure we are recognizing the help and value they give us and acknowledge this with all of our gratitude.”

Innovation is now an integral part of business and Kahn always pushes the boundaries to make sure she has considered the most effective and innovative solutions to help grow the business. The not-for-profit world is incredibly competitive, especially when it comes to securing funding or running public appeals.

Kahn said that innovation is key to keeping an organisation above the pack and reaching new audiences, and its notably rather essential for many NFPs who are service focused.

“I’ve seen some great innovations in the mental health space over the last few years”, Kahn said. “At OzHarvest, innovation is part of our DNA. We like to do things differently to gain both attention and results, and in that way, we are constantly challenging the norm and being innovative everyday in everything we do.”

To hear more from Ronni Kahn about adapting an organisation to a constantly evolving not-for-profit sector, register for Third Sector Live.


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