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  • Writer's pictureMila Murray

“Bringing beneficiaries to the forefront of philanthropy”: The message behind jiiWA

When it comes to why they do what they do, CEO and Co-founder Kristina Flynn said everyone behind jiiWA — a Toronto-based startup that’s built technology to help nonprofits and their funders better understand the people they serve through data — list different reasons.

“We all have different “why’s,” but they’re all tied together with one common thread: We want to do something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Flynn said.

At age 12, Flynn was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety that manifested in different ways throughout her life and into adulthood. But because she had protective factors — born into the middle class in a country with free healthcare to parents who were open to seeking mental health treatment — she was able to get the help she needed.

“Access to those social services saved my life. They’re the reason why I’m here today,” Flynn said. “I want to make sure other young people can have the same kind of access and that those services allow them to feel heard, just like how it was for me.”

CPO and Co-founder of jiiWA Steve Surya’s motivation comes from the meaningful, personal interactions he’s had not only with their nonprofit clients, but with the youth who often depend on their services.

“When we actually go to visit these organizations and talk with the people who are on the frontlines, when we see how passionate they are about their missions and the impact they make — that drives us to do more,” Surya said.

One of the many things Product Designer Nadia Sotnikova does for jiiWA is design surveys and other engagement activities as a way to help measure program impact. She said she’s noticed the startup is taking a “different approach” to many other software providers in the sector.

“jiiWA wants to focus more on the individual and use relevant technology to bring together their stories and feedback as a way to define the impact of the social services,” Sotnikova said. “It’s a refreshing approach because as a participant, you’re not just a face in the crowd. You’re an individual with your own life story and unique needs that can be honored.

For CTO Graham Brereton, the message behind jiiWA is also about the power of impact measurement. He said the software jiiWA develops makes doing automated — yet personalized — research easier so that nonprofits have a better handle on their impact and can make adjustments based on what the data is saying.

“Being able to have concrete knowledge and empirical data that displays the impact you’re making and then using that to help improve processes and programs — that’s something that’s inaccessible to a lot of our customers, particularly smaller nonprofits,” Brereton said.

By using jiiWA’s software to track, measure and understand data, Surya hopes to also provide a “roadmap” and historical database for nonprofits and their funders that highlight how they were able to do the great things they’ve done.

“Our main goal is really to bring the beneficiaries to the forefront of philanthropy and amplify the voices of those accessing the services,” Flynn said.

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