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How Saving Lives repurposed existing tech

An inspiring case study from our report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech

Saving Lives shared their story with us for our latest report Response to change: how small voluntary organisations are using tech. Their case study shows how they repurposed their existing software to cater for a new need.

Savings Lives is a national charity based in Birmingham, with an income of less than £0.5m in 2019. The charity aims to provide easy testing for blood-borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis. They aim to reduce the stigma around these tests and ensure the testing process is as uncomplicated as possible; ‘Tech is short circuiting the stigma and bringing accessibility’.

Saving Lives developed a software and database system that enabled service users to request a blood test kit online which is then delivered by post. The system manages all incoming tests, processes test results and delivers the test outcome to the service user. The software provides efficient and effective end-to-end management of the testing process.

When Covid-19 emerged, Saving Lives quickly realised that their software and database system could be repurposed to manage Covid testing programmes. ‘We had created a system for requesting postal tests and then delivering the results. The laboratory we worked with deals with public health issues. We repurposed the system to deliver their Covid screening programme. They needed something quick that they knew already worked with their lab systems. We flipped and moved quickly into that size of a thing… So, we’re a sexual health and blood-borne virus charity, but in the context of the pandemic, we switched to respiratory virus work in the context of Covid. It kept us busy but, at the same time, sexual health clinics have closed so some of our clients have increased their [online] tests 10 fold’.

Saving Lives found that the system they had developed for their own needs could be adapted to become an off-the-shelf system for someone else, exceeding their expectations of the software’s usefulness. ‘Our experience demonstrates that if you build a system to do a specific thing, it’s likely it will also be helpful for other things that are similar’. For the labs, the Saving Lives product was an established solution and was effective enough to run their Covid testing programmes: ‘We didn’t build a system that only did what we wanted it to do. We built a system that could do what other people might want it to do as well. It’s not a Swiss army knife, but it can be built in a variety of shapes’.

Response to change 

We’ve collated the findings from our report on our key insights page here, as well as links to download the full report. Visit it to find tips and advice for SVOs; more stories of SVOs embracing digital as a response to Covid; suggestions for how funders can support the use of tech, and challenges facing both SVOs and funders.

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