Techquity

We are redefining what it means to be a technologist: A tech-savvy person who uses their resources to empower marginalised communities.

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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education
  • Technology

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

11/28/98 08/10/98

Help us stay in touch!

6179596274 Jheanelle Owens 43 Wintrop Street Medford, MA 02155

Date You Started Your Project Started

06/30/2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We have identified two fundamental issues in the tech sector. 1. There is a generation of technologists who are disconnected from the struggles amongst poor people, non-cis-het people, people of colour, and their many intersections. This is reflected not only in their technology, but also through their company policy. 2. Current college STEM curriculum lacks a model for working with disenfranchised

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

These problems have one thing in common: the development of technology is isolated from the people who make up our society. Our solution, Techquity, is designed to build relationships and technologies between tech students and community members. Tech + Equity = Techquity. We start with college computer science students who will soon be entering the tech workforce. This spring, we will be teaching a class to our fellow Tufts CS students that has two main components: 1. A hands-on technical project for a local non-profit 2. Curriculum centered on building relationships with those fighting various forms of systemic oppression. By the end of our course, both students and local organizations will have gained valuable resources. The students will have gained technical project experience. They will also have engaged with theory about systemic oppression and interacted with real life examples of the issues we have studied. Finally, they will have practiced informed, intentional solidarity. The nonprofits will receive a free project that will save them time on logistical work and they have connections to students who can share the org’s story and fundraising pitch.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

As a black woman studying computer science, the dialectics between my identity and my preparation to enter a workforce that so often discriminates against my people has always posed an internal battle. Being who I am but doing the same things as those in power does not create the change I want to see in the world. When Tony contacted me proposing that we co-teach a course where students make projects for local organizations working towards equity, I had to accept. Tony had been working all summer with an organization called Young People For. This organization empowers youth leaders to create “Blueprints for Social Change” in their local communities. For his project, he proposed the Techquity education model. Tony has a background in community organizing and tech for nonprofits. Together, our shared goals and varying identities create a unique project for change.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Tim is first year Computer Science student who wants to learn about the tech sector and develop his portfolio. He joins Techquity. In class, he participates in and leads activities such as the Power Shuffle, where students reflect on the advantages and disadvantages present in their lives. Outside of class, Tim and his group meet with Black Lives Matter of Boston. Before they do any coding, they get to know each other and learn about the work of the organization. Together, the staff and students identify that they need a better way to maintain a list of volunteers. Tim and his peers work on creating a member database, while repeatedly checking in and exchanging ideas with the BLM staff. They also teach the BLM staff how to maintain this database. By the end of the course, Tim has fostered a relationship with community members and will continue to listen to them and advocate for them.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We are using technology as a means of fostering connection between students and issues they care about, while serving the community at large. Too often, “tech for good” products mean well, but aren’t used by their target audience. Additionally, if the product has a bug, the local org cannot fix their issue. In contrast to this, we purposefully engage in a co-design model that is built on sharing knowledge and creating long-term, sustainable projects. We spend time educating the students on relationships of solidarity and systems of oppression so they can better engage with the community work.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Our course will take place in the spring of 2020 so right now we are still in the planning stage. We have drafted and submitted our 13 week curriculum. We are currently in the process of creating a community working group to give feedback on our curriculum. We are also starting to contact organizations to partner with in the spring. Our course has generated excitement from first year students as well as older students who are interested in volunteering their time. Interest in our course has already resulted in conversations about the culture of the Tufts CS Department. Our faculty advisor, a professor in the CS department, has engaged us about how to encourage female and non-binary students to stay in the major.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the short term, we are hoping to partner with the Tufts CS Dept. to make a version of our course mandatory for the Computer Science majors. We also plan on making our curriculum readings and activities publicly accessible. This will allow anyone to use our education model for their school or company. In two years, we vision computer science departments in colleges across the country implementing our educational model. In addition, we plan on engaging tech companies who want to give back to local communities. Overall, we plan on building a national network of schools and companies that want to fundamentally change what it means to be a technologist.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Management

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Donations between $100-$1k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Young People For

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Photo of Rishabh Rout
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Good initiative! Love it.