On April 5, Fruition Technology Labs held the Social Impact Pitch at the Urban Co-Lab in Austin. The Social Impact Pitch is an event for organizations to pitch project and business ideas that are focused on a SOCIAL, CIVIC or life-changing benefit.

Panelists and investors like Bob Bridge from Southwest Angel Network, Charlie Jackson from Diversity Fund, Wesley Okeke from Fruition Tech Labs, and Belinda Matingou from Texas Association of Business, Luemara Wagner of the Texas Family Justice Institute, and Preston James, and Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the University of Texas at Austin, helped judge and organize the event.

Among the contestants was former Tech For Justice Hackathon+ Austin winner, Michael Curran, who left the event with the winning title.

Michael is a lawyer with experience in the field of legal technology, and he is currently focused on solving the growing problem of financial exploitation. Michael is also an officer with the State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section.

Michael’s pitch was based on his Guide Change business that started one year ago at the Tech for Justice hackathon sponsored by the Internet Bar Organization and others. Michael created the Guide Change platform to help institutions and administrators who seek to protect the financial estates of seniors and others who may be the targets of financial exploitation and abuse.

Many Americans today fall into the misconception that the LGBTQ community no longer struggle with inequality.

Inequality remains an issue for the queer community as society continues to raise discussion pertaining to whether or not they should be segregated from the rest of the community. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage is a big step closer to being equal — but society fails to realize that there is more to equality than just granting permission to marry.

In more than half the states today, employers are still legally permitted to fire employees based on their sexuality. When surveyed, the crowd that claimed to support equality for all also contradicted themselves with their own conflicted beliefs.

“Although the other half of those surveyed believe everyone deserves lawful rights, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, many of those same people still maintain beliefs that perpetuate inequality of the queer community, according to findings.”

The reality of these injustice acts prove that LGBTQ activism still exists for a reason. Inequality for the queer community and other communities that are also facing social obstacles will not end until society works together to make a change.


Article via Mashable, 21 January 2016
Photo: Protesting Mayor Sullivan’s veto of AO 64 by Mel Green [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

If you haven’t heard of TED yet, it’s a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. The main conference is held in California and was started 25 years ago, and it’s influence has been growing exponentially since then. All other TED events are called TEDx and are independently organized TED-like events with the same mission. These events often discuss science, technology, education and communication and have been known to spark innovation and social change by  providing the opportunity to shed light on less known facts and causes that are happening at a  local level.

I had the pleasure of attending the TEDxHouston 2015 event this year, where there were several talks  highlighting themes of social change, innovation and technology.

Teresa O’Donnell, Founder of  Plant It Forward  , spoke of her professional life as an entrepreneur. In an effort to do more community work through her company, she studied and became more informed on the plight of refugees coming to America.  For those who seek refuge in this country, it takes a minimum of 5 years to achieve that status. A refugee must prove that conditions in their  home country are incredibly difficult (persecution and war)and that it  has become impossible for them to return home without fearing for their lives. Houston, Texas in particular has received a large number of these refugees. Once the refugees arrive in the United States, they face the confounding problem of not speaking the dominant language, as well as not having transferable work skills.

To solve this problem, Plant It Forward partners with social and church groups to provide land and tools to refugees who settle in Houston with few other skills besides farming. Houston now has a growing community of organic gardens that sell  fresh fruit farmed by refugees at local farmers markets. Through Plant It Forward farms, refugees have the opportunity to build a life for themselves and their family while enriching the city with their farming skills.

Enriching the city was a theme that arose continually throughout the day. Susan Rogers focused on  community development and city planning; she works as a designer, professor and director of the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC) in Houston. The CDRC’s  goal is to use design to enhance change in the community and are focused on serving the public interest by improving the development of all communities. She spoke specifically about the economic disparities existing between the eastern and western half of the city, and how this is reflected in the design and therefore service of the communities. By preserving the culture and uniqueness of all neighborhoods, it improves other public services that cater to their residents, thereby raising the standard of life for all.

Talks like these are not just  happening in the United States, they happen all over the world. In 2015 there are over 3000 Ted events scheduled with talks about everything from education, to medicine, to life and career.

TED around the world

If you don’t have time to attend a TED event, you can easily watch a recording which is  available for free at TED.com. Talks are even arranged by topic and influence in convenient playlists.

The true power of TED comes from the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, and become aware of possibilities that you may not have known existed. TED provides a platform to bring to light issues that are too often not discussed and gives insight into the wonder of the human spirit,  reminding us how truly amazing it is to reimagine the world the way that we believe it should be.

Photo via: Ted.com

Hackathons have proven to be a great way to use tech for good. Often described as a great equalizer, technology can be leveraged to bring voice to people that society often ignores. Social activists are turning to hackathons to help spread their message and develop solutions, instead of waiting on the government to initiate change.

One such activist is Hera Hussain, founder of the advocacy group Chayn. Chayn is a volunteer-led, open source project that leverages technology to empower women against violence and oppression so they can live happier and healthier lives. They offer tools to help abused women build a domestic violence case without a lawyer, and advise about how a person can be tracked on and offline, among other things. This organization is all about individuals empowered to make change. One of their main ways to get the community involved is hackathons.

Hussain says that hackathons are events that bring together important parts of society that isolate themselves when it comes to women’s issues. “You either have events that just focus on women…” Hussain says, “or you have events that are completely dominated by men and are either forgetting that women exist or have separate issues. There’s very little middle ground that uses an integrated women lens as part of a broader focus of solving societal challenges.”

Bringing together these problem solvers is crucial to making real progress in the future. Hussain states that Chayn is about solving problems with, and not for, women in different communities. This organization is dedicated to allowing women to choose what they want to do with their lives while being treated equally during the process. Hussain says, “We always come back to independence and happiness as our two biggest goals..”

Article via Good Magazine, 22 September 2015

Photo: Hacking for Women’s Empowerment via Bread For The World [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

John Oliver is the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John OliverThe show is a satirical take on the news of the week and lasts about 30 minutes.  Prior to Last Week Tonight, John Oliver was was correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewartstand up comedian, and and Emmy award winning writer. Now that Oliver is squarely in the spotlight with his own show, he has used it as a platform to talk about social justice and civil rights concerns.

His show has touched on many of the hot issues of the day like the use of torture by the US Government and LGBT Rights. He has also shed light on less know concerns, such as the misuse of farmers by companies associated with chicken in the US. He devotes a lot of air time on his show to discuss these topics which results in an audience that not only becomes aware of the issues, but becomes engaged. You can see the effect in the blogosphere and search traffic directly after his show airings.

His effect is reaching all the way to the halls of congress. Marcy Kaptur, a congresswoman from Ohio, started working on legislation related to the story Oliver did on farmers. Her recent victory in this battle has secured new protections for farmers. Another congresswoman from Maine stated the Oliver’s coverage on the subject helped to support the legislative action.

John Oliver’s gift seems to be bringing new interest to those fighting in the trenches for change. His show provides a voice for topics big and small and aids the fight for social justice.


Article via Mashable, 5 September 2015

Photo:John Oliver on the NSA Recording Your Phone and E-Mail via:  KAZ Vorpal[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]