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Ideation & Libations

A workshop for Social Good Tech Week
- General Assembly, San Francisco, 2015 -

Social Good Tech Week, founded by Leanne Pittsford, exists because social good organizations deserve the most innovative technologies. I saw a tweet this week that really drove home the importance of this crucial need: “The biggest problem in the world is that the smartest people aren’t working on the biggest problems.” — @heif

You can say that again.

There are tons of brilliant people working feverishly and pouring lots of money into solving the macchiato foam of all the First World Problems. There’s nothing wrong with someone choosing whatever path of innovation and expression they desire, but I wonder what our world would be like if, just for one year, all of Silicon Valley’s genius, resources and energy were completely devoted to solving dire social and environmental problems instead. I’ve been super impressed lately with apps and missions I’ve learned about like Be My Eyes, HandUp and BLgT.

Last night at General Assembly while facilitating a workshop for Social Good Tech Week called Ideation & Libations, I got the chance to connect with 50 SGTW attendees who came together to envision a more just, educated, empowered, healthy and supportive world through the innovative use and application of technology. Over 30 stellar ideas were generated by the group. There was laughter, connection, inspiration and some beer-drinking too.

Many of the ideas that folks came up with were new twists on old favorites, like a social service agency & transportation mashup — basically, a subsidized Uber-style service that helps homeless folks get to important appointments with case workers, job services, and non-profits.

Or, another highly-upvoted idea that would allow consumers to scan the bar code on any item and find out its true cost — environmental, social, labor, etc — that went into its manufacturing, allowing buyers to make more educated decisions about the kinds of products and practices that they want to support.

The ideas ran the gamut: connecting gleaners and food banks with gardens overflowing with fresh produce; community platform for sustainable architecture; online community for veterans to connect to new opportunities according to their occupational skills; redistribution of food surpluses to the food deserts that need them; on-call mentorship for low-income students, and many more.

One participant noted that some of the ideas were similar to existing websites/apps that the suggesting team probably just didn’t know about. Sometimes the solution isn’t more making — it’s simply better education and collaboration. That made me think about the video series Everything Is a Remix and its exploration of the concept of simultaneous separate ideation.

It also made me wonder what kind of clearinghouse/aggregators are already available (or need to be invented) to help people find social-good tech resources that already exist. This list on Product Hunt is pretty fantastic, and I’d love to see that kind of thing multiply tenfold.

Do you have an idea or the energy to contribute to making the world a better place? Share it. Chances are, no matter what your skill set or limited availability, there is someone somewhere that would love your input and contributions, no matter how small. Find the people who want to collaborate with you to make your idea happen. Or search for the people who are already doing something similar and join forces with them. The world is waiting for you, and needs you, in a big and brilliant way.


Many thanks to sponsors Social Good Tech WeekGeneral Assembly and Luxe for supporting the event and providing prizes for the winning teams. Many thanks also to artist & designer Steph Chen @awesomepossumsc for the fabulous photos.

Check out this and my other articles on Medium @katvellos

#socialgood #tech #community