Monday, March 31, 2014

Female Founders Who Are Using Tech to Empower Communities

As a renter in San Francisco who was recently slammed with a 40% increase in my housing rent, I’ve been engaging in a healthy dose of conversation about the impacts of gentrification in San Francisco. Most discussions have focused on blaming the influx of techies for ruining San Francisco. As a member of that community, I think more attention needs to be given to the many entrepreneurs who are using technology to impact society for the better.

I’ve been organizing Women 2.0’s Founder Friday* events (now, re-launched as City Meetups!) in San Francisco as a volunteer for two years, during which I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some of the most innovative female thought-leaders –attendees and speakers alike–who are using technology and innovation to focus on change around their communities.

ENTREPRENEURS WHO ARE STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES
Jen Pahlka (Founder, Code for America) 
One of my favorite Founder Friday events featured Jen Pahlka, the founder of Code for America**, which is essentially “the peace corps for geeks.” CfA focuses on connecting techies with governments to solve public service problems, design community improvements and support civic startups across the United States. Making changes in the governmental sector is incredibly difficult, but she’s using techies and technology to make community changes around all of the red tape. Not only did she tell our group about the company’s many accomplishments in public policy innovation she’d shared in a TEDTalk, but she also got on a more personal level with the audience and talked about how she schedules her life to balance the duties of running her company while being a mom. (Sidenote, they have a cool list of free apps for things like collecting and interpreting community feedback and helping parents select schools for their kids).

Jessica Scorpio (Founder, Getaround)
As a long time fan of Singularity University, which is a generator of tech ideas to better humanity, I was stoked to hear from Jessica Scorpio, who hosted a past Founder Friday, and shared the story of how she founded her company, Getaround. Getaround was conceived at Singularity University, where Larry Page tasked Jessica and her co-founders with thinking of something that would positively impact one billion people in ten years. The team decided on the solution of revolutionizing transportation through carsharing. Carsharing has put pressure on car companies to be more accountable for environmental considerations and for car rental and taxi companies to be more accountable for good service. Neither of these social changes would have happened nearly as quickly without the pressure of innovative startups like Getaround.

We’ve had countless amazing speakers over the past couple years including–Danae Ringlemann, Founder of Indiegogo, Julia Hartz, Co-founder of Eventbrite, and Leah Busque, Founder of TaskRabbit. All of these entrepreneurs have developed technologies that better integrate their communities and improve the environment around them through technology.

WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIOECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT? 
If you’re in the realm of wanting to be a techie or wanting to improve your tech skills, which is a popular initiative for furthering socioeconomic improvement, General Assembly should be on your radar. They were the venue for February’s San Francisco Founder Friday, and they’re focused on innovating traditional education by teaching relevant skills in today’s rapidly changing tech environment; like data science, front-end web development, and digital marketing, which can be directly applied at work.

While I’ll leave the core gentrification debate to writers much more evocative than myself, there is a definite role that “techies” and entrepreneurs can play in fixing the negative effects of gentrification and prioritizing social change. We already have some great role models to look to, and continuing to highlight them in the media and at events such as Women 2.0 City Meetups, will help make social change a greater priority in the innovation dialogue.

*Founder Fridays (newly re-named “City Meetups”!) are events produced by Women 2.0, which give a city’s current and aspiring innovators an opportunity to speak one-on-one with notable mentors in innovation, to meet each other, and to share their experiences on a regular basis (if you’re not in San Francisco, these events also take place in 19 other cities).

**I have no promotional obligation to any of the referenced companies.

Reblogged from my original post at Women2.com
http://women2.com/female-founders-using-tech-to-empower-communities/#YuBFS3ZSD7TQimeP.99

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