Stories and lessons learned from nonprofit and tech shop collaborations

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Background:

Andrea - Works as a developer, exclusively as a non-profit. Goals is to better understand how to serve the community

Jared - Data Roads Foundation (coop) — from tech IT side, video games, and dev ops. Didn’t realize his love for work with non-profits until recently.

Maxwell - Worked in tech as a product designer for 6 years. Wanting to make amends for the things he’s done before.

Ray - Previous tech experience has all been commercial, want to better understand how to organize tech into situations that can create change

Elise - Doesn’t work in tech or non-profit, but transitioning into tech and wanting to make sure she learns about the stories in order to be better when she does transition into tech.

Adriana - non profit sector - works with LA CoOp lab. Wants to see what has been working and what hasn’t been working. What kind of solutions can we come up with that are outside of the $$$ structures we have now. How do we not be so extractive with technology

Dean - Been in tech for a long time, multi-million dollar budgets to small shoestring budgets.



Maxwell - worked at first startup 6 years ago as a designer. Worked on car rental platform startup. Design from communications to product. Target audience - people who want to drive for Uber and Lyft (people who need a car for ST use). Called one of the higher money makers to get user research feedback on a product and was surprised by how taken aback the customer was that the company would even call her for feedback. She talked about how the company was ruining her life and putting her into debt. He started considering that the business is nasty, gives this feedback to the company but the company didn’t care and is changing their business model from one case.


Lessons: Assess the companies you are joining and understand what they are doing, what the repercussions are for people on the fringes of the product

As a creator, you underestimate the agency you have to say yes or no to. Be aware of what you’re doing or making


Ray - worked commercial, he worked with everyone that is technical. Now in non-profit, not everyone is technical — and where the focus wasn’t the technology there were adjustments needed. He then went in and did assessments of security and technology. “Okay, well definitely the data that we’re managing should be protected”. He wrote up this document for a GPG security encryption (it’s a security encryption protocol), because everyone uses GPG, so eh. He was familiar with it and it seemed like all the staff were super confident - he presented it to the Executive Director, and she said “no, no… this is not going to work”. He decided to sit down with someone and actually try to generate keys, and he realized as he was sitting down with several folks — he realized that none of his grandiose plans were going to ever work. The plans didn’t necessarily match with the reality of his work place.


Lessons: Assessments are academic — implementation is what really matters. Be more familiar with day-to-days of the actual people, and don’t assume / presume too much.

Don’t treat technology as universal or first, the people should be the ones where the needs come from first.


Jared - Working on this game for a new console that was coming out, called “Girl with a stick” (street fighter-esque // melee battle game). The character was this futuristic woman who was set in Africa. Jared had questioned “uh.. shouldn’t we get a black woman to help us to create this character?”. That whole comment and idea got shot down completely, and the majority white male company moved on in creating the game.


Lessons: The whole game industry should unionize. The platform consoles are vertically monopolizing all things about games. Basically the old school studios of Hollywood — whom are dictating all the genre and media is going to be.

There needs to be anti-trust action on all of the big companies of Sony, etc.


Andrea - Many years ago Andrea was working 2 years in the non profit world. She got a request from this amazing organization about youth. They started the discovery process and started creating needs, etc… She was happy to be on the project no matter what. As the product finished in it’s lifecycle, they actually ran usability tests. When they ran into a problem. The user base didn’t realize they had to actually use the thing because they were in the demographic of elderly, old-school, in-real-life type people. The company hired consultants but the folks never took into consideration who was going to use it // and they never asked. It was a lot of effort and time wasted that could have been used on another organization.


Lessons: Always understand who is going to use it. Know who your customers are and don’t just dive into spending time and energy.


Adriana - Did a redesign of a website, she was the communications lead where she leased with the team. At some point, the designers came back with an amazing design. The project manager, was the middleman between her and the developers. Essentially they didn’t build out the design to spec and there were so many layers of back and forth between the two groups. She ended up doing the job of the project manager and was always “protective” of the time of the developers. But when she was finally able to talk to the developer — everything was gravy.


Lessons: Having direct contact with the developers or their project management tools. If there is a way to do a shared project management system — that would create more agency.


Dean - Running an R&D lab, Sony came to them, that they’re backing up huge amounts of files. Sony says we have a great solution, a device that will back up everything that they need — it was called the “Petafile”. Dean said “umm… maybe you should change that name” to the Sony people. Sony was like “Nah, you’re not a marketing guy — we’re not changing the name”. Eventually the device became known as the “PetaTower”.


Lessons: Always have a bilingual person consulting you on the things you’re making in other languages.


Question: What is a successful method or way that you work with technology in your environments?

You have to be a psychologist and planting seeds of ideas to other people and pretend that it’s their idea in order to be able to take your initiatives forward. Assume NOTHING. Don’t create media outside your own experiences Know your audience Know your audience’s tech literacy (within or outside) Building trust and relationships with your community in order to better your work relationships


Resources:

Strive Digital (for texting) Hustle (for texting)