CodeSwitch 2017 Recap

How do we disrupt inequity?

It all starts with an idea. If you’ve never attended a hackathon or if you’re curious about how CodeSwitch works, let’s take a look at how we narrowed 28 amazing concepts into one winning presentation. You don’t need to be an engineer to have the next big idea.

Five Categories. One goal.

Participants were asked to come up with an idea that would disrupt inequity in one of five topic areas: 

  1. Economic Opportunity
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Public Safety
  4. Civic Engagement
  5. Immigration and Refugee Resettlement

At CodeSwitch, everyone is allowed to pitch.

Great solutions are born when innovators from the community lead the development process—from ideation to launch.

Economic Opportunity

Minnesota is a national outlier when it comes to financial equality. A 2016 analysis of census data by the Pioneer Press showed that “white Minnesota families have higher median incomes, while Minnesotans of color earn less than their peers nationwide.” The racial pay gaps that exist in Minnesota today are worse than they were 20 years ago. Luckily, we had innovators from all backgrounds in attendance at this year’s CodeSwitch. They pitched ideas ranging from using technology to combat institutional bias in the hiring process, to pairing job seekers with recruiters interested in diversity and inclusion, to finding out how property values are affected by transit corridors.

Health and Wellness

According to the MN Compass initiative, people of color are more likely to suffer from chronic illness and are almost twice as likely to be underinsured than their white counterparts. This year, we saw ideas around everything from using cryptocurrency to fund CBT mental healthcare, to using apps to build better relationships to ways to connect marginalized individuals with mental health professionals.

Public Safety

The stories of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile thrust the Twin Cities into the national spotlight and renewed conversations about relationships between police and the communities they serve. Technology has served as the catalyst for grassroots organizations like Black Lives Matter to organize massive demonstrations, like the 18-day protest outside the Fourth Precinct police station in North Minneapolis.  It’s no surprise that at this year’s CodeSwitch, many of the ideas to disrupt inequity dealt specifically with inequities of justice. We saw ideas for apps to increase police transparency, provide protection for citizens who are pulled over, and find solutions for the militarization of the police force.

Civic Engagement

Through disenfranchisement, suppression and other acts of inequity, people of color in Minnesota have historically been less likely than their white peers to vote and volunteer. How can we use technology to solve this problem? CodeSwitch 2017 participants had some ideas. How about an app that connects people directly with their elected officials? Technology that assures us that our votes are correctly counted? This year’s winning idea came from this topic area – an app that tells potential voters whether or not they’re eligible to participate in the democratic process.

Vote with your feet

At CodeSwitch, everyone is allowed to pitch. Once the ideas are put to paper, participants “vote with their feet” and ask to join the group that interests them the most. Once they discuss their unique skills and how they can best actualize their given concept, they get to work. The 28 concepts were narrowed down to seven finalists who presented their work in a variety of ways – through marketing sites, pitch decks and working software.

Three winning teams

At the end of the event, three winners were chosen, each representing three different topic areas. First place went to the Can I Vote If? app, which fostered civic engagement by helping potential voters navigate the murky waters of voter eligibility. In second place was Project CBT Success, which paired blockchain technology with mental health professionals to improve health and wellness outcomes for at-risk individuals. Third place went to Geeks for Good, who wanted to improve access to economic opportunity by incentivizing hackers who wanted to do good in their communities.

How did they do it?

Jenessa White, team lead for the Can I Vote If? app, shared her inspiration for their idea. She said, “I got my idea listening to Jason from the panel on Saturday morning talk about how he had just regained his right to vote. Then, I thought about the voting process and wondered if it’s different in every state. I pitched my idea and during lunch had 2 people come up to me wanting to help. At the end of day one we added one more person and boom! We had a team and on Sunday, we had a product!

Everyone, regardless of background, identity or skill level, has the ability to be an agent of change. Everyone has a voice to bring to the table to disrupt inequity. At CodeSwitch, we believe that the best way to combat injustice is by leaning into the tough conversations and using technology as a force for good in our communities.

Get Involved

We hope you’ll join us next year! Want to find out more about how you can get involved with CodeSwitch? Email us with your questions and comments at codeswitch@softwareforgood.com

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