Participants were asked to come up with an idea that would disrupt inequity in one of five topic areas:
At CodeSwitch, everyone is allowed to pitch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!