In 1962, President John F. Kennedy called upon trained lawyers to leverage their skills and expertise to aid the fight for Civil Rights. As the struggle to ensure equal protection under the law reached a fevered pitch in the United States, large numbers of trained professionals committed their time to the cause, launching a massive pro bono movement that ultimately became central to passing the Civil Rights law.
At this moment in time, pro bono work may be more important than ever. Tech Stands Up believes that members of the tech sector have skills and expertise with the potential to provide vital aid and support to communities who are addressing the key issues we face today.
Tech Stands Up is an organization that seeks to empower members of the tech community to leverage their professional skills in supporting vulnerable communities. It connects leaders in the tech sector to the broader community, strategizes ways for the tech sector to engage with communities that need support, and connects civic-minded members of the tech community to each other.
The match between the current needs of nonprofits to volunteers in the tech industry—engineers, CEOs, and product managers—can at first seem less apparent than the match between lawyers and civil rights organizations in the 1960s. In reality though, members of the tech community can provide some of the most important skills that nonprofits need in order to serve their communities. The strategies and resources that make the technology sector so successful—its ability to engage with users, to build websites, to connect communities through social media platforms and digital outreach, to create and direct digital ad and marketing campaigns that generate mission critical revenue—are vital skills that can enable and further the work of these organizations.
- An engineer might help a nonprofit dedicated to LGBTQ rights build a user-friendly website that would draw members of the community to it.
- A social media strategist could connect members of the immigrant community to vital services – resources that they might otherwise not know about or access.
- A digital media team might help a nonprofit fighting for the visibility of people of color tell their stories by producing videos and leveraging their knowledge of YouTube and Facebook algorithms to ensure an audience.
Amplifying our voice with technology
Technologists can leverage these skills to help the nonprofit community, but they can also offer more: connections to an industry that is increasingly growing and wielding power. Those in the tech sector have a voice—often one with tremendous reach—and a direct line to those who are imagining and shaping our future. Technology has newly connected our nation and our world, bringing communities together and amplifying voices that might otherwise never be heard.
Fifty-five years after Kennedy urged lawyers to stand up for civil rights, this country is on the cusp of another movement, one that will increasingly take place online and use technological innovations to mobilize and impact the movement. As an engineer, as a data scientist, as a web designer: what are you doing to impact the major issues facing us today? The tech community can and should rise to the occasion. It can stand with those who need our help. Tech can stand up.