TechGivesBack – A Day to Remember!
Along with our partners at TUGG and Silicon Valley Bank, we at Building Impact are celebrating a successful TechGivesBack – the largest day of service in the tech industry in Boston. On October 19, 2017, we witnessed a movement in this city – a day for 1,500 volunteers from the tech industry to immerse in community work across 60 sites throughout Boston. Tech professionals from fast-growing start-ups and industry leaders in the Boston tech ecosystem gave back in projects at sites ranging from watersheds and urban farms, to food banks, shelters, and the homes of the elderly. The volunteers worked with women experiencing homelessness, residents cultivating the urban landscape, and youth from Boston Public Schools who might fill the pipeline for STEM fields in Boston in the years to come. This year for TechGivesBack, TUGG challenged Building Impact to co-design a set of projects which required higher levels of commitment in skills and resources from the tech companies – and had amazing impact. As we look back at the day, we reflect on what made this TechGivesBack unique, and the next steps in building upon this community work in the weeks and months to come.
The Power of the Day
When teams from across an industry volunteer all on the same day, it creates a powerful statement about the commitment of the tech companies in Boston to doing good in the community. As Elizabeth Dobrska from TUGG frequently points out, there is power in the collective action of so many tech professionals making the commitment as teams on that day to support causes and individuals in the community. In providing hundreds of volunteers to contribute in projects across the city, there is a real boost to the local nonprofit community and schools from their work. As one organization, the HarborWalk of Boston, reflected, “This day truly helps out with the mission in providing public spaces that are accessible and well maintained for all to enjoy.”
This is about Building Community
More than simply accomplishing a set of projects, this is a day for building community across lines in our City. There is community built within teams – as one volunteer reflected to me when at a site working with homeless youth in Boston: “I learned so much about my colleagues today. Being onsite at this shelter has brought out a whole new dimension to the people I work with every day, and the conversations we are having here.” There is a sense of community within the tech ecosystem as professionals from over 50 companies dive into the work together.
Community was not only built within the tech industry. There are the barriers that are broken by providing tech professionals with access to communities experiencing challenges that were difficult for the volunteers to imagine – food insecurity, homelessness, lack of access to banks, fresh vegetables, and even those on the other side of the digital divide – where lack of access to a smart phone or laptop limits access to jobs, education options and other resources.
And yet, many of the nonprofit organizations talked about the needs they heard expressed by the volunteers –a “yearning to slow down and decompress in a natural space” was how one nonprofit put it. Many of the nonprofit organizations and schools expressed their appreciation for the enthusiasm and comradery brought by the tech company teams. This was a day for building community.
A Sense of Purpose – the Impact
Each of the projects tackled by the volunteers at TechGivesBack had a specific objective and a larger connection to the mission of the organization. Whether it was the Fresh Pond Reservation’s Clean Drinking Water campaign, the Greater Boston Food Bank’s work in distributing fresh produce to over 140,000 adults and children in need, Thompson Island’s program to provide over 6,500 young people in Boston the opportunity to have a hands-on outdoor STEM experience, or the Women’s Lunch Place’s meals and services for approximately 225 women each day, each site that hosted volunteers credited TechGivesBack with making their outreach possible.
A New Level of Commitment
This year, Building Impact worked with TUGG in co-creating several new projects engaging the skills and resources uniquely offered by the tech community, but requiring new levels of commitment from the tech teams. At Bridge Over Troubled Waters – a shelter for homeless youth, volunteers from Imprivata not only made a pasta lunch and cookies for the youth that day, but also spent a few hours teaching coding and talking about steps in their own journeys, emphasizing the importance of not giving up and forging a path. At a project with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), volunteers from Placester and Telecare individually matched to a youth in the foster care system and prepared a backpack with books and gift cards for each child, complete with a “Dream Journal” to inspire new ideas, inventions and imagination for their future. In a project called Professional Pathways, volunteers from Ernst and Young and Uber provided recent immigrants and refugees with career coaching and mock interviews to help them in their path to a career in Boston. And, in a partnership with Boston Public Schools made possible by The Boston Foundation and TUGG, we matched 250 students and their teachers with ten companies, where students and tech professionals co-developed prototypes for mobile apps and competed in a Guppy Tank (a version of the Shark Tank for sixth graders) to inspire an interest in STEM fields.
In each of these co-designed projects, from Guppy Tank, to the Hour of Code, to the Dream Journals created for youth in foster care, the response from these groups was overwhelming. In the words of one teacher: “the experience was unbelievable, not only for the students but also the entire staff. Our students shined and are so proud of themselves, as we are too.” Another teacher wrote: “The companies that our students visited had a great impact on our students. Their reflections on the trip were of appreciation and inspiration. Thank you for the exposure and immersion that this trip allowed our students. Many said that they would never forget it!” We believe the volunteers won’t forget this day either.
Thank you to TUGG, all of the tech volunteers and our nonprofit partners and the BPSInvest Team at the Boston Public School in making this a day for community building, and for inspiring so many by your partnership!
To partner with us for service opportunities in Boston, find us at: www.buildingimpact.org