Doing Good Tech Things ♥ Valentine’s Day Edition

Karen Borchgrevink
4 min readFeb 16, 2019


The LA Ruby on Rails meetup hosted a Do the Right Thing-themed event on Feb 14. Eric Weinstein presented Being Good: An Introduction to Robo- and Machine Ethics from RubyConf 2018; Anna Mendoza offered before you fall in love and start coding your next project, consider doing a Google Design Sprint, and my presentation on Doing Good Tech Things follows below.

♥ Tech challenges facing nonprofits & social causes
♥ Tech volunteering
♥ Some of my favorite programs

♥ In sheer numbers, Los Angeles County leads the country with
39,097 registered nonprofits in 2015.

♥ Nonprofit economic activity contributes 15% of the California Gross State Product and California foundations grant nearly $2 billion to nonprofits annually.

Resource disparities persist & some counties have more than 6x the nonprofit revenue per capita than others.
• Northern vs Southern California
• wealthier vs lower-income communities
• higher vs lower percentages of people of color
• rural vs metropolitan

Digital maturity

The 2018 Digital Outlook Report from NTEN, Care2, hjc & Resource Alliance notes that nonprofits have moved from digital adoption to digital maturation.

Their 2018 gameplan focuses on email deliverability, mobile optimization, website conversion; lack of internal capacity, budget and resources, for example, are what hold back mobile optimization.

What tech volunteering can do

Interactive Tool for Visualizing LA Homelessness Data

52,765 — Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count 2018

102,278 — Economic Roundtable & DataKind’s new statistical approach

Excerpts from Is L.A.’s homeless population closer to 100,000? Nonprofit offers an alternative view of the data — LA Times Sept 18 2018

The Los Angeles homeless count… has been criticized for its implied precision… To fill in those gaps, the Economic Roundtable examined data collected by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in 2017… The group’s project culminated in August when about two dozen volunteer analysts, with the help of the data sciences nonprofit DataKind, assembled for a weekend of computer coding… After months of analysis, the group came up with a new statistical approach that yields a very different number: 102,278 — reflecting the number of people who become homeless at one time or another during the year.

Without consistent data it was impossible to make a “visualization that is representative to any sort of truth. — Paul Beeman, Data Analyst, LA County

Tech volunteering — many models

CIVIC: School of Data, Hack for LA & Code for America. + LA Open Data
PRO BONO TECH: DataKind, Philosophie’s Product for Good, Ovio Hub
PRO BONO: Taproot, Catchafire
CORPORATE: Salesforce 1–1–1
Internships & 1-off hackathons

– expertise varies

If you want to contribute your Ruby on Rails or Drupal expertise, opportunities might not abound but some do exist and new initiatives are underway. Taproot+ has offered thousands of projects, maybe 10% web development, slightly fewer are web design, a good percentage of both are WordPress (mobile is barely on the map).

Don’t underestimate what you can do with nonprofits!

“Having limited resources for a project doesn’t mean you can’t produce something amazing. Sometimes having limited resources can foster creative solutions.” — Jenn de la Fuente, WordPress developer, Rosebud Designs

Why developers?

“It’s actually quite inherent to the DNA of a developer to look at the world around us, to see some sort of intractable problem, and then try to find a solution to it using code and software.” Admas Kanyagia, Director of Social Impact, GitHub

Are you volunteering? Tell me what that looks like!

Developers at the Ruby on Rails meetup are mentoring, a lot. They want to do code reviews — where are those happening?

Some of my faves

Annenberg Alchemy Tech — In-depth nonprofit technology capacity building. A 6-month SoCal program for nonprofits to strengthen their knowledge of technology best practices and move forward on a specific technology project.

♥ Philosophie’s Product for Good — A unique pro bono from a Santa Monica software firm. Talent from underrepresented groups is mentored to deliver web apps to local nonprofits in a 6-week Agile program.

Meet the New — website redesign of the Guggenheim Museum website. A complex site built in WordPress.

World IA Day — Bringing together the best of the design community. This year’s theme is Design for Difference, 2018 was IA for Good.

Let’s change the world with technology!

You can find me, Karen, on LinkedIn, looking for my next gig, at LATech4Good or volunteering as a product strategist.

Nonprofit icon created by NRFA from Noun Project