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A digital app that makes it possible for trained citizen responders to work together in teams as soon as a civil disaster strikes is the winner of the Grand Prize awarded by “Code for Change,” a tech competition at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
New York City agencies and nonprofit organizations posed technical challenges to self-formed teams of developers, designers, and specialists who participated in the Code for Change competition. The Grand Prize winner is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which needed an easy-to-use app to help facilitate communication and information exchange among volunteer emergency responders in the immediate wake of a disaster.
Code for Change gave the participants two weeks instead of a typical hackathon’s 24 to 36 hours to identify real, sustainable solutions to questions of public importance. The event also marked the first time that a big-city hackathon included challenges from both government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
This was the first time, too, that four major tech nonprofits – Code for America, One Economy, NPower, and Blue Ridge Foundation New York – joined in co-partnering a hackathon, together with NYU Wagner – with sponsorships from Motorola Mobility Foundation, Liquidnet, Centre for Social for Social Innovations, Notable, General Assembly, and Zurb.
A second Code for Change award, the Change Prize, was given to the New York City Campaign Finance Board for an app that provides citizens with information they can use to engage with the democratic process, and fosters higher voter participation in elections.
Code for Change awarded its Promise Prize to the CUNY Institute for Software Design and Development for an app that enables students to exchange, rather than buy, textbooks – and defrays their higher-education costs.
Code for Change’s Popular Choice Prize was awarded to Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship for a new platform enabling middle and high school students to write and share their own book reviews with one another, and creating a space for online reader discussion groups about literature.
The awardees – who were eligible for a total of $10,000 in cash, mentor lunches, General Assembly classes, Zurb’s web design audit, and free workspace at the Center for Social Innovation – were selected by a panel of seven judges.
"The Forward 50" consists of "people whose religious and cultural values propelled them to engage, create and lead in a decidedly Jewish voice." Among the newly announced honorees: GOP congressman Eric Cantor, Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, Google co-founder Sergey Brin - and sociologist Steven M. Cohen, Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.
BJBA recently collaborated on a case study of the Jewish community in the U.S., entitled "Baby Boomers, Public Service, and Minority Communities."
Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley’s The Color Bind: Talking (and Not Talking) About Race at Work investigates a stubborn American phenomenon: The taboo nature of race in our work places – and how to transcend it.
Just published by the Russell Sage Foundation, The Color Bind was the focus of a well-attended dialogue held at NYU Wagner on Feb. 26. The conversation included the co-authors as well as Melody Barnes, Senior Fellow at NYU Wagner and Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives at New York University. Wagner and its Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) co-sponsored the book launch. More than 125 people attended, filling all the seats in the Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue and enlivening the audience Q&A portion of the program.
Foldy is Associate Professor of Public and Nonprofit Management at Wagner; Buckley is Associate Professor of Counseling at Hunter College and Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Their in-depth book grew out of Foldy's direct observation, over many months, of child welfare workers at one social services agency. At first she anticipated that, given the nature of their work, child welfare case workers would bring discussions of race into their team meetings readily. Instead, she found “the color bind” operating in full force, blunting the creativity, morale, and effectiveness of the teams.
One team at the agency, however, broached race and ethnicity regularly, without signs of defensiveness or worries of recrimination. Professors Foldy and Buckley dug into what made this team unique, gleaning some crucial lessons for social service organizations, advocacy groups, public agencies, schools, health providers, and many others.
In any organization, be it in the nonprofit, public, or private sector, the journey out of “the color bind” begins with mindfulness by its leaders that race matters. That’s the initial step towards fostering an atmosphere where employees can discuss fraught topics freely, and where “cultural competency,” or having the skills to communicate about race, ethnicity, and culture, can be developed, the authors said.
“Race is ever-present,” said Buckley. “The taboo of it often keeps us quiet about it. What we’re trying to do is show the assets that race brings to us in all the different kinds of conversations that we have.”
Professor Buckley, who is African American, and Professor Foldy, who is white, surfaced their own sometimes-clashing perspectives about race during the writing process. But in crossing lines that often keep others separated, both of them found that they could deepen their knowledge and advance their shared mission.
Talking about race is rarely smooth or simple, Foldy explained. “If you are going to enter this territory, you have to live with the fact that you are going to make mistakes.”
The Color Bind is published by the Russell Sage Foundation.
Former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, who died in the early-morning hours Feb. 1, led an informative, entertaining hour of discussion in the fall of 2010 at NYU Wagner about his eventful three terms at City Hall – years that sparked a remarkable turnaround in the condition and character of much of New York City, noticeable to this day.
Joining Koch was Jonathan Soffer, NYU Polytechnic associate professor of history and author of a critically acclaimed biography, Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City (Columbia University Press, 2010), as well as Wagner's dean Ellen Schall, who introduced Koch as “my mayor," noting that she had worked extensively for city government, including as the commissioner of juvenile justice.
“City government, I say to all my students, is really the most amazing opportunity,” she commented. “It allows you to work on incredibly important issues, have much more authority as a young person that you have any reason to have, and make a huge amount of difference.”
Koch spoke passionately about the merits of embarking on a career in public service.
“There’s nothing comparable to public service,” he said. “More than saying ‘How am I doin’?’ … more than that I said 10,000 times that public service is the most noble profession if it’s done honestly and if it’s done well. And that’s why people serve. There’s nothing like it.”
In this videotape of the Oct. 14, 2010 conversation at Wagner, the former mayor begins speaking at marker 15:48.
In partnership with the largest organizations supporting technological development in the nonprofit sector, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University will launch a new competition in September, challenging tech developers to design new applications to address some of the most pressing public issues facing New Yorkers.
The school and its partners—One Economy, Code for America, NPower and Blue Ridge Foundation—have begun evaluating major challenges from government agencies and nonprofits seeking to enter the “Code For Change” competition. Team formation begins on September 28, and prizes include $10,000 in cash to support application development, VC and mentor lunches and potential support from local foundations.
Code for Change will be a twist on the traditional 24- or 36-hour hackathon, because participating developers will spend two weeks working on their concepts, culminating in the judging at NYU Wagner on Friday, October 12.
Code for Change will look for tech applications that will lead to improvements with a broad public purpose, be they in education, emergency readiness, voting, social services, or other areas of public interest and public service.
Code for Change is made possible by generous support from Motorola Mobility Foundation and Liquidnet.
Anyone interested in entering the contest can create challenges, join teams, and view rules and other details at www.applicationsforgood.org, a platform for designers created by the global nonprofit One Economy.