2 days. 51 speakers. 500+ attendees. Endless inspiration.
Accelerate Good Global (AGG) was a whirlwind of community, connection, and illuminating content. Held at The Midway in SF, the summit focused on the future of technology from a lens that left attendees feeling… hopeful. We’ll be the first to say this is not a sentence you often hear about tech conferences.
AGG brings together players from every corner of the tech nonprofit ecosystem to create space for serendipitous conversations, inspiring insights, and building capacity for tech nonprofits.
It’s hard to put these invigorating two days into words, so we’ll let AGG speak for itself. Here are 15 sound bites from Accelerate Good Global that we can’t stop thinking about. Or, see all of the talks here.
Tim O’Reilly walked us through big questions around how we can use the magic of AI to build products that deliver better outcomes for society. Highlighted throughout the summit, this theme was echoed in Thorn CEO Julie Cordua’s fireside chat, in which she discussed how Thorn applies AI to scale solutions that combat child sexual abuse.
Thank you, Tina Lee. The work of social change is not easy, and requires unwavering hope. Lee walked the audience through a visualization. She invited everyone in the room to picture someone they love, and remember how strongly that person believes in you. It was an unforgettable moment.
There is a pressing need for more humanity in our technology, particularly as it relates to the manipulation tactics many tech companies employ to capture consumers’ attention. To describe this phenomenon, Tristan Harris, coined the term “the race to the bottom of the brainstem.” When asked if it was ethical for tech nonprofits to use “attention capturing” techniques to compete for the same finite pool of attention, Harris laid out a simple framework for ethical persuasion: “The ethics of persuasion mean that the persuader has to have the same intentions as the persuadee.”
It’s no secret that engineering biases influence the way products are built. In her fireside chat with Admas Kanyagia, Director of Social innovation at GitHub, Katharina Borchert discussed the importance of ensuring that those building products reflect both a diversity of thought, and the community the product is being built for. This line of thinking permeated Accelerate Good Global across both days.
Among dozens of sound bites from Brewster Kahle that had us both in laughter and awe, this one stood out. Brewster was adamant that fundamentally shifting the way this generation views success – to be more focused on work that benefits the public trust – will pay dividends towards creating a more just and equitable world.
Carmen Rojas’ words could not have rung more true, as she took a moment to share how good it felt to be at a summit focused equally on the problems we face today, and holding optimism for the future. This dovetailed meaningfully with Rojas’ talk on the state of working people in the US, and the ways in which innovation can scale a more equitable future of work for everyone.
Sam Sinyangwe described the power of using technology to scale radical change. Tech nonprofits recognize that on-the-ground solutions are critical, and tech is no substitute for that. But it’s the tech that makes the solutions scale. A sentiment echoed by Vote.org Founder Debra Cleaver: “Technology is not a solution in and of itself, it is an amplifier for known solutions.”
In the early days of Kiva, the organization was celebrated for its extremely high repayment rate. But Premal Shah had a revelation. This metric didn’t indicate that they were reaching the hardest-to-serve customers. Kiva pivoted to focus on other metrics that reflected a depth of service, in addition to the breadth – a critical consideration for tech nonprofits thinking about the ethics of their impact metrics.
Aria Finger’s conversation with Raquel Rozas, CMO of GoFundMe, focused on re-engaging supporters as we build movements. Their shared insights included the power of gratitude, telling a compelling story around the people the movement serves, and the imperative of keeping hope at the core of the message.
In conversation Jared Chung, Founder of CareerVillage.org, Janeen Uzzell illuminated the need for cohorts of volunteers to reflect the communities they serve. With over 250,000 people editing Wikipedia monthly, it’s imperative that volunteers come from all backgrounds to keep the resource inclusive.
Jeff Lawson discussed the immense power tech companies have, and their inherent responsibility to – not only remain accountable for the ways their product impacts society – but to build products as ethically as possible. Twilio.org is Twilio’s philanthropic arm, and a prime example of how tech companies can deeply embed philanthropy into their model.
In her off-the-record talk, Alex Bernadotte described the value of tech nonprofits using a hybrid approach of tech and human touch. One without the other is possible, but together, the results can scale unprecedented impact.
A conversation with CSR leaders Nick Cain, Olivia Khalili, and Erin Baudo Felter broke down what it takes for tech nonprofits to meaningfully partner with tech companies. We learned fundraising partnerships fail when it’s just about transactions. If you start first with relationship building and work towards a partnership, you make it something even better than funding.
Micro-mentoring at AGG was top-notch, with leaders from tech companies mentoring up-and-coming tech nonprofits on topics ranging from marketing to product. We’re so grateful to our partners for bringing their team to take part! It was win-win-win.
Hiring was a hot topic at AGG, with leaders across the summit talking about what it takes to recruit and retain top talent for tech nonprofits. While many tech nonprofits – from the ACLU to Thorn – do, in fact, pay competitive salaries, what keeps employees engaged is commitment to the mission. Take what EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell said on hiring: “We can compete with pretty much any startup that’s out there as far as salary, plus we’re giving mission instead of stock options.”
The magic of AGG wouldn’t have been possible without the sustaining support of our partners Google.org, BlackRock, Twilio.org, PagerDuty, Okta, AWS, Workday, Comcast, Bloomberg, GitHub, Vodafone, Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank, Postmates, eBay, Firefox, and Lyft. And special thanks to the attendees who made this outstanding summit what it was. We can’t thank you enough for showing up, and look forward to seeing the impact you create between now and #AGG2020.