Giving back - 3 Steps to getting the most social good out of your tech company

Giving back - 3 Steps to getting the most social good out of your tech company

‘Tis the season! Now that 2018 is winding down and the holidays are getting close, you may be in reflective mode, thinking about giving back, resolutions, and pondering what you can do in 2019 to make the world a better place. If you’re not already doing that, please set to it. We’re going to need all hands on deck.

Growing inequality, lack of opportunity, and an uneven playing field are serious social ills. They’re really hard to tackle as an individual, but getting your company involved allows you to do more much quicker. Your company likely has resources, office space, expertise, a social platform, budgets, etc., all of which can be put to good use.

To create real change and impact people’s lives, look beyond typical Corporate Social Responsibility activities like fun runs. Focus instead on creating grass-roots partnerships you can sustain that have the potential to snowball (festive!). Forge partnerships with diverse groups of people who are under-represented (or not included at all) in the tech economy. In your area, for example, this might include veterans, PoC, LGTBQ folks, women, people in underserved communities, and differently abled people.

Best of all, most of these ideas are inexpensive or free, and build off practices you are already doing or thinking about doing. There are just 3 easy steps…

Step 1 - Identify groups to partner with in your local area/online. Some ideas…

  • Diverse groups at local colleges

  • Organizations that work to up-skill underserved populations

  • Veterans’ groups and advocates

  • Open source projects for social good/local hackathon nights

  • High schools in underserved districts

  • Local tutoring programs

  • Diverse meet-up groups

  • Diverse people and groups on twitter

Step 2 - Identify things you could do. Some ideas…

  • Hold mock interview sessions. Interview candidates, pair with them on code and then give them constructive feedback. Candidates can practice their technique, learn real world practices and gain confidence. It’s great skill-honing for your team too and you never know - you might meet someone exceptional you end up hiring.

  • Host a tour of your company, explain what your job is and what a day looks like. Kids from underserved backgrounds often have no idea what an office looks like, what people wear to office jobs, or that they could work in a company like yours. Bonus points for funding transport and providing lunch.

  • Start an internship program. You can start small and go from there. Please pay your interns though - otherwise it’s not cool.

  • Find someone in your company who is already doing something to make the world a better place. Figure out ways to support them and amplify their impact.

  • Start a mentoring program. Host it at your office.

  • If you’re doing in-house training, make space around the table for a couple more people - and give away the spots.

  • Can you offer your software for free or at a discounted rate?

  • Donate office space after hours to meet up groups.

  • Giving a talk at a conference? Practice it beforehand in front of people who would benefit from the content, but might not have access to attend the conference.

  • Improve your consulting/training skills by teaching a course after hours, pro bono, on an employable skill.

  • Ordering t-shirts, or marketing giveaways for a conference? Check to see if there are striving local businesses in your city whom you could support.

  • When you and your colleagues go to a conference and get piles of free novelty flash drives, pens, etc. that you don’t need, gather it all up and give it away.

  • Having a company retreat day? Consider having it in a community center vs a hotel. Not only will it likely be cheaper, the money will stay in the community, and the different environment will spur creativity.

  • Use your corporate twitter, instagram, linkedin accounts to follow and amplify diverse voices and messages on social media.

Step 3 - Figure out which of the groups in step 1 would benefit from the things in step 2 and make it happen.

Often times, there will be an indirect benefit to you, your company, and even your industry. If you benefit, that’s the icing on the cake. You may or may not get the icing, but you will have the greater good cake. And if we all have cake we might make it through 2019.

Happy Holidays!