Tech for Social Change – from DC to around the Globe - Byte Back

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Tech for Social Change – from DC to around the Globe

Author: Yvette Scorse
Published: August 18, 2016

By Yvette Scorse, Communications Manager 

Elizabeth Tech Social Change speaker crop

Elizabeth Lindsey, executive director, speaks about the role of technology in promoting meaningful social change for women. Almost 100 nonprofit leaders from around the globe, plus local tech innovators, were present. Photo courtesy of IREX.

Using tech for social change is empowering for any community. For women, technology can be a tool for a better life – used to report and overcome harassment, to manage finances, or to be hired for a living-wage job.

In Washington, DC, Byte Back empowers students to use tech to change their lives. Throughout the globe, nonprofit leaders are searching for new ways to incorporate tech tools into their own life-changing work.

We were thrilled to recently participate in the “Tech for Social Change” event, which was part of a three-day orientation for 94 global nonprofit leaders, who are visiting fellows with IREX’s Community Solutions Program.

Byte Back shared with the fellows insight on the power of digital inclusion and tech for social change, and we left the event feeling inspired by the nonprofit leaders from 37 countries.

Elizabeth, Yvette Tech social change crop

Yvette Scorse, communications manager, and Elizabeth shared insights from Byte Back’s digital inclusion work with the Community Solutions fellows.

Elizabeth Lindsey, Byte Back executive director, was invited as an innovator to discuss the role of technology in promoting meaningful social change for women in a lightning talk. Elizabeth and Yvette Scorse, communications manager, then spoke to about half of the fellows in small roundtable discussions, sharing the specifics of Byte Back’s leadership in digital inclusion work.

The fellows face diverse issues in their home countries and are dedicated to improving their communities by adapting to climate change, combating human trafficking, fighting for women’s rights, and weeding out corruption in governments, according to IREX.


Photo courtesy of IREX.

Here in the US, the fellows are visiting 27 states and the District working with host nonprofits for four months. The exchange is known for its effectiveness, both for the fellows who bring ideas and projects to their home countries and for the US organizations, who are enriched by their presence.

In just one morning with them, we felt how the diverse perspectives they contributed could enrich our own organizations.


Photo courtesy of IREX.

Among the many interesting questions and comments from the fellows were:

  • a fellow from Uganda questioned the connection (or disconnection) between encouraging someone’s employability and their passion
  • another fellow thought that in their country tech careers for girls could be an effective alternative to marriage and prevent them from becoming targets of human trafficking, and
  • a fellow from Malawi raised the issue of adult literacy and providing services to people who may lack the confidence to request them.

Whether from Malaysia, Sierra Leon, Romania, or Bangladesh, the ideas of these fellows were eye-opening, their perspectives diverse, and their energy and hope for the future reinvigorating.

Thanks and congratulations to the fellows, the Community Solutions Program at IREX, and to the other innovators at the event: Sean Martin McDonald of FrontlineSMS, Jenn Topper of the Sunlight Foundation, Heath Cosgrove of USAID, Giselle Lopez of PeaceTech Lab, Pete Nellius of Ogilvy Washington, Anusha Yadav of Acountability Lab, Aaron Goggans of Black Lives Matter DC, Erica Hagen of GroundTruth Initiative, and Joel Turner of IREX.

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