Two Screens For Teachers will outfit all educators in Seattle Public Schools with a second monitor

The admirable effort Two Screens For Teachers, which as you may guess is about getting teachers a second screen to use at home, has put together enough funds to get every educator in the Seattle Public School system a new monitor who needs one. They’re hoping it will spur others to pony up for a similar treatment at their local schools.

The idea of running a class with 30 kids while also juggling teaching materials and administrative stuff all on a single laptop screen is anxiety-inducing just to think about, and thousands of teachers have been doing just that for months.

Two Screens For Teachers was announced in September as a way to connect those educators who need a second monitor (which is to say, most of them) with people who want to pay for it — it’s that simple. Thousands of monitors have already been distributed, but the waiting list is more than 20,000 people long, the kind of scale where the needle only gets moved over time — which teachers have little of — or generosity.

Fortunately there are enough generous people with a bit of cash on hand in Seattle that the organization has enough to give a new monitor to all of the 3,000 or so teachers in Seattle public schools. If you’re in one of them, sign up here in the next week to get yours!

Walk Score co-founders Matt Lerner and Mike Mathieu put the thing together in the first place, but a bunch of Seattle-based investors and entrepreneurs came together to raise the ~$430K needed to cover the costs of covering the whole district: “a matching grant from the Mark Torrance Foundation, a collection of early Amazon, Microsoft, and Redfin employees, and venture capitalists from the Madrona Venture Group and Pioneer Square Labs,” as the organization put it.

He’s hoping that the success in Seattle will activate similar communities all over the country where there are thousands more teachers in need.

“We’re asking our fellow techies in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham to show teachers they matter and keep students connected across the country,” said Lerner in a press release. Naturally other cities are welcome to join in as well, but those on the list have been challenged directly.

Lerner confirmed to me that Two Screens For Teachers would happily act as an intermediary, doing discounted bulk purchases of monitors (as opposed to matching individual donors with individual teachers, which was how it got started) and having regional leaders raise cash to cover the distribution to their local educators. There’s a sort of how-to section in this post showing how to estimate the costs and find local partners.

In the spirit of friendly competition, here’s hoping other cities, and the people in them looking for a way to give back tangibly in these hard times, will take up the gauntlet and get their educators this hugely helpful resource. You can learn more (or donate) at

#charity, #gadgets, #hardware, #philanthropy, #tc, #two-screens-for-teachers, #work-from-home


New Prize Modeled on MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants Hands Out $1 Million

The founders of a shelter for homeless people seeking asylum and a group that helps college applicants are among five New Yorkers to get $200,000 awards.

#awards-decorations-and-honors, #macarthur-john-d-and-catherine-t-foundation, #new-york-city, #nonprofit-organizations, #philanthropy, #two-trees-management, #walentas-david-c, #walentas-jed


Tommy Tuberville’s Financial Fumbles

Mr. Tuberville, the former football coach and Alabama Senate candidate, is leading Senator Doug Jones in the polls. But his financial record raises questions.

#alabama, #elections-senate, #jones-doug-1954, #philanthropy, #tuberville-tommy, #united-states-politics-and-government


Save the Planet, Win a Prize

Rising seas, raging fires, hotter temperatures — and a bit of positivity.

#attenborough-david, #blanchett-cate, #catherine-duchess-of-cambridge, #charles-prince-of-wales, #elizabeth-ii-queen-of-great-britain, #global-warming, #philanthropy, #philip-duke-of-edinburgh, #royal-families, #shakira, #william-duke-of-cambridge


Princeton Dropping Woodrow Wilson and Renaming a College After Black Alumna

It will be named after Mellody Hobson and built where a college once bore Woodrow Wilson’s name. Princeton in June said the former president was a racist who segregated the Civil Service.

#ariel-investments-llc, #black-people, #colleges-and-universities, #discrimination, #hobson-mellody, #names-organizational, #philanthropy, #princeton-university, #race-and-ethnicity, #wilson-college, #wilson-woodrow


Prince William Announces New Prize Aimed at ‘Repairing’ the Planet

The goal is to award 50 projects more than $1 million each over the next 10 years for coming up with innovative solutions to address climate change and other environmental issues.

#attenborough-david, #global-warming, #philanthropy, #william-duke-of-cambridge


William Danforth, Who Led Washington University, Dies at 94

Under Dr. Danforth, the St. Louis campus was transformed from a commuter school into a world-renowned institution.

#colleges-and-universities, #danforth-foundation, #danforth-william-h-1926-2020, #deaths-obituaries, #philanthropy, #st-louis-mo, #washington-university


Salesforce Ventures launches $100M Impact Fund to invest in cloud startups with social mission

When Salesforce Ventures launched the first $50 million Impact Fund in 2017, it wanted to invest not only in promising cloud businesses, but startups with a socially positive mission. Today, the company launched the second Impact Fund, this time doubling its initial investment with a new $100 million fund

The latest fund is also designed to help bring more investment into areas that the company feels needs to be emphasized as a corporate citizen beyond pure business goals including education and reskilling, climate action, diversity, equity and inclusion, and providing tech for nonprofits and foundations.

Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer and EVP of Corporate Relations at Salesforce says the money is being put to work on some of the world’s most pressing social issues. “Now more than ever, we believe business can be a powerful platform for change. We must leverage technology and invest in innovative ideas to drive the long-term health and wellness of all citizens, enable equal access to education and fuel impactful climate action,” DiBianca said in a statement.

Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials says that this investment is consistent with their commitment to social issues. “This fits right in with Salesforce’s efforts on making business a force for change. They talk it, they walk it, and they invest in it,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Claudine Emeott, Director of Impact Investing, in a Q&A on the company website, said that as with the first fund, the company is looking for cloud companies with some ties to Salesforce that address these core social components and can have a positive impact on the world. While there is a social aspect to each company, it still follows a particular investment thesis related to cloud computing. Her goal is to have a portfolio of cloud startups by next year that are addressing the set of social needs the firm has laid out.

“I hope that [by next year] we have made numerous investments in companies that are addressing today’s concurrent crises, and I hope that we can point to their measurable impact on those crises. I hope that we can point to exciting new integrations between our portfolio companies and Salesforce to tackle these challenges together,” Emeott said.

Paul Greenberg, president of the 56 Group and author of CRM at the Speed of Light, says that while he doesn’t always agree with Salesforce on every matter, he admires their social bent. “As an analyst, I might battle with them on some of their products, the things they do in the market and their messaging, but as a human being, I applaud them for their deep commitment to the common good,” he said.

Salesforce has always had a social component to its corporate goals including its 1-1-1 philanthropy model. While Salesforce isn’t always completely consistent as with its contract with ICE, it does put money and personnel toward helping in the communities where it operates, encouraging volunteerism and charitable giving from the top down and modeled across the organization.

This investment fund, while looking at the investments through a distinctly Salesforce lens, is designed to fund startups to help solve intractable social problems, while using its extensive financial resources for the betterment of the world.

#cloud, #enterprise, #philanthropy, #saas, #salesforce, #salesforce-ventures, #social-investing, #tc, #tech-for-good


Mellon Foundation to Spend $250 Million to Reimagine Monuments

The initiative, the largest in the organization’s history, will support the creation of new monuments, as well as the relocation or rethinking of existing ones.

#civil-war-us-1861-65, #elizabeth-alexander, #landrieu-mitch, #mellon-foundation, #monuments-and-memorials-structures, #philanthropy


Despite Billions in Fees, Banks Predict Meager Profits on P.P.P. Loans

Banks collected at least $13 billion in fees on Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to a New York Times analysis. But the largest lenders say costs wiped out most of what they took in.

#bank-of-america-corporation, #banking-and-financial-institutions, #citigroup-inc, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-2020, #jpmorgan-chasecompany, #philanthropy, #wells-fargocompany


Man Spent Donations to Black Lives Matter on Himself, Prosecutors Say

“There is no cause, no tragedy, and no event that fraudsters won’t seek to exploit,” prosecutors said in accusing a man of diverting funds from a group he ran that took in more than $450,000.

#atlanta-ga, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-lives-matter-of-greater-atlanta, #frauds-and-swindling, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #page-sir-maejor, #philanthropy, #toledo-ohio


Short of Money to Run Elections, Local Authorities Turn to Private Funds

Cities and states face huge bills to deal with voting during the pandemic. Mark Zuckerberg offered $300 million to help — and conservatives are objecting.

#absentee-voting, #chan-priscilla, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-2020, #facebook-inc, #federal-state-relations-us, #philanthropy, #presidential-election-of-2020, #stimulus-economic, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #zuckerberg-mark-e


Henry van Ameringen, Friend of L.G.B.T.Q. Causes, Dies at 89

Heir to a family fortune in the fragrances industry, he was among the first openly gay major donors to fund L.G.B.T.Q. and AIDS-related organizations.

#deaths-obituaries, #fountain-house, #gods-love-we-deliver, #international-flavors-and-fragrances-inc, #philanthropy, #van-ameringen-henry-1930-2020


Coronavirus Relief Fund Raises Nearly $20 Million for Artists

Creative professionals can receive $5,000 grants through the end of the year, thanks to additional funding by the Mellon Foundation and others.

#academy-of-american-poets, #alexander-elizabeth-1962, #art, #artadia, #artist-relief-fund, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #creative-capital-foundation, #dancing, #finances, #foundation-for-contemporary-arts, #hardly-strictly-bluegrass, #map-fund, #mellon-foundation, #music, #national-youngarts-foundation, #philanthropy, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #theater, #united-states-artists


Entrepreneurship and investing as social good

2020 has been a year of social upheaval. Around the world, society is identifying different problems in our culture and pushing for widespread change. While there are notable steps we can all take, from altering exclusionary company policies to signing action-oriented petitions, the VC and investment world has another, often overlooked option: Investing in change-the-world startups.

Increasingly, angel investors and institutional funds have begun allocating a portion of their funds to startups focused on diversity and social good, whether focused on democratized access to healthcare and education, or larger scale issues like climate change.

Initially, shifting funds to empower social good may seem like a hefty feat, however investors can embrace this mindshift in three simple steps: (1) redistributing stagnant investments; (2) leveraging democratized access to change-making startups; and (3) identifying founders tracking toward success.

Allocating more investments to foster change

Most of the world’s money is tied up in stagnant places. Whether invested in real estate, bonds or other traditional vehicles, this capital typically often shows conservative returns to investors — and has negligible impact on society. The intent isn’t malicious.

Most family offices and private wealth managers strive to minimize losses and these sorts of uniformed portfolios are safe. Even the most seasoned investors should incorporate more variety into their portfolios, determining where they can make profitable investments that yield higher returns while advancing societal good. Investors can take small steps to get more confident in expanding their strategies.

To start, reframe your thinking into seeing the potential opportunity rather than the risk. A good way to do this: Look at how high-risk public equities performed over the last five years and compare it to ventures within tech. Investors will see a significant disparity and the opportunity to make different returns.

The idea is not to put an entire profile in a single venture. Rather, an investor should take a portion of their portfolio in a high-risk investment sector, like public equities or fund structures, and put it in a similar risk profile with a better return. Gradually increasing these increments, starting at 15% and slowly scaling up, can help investors to see outsized returns while making a difference in the process.

A world of passion at your fingertips

For startups of all sizes, democratized access to investors will accelerate the use of capital for social good. Until recently, only the world’s wealthiest people had exposure to premium capital, but crowdfunding and accelerator programs have ushered in new opportunities, forging connections that might not have otherwise been possible.

These avenues have opened new doors for investors and startups. Access to developed networks or innovation hubs like Silicon Valley are no longer make-or-breaks for those looking to raise capital. Extended global opportunity for startups also means investors have more options to find promising ventures that align with their values, regardless of their location.

But while crowdfunding and accelerators have made the world more accessible, they come with sizable challenges. Despite making early-stage investment more obtainable, crowdfunding often does not bring the most valuable investors to the table.

Crowdfunding also inundates platforms with poor-quality deal flow, making it more strenuous for investors to connect with fruitful opportunities. Meanwhile, various accelerators and incubation platforms have emerged, which have advanced global connection, but tend to be quite noisy.

To succeed, entrepreneurs need more than capital. Rather, they need strategic support from experienced investors who can help them make decisions and scale in an impactful way. With a world of ideas at their fingertips, investors should take time to sift through their options and find the ideas that move them the most, prioritizing quality deals and looking toward platforms that curate promising connections.

Empowering entrepreneurs poised for success

Now is the right time to invest in startups. People who innovate during the pandemic have triple the hustle of those who build in safer economies. But while the timing is right, it’s equally important that the fit is right. I’m a big believer in investing in potential: Ambition, unwavering tenacity and empathy are desirable qualities that can help bring game-changing ideas to fruition.

If an investor funds a passionate leader with a strong vision and ability to attract talent, then the groundwork is laid to build something meaningful. When considering the change-makers to invest in, ask: Is this the right person to be building this company? Do they have the ability to attract and lead talent? Is the market big enough, and is there a significant enough problem to build a company around?

If the answer isn’t yes to all of these questions, it’s important to gauge if you can see a theoretical exit, or if the company is pre-seed or Series A, if they have the ability to scale to a decent size.

Despite this, investing in startups, no matter how good their intentions, can scare investors. One way to overcome trepidation is to invest in larger-stage startups that seem less risky and then wade into earlier-stage startups at your own pace. Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) are also becoming an interesting investment option.

SPACs are corporations formed for the sole purpose of raising investment capital through an IPO. The proceeds are then used to buy one or more existing companies, an option that could decrease anxiety for risk-averse investors looking to expand their comfort zone.

Any strategy an investor chooses to embrace social good is a step in the right direction. Capital is a tangible way to fuel innovation and bring about impactful change.

Democratized access to startups yields more opportunity for investors to find ventures that align with their values while diversifying their profiles can provide tremendous results. And when that return means disrupting the status quo and empowering societal change? Everyone wins.

#angel-investor, #business-incubators, #column, #crowdfunding, #entrepreneurship, #opinion, #philanthropy, #private-equity, #social-good, #spacs, #startup-company, #startups, #tc


How to Help Parents Who Are Struggling to Provide for Their Kids

The pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities that already existed. These organizations are bridging the gap.

#children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #diapers, #food-banks-and-pantries, #food-insecurity, #nonprofit-organizations, #philanthropy


Wildfires and Hurricane Sally: How to Help

With fires on the West Coast and floods on the Gulf Coast, relief organizations are providing meals and shelter to devastated communities. If you want to give aid, here are some research pointers.

#alabama, #american-red-cross, #california, #charity-navigator, #florida, #hurricanes-and-tropical-storms, #mississippi, #oregon, #philanthropy, #washington-state, #wildfires


Jewish Students Aid Owners of Kebab Shop Hit in Synagogue Attack

The Jewish Student Union in Germany hopes its campaign will help wipe away the stigma of the Yom Kippur attack and send a wider message of solidarity.

#anti-semitism, #germany, #gofundme, #halle-germany, #hate-crimes, #jews-and-judaism, #merkel-angela, #philanthropy, #right-wing-extremism-and-alt-right, #synagogues


What Happened Inside Ed Buck’s Apartment?

Two men died of meth overdoses at the home of a West Hollywood political donor. Dark conspiracy theories abounded— but the truth is even darker

#black-people, #democratic-party, #drug-abuse-and-traffic, #methamphetamines, #philanthropy


Bill Gates Sr., Who Guided Billionaire Son’s Philanthropy, Dies at 94

He channeled support for campaigns to eradicate polio, reduce infant mortality, build schools and help find an AIDS vaccine — among other causes.

#acquired-immune-deficiency-syndrome, #deaths-obituaries, #gates-bill, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #gates-bill-sr, #gates-melinda, #legal-profession, #microsoft-corp, #philanthropy


Bill Gates on Coronavirus, Vaccines and Global Health

The Covid-19 pandemic has set back public health efforts by years. But in an interview, the tech philanthropist expressed hope about new avenues for foreign aid

#acquired-immune-deficiency-syndrome, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #epidemics, #federal-budget-us, #foreign-aid, #gates-bill, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #humanitarian-aid, #philanthropy, #stimulus-economic, #third-world-and-developing-countries, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vaccination-and-immunization, #world-health-organization, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science


Progressive Donor Susan Sandler to Give $200 Million to Racial Justice Groups

Her efforts will support organizations trying to build political power in states that are undergoing rapid demographic change.

#nonprofit-organizations, #philanthropy, #race-and-ethnicity, #sandler-susan


In a Year Like No Other, a ‘Historic Crisis’ of Need

When Times readers heard the call of The Neediest Cases Fund’s annual campaign, they gave. And when a pandemic took hold, they gave again.

#new-york-times-neediest-cases-fund, #philanthropy


DeJoy Pressured Workers to Donate to G.O.P. Candidates, Former Employees Say

Former employees at New Breed Logistics say they were expected to donate to candidates whom their executive, Louis DeJoy, was supporting, and would be rewarded through yearly bonuses.

#campaign-finance, #dejoy-louis, #new-breed-logistics, #philanthropy, #postal-service-us, #republican-party, #united-states-politics-and-government, #xpo-logistics-inc


To build responsibly, tech needs to do more than just hire chief ethics officers

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen new teams in tech companies emerge that focus on responsible innovation, digital well-being, AI ethics or humane use. Whatever their titles, these individuals are given the task of “leading” ethics at their companies. Whether they’ve been created because of employee pressure, endless negative headlines or the late-flowering realization that considering your company’s impact on society is probably quite important, we should welcome these roles. After all, it’s clear current leaders have struggled to do the right thing, and this work needs dedication and expertise.

But we need to be cautious. The existence of roles like Salesforce’s chief ethics and humane use officer or Facebook’s director of responsible innovation can create the appearance of checking a box that they’ve addressed responsible tech, or the perception that responsibility for ethics is owned by solely them. And that would be a mistake.

After all, as Alix Dunn, the founder of Computer Says Maybe says, “Ethics is a cross-functional challenge. We wouldn’t expect a company to set up a finance department, then tell the rest of the organization, ‘No need to worry about money!’”

Older readers lived through the time when we were, or knew, the only “digital” or “online” person in the company. Our goal was to help others understand how the world was shifting and make sure our companies and partners did the same. We needed them to see that the internet wasn’t a separate thing or a lesser tool, but the lens through which we would engage in many interactions, for better or worse. We knew we’d succeeded when others became digital champions, too.

Just like the early days of digital, ethics can seem complex and remote. Remember thinking, “The internet will never be big enough to disrupt my industry? It can be tempting to assume you need a Ph.D. to debate complex topics like algorithmic bias or exclusion, especially as many of those chief ethics officers have those deep credentials and expertise. Even though tech fancies itself as an industry that welcomes new types of talent and thinking, credentialism is more part of the industry culture than we think – or admit. (If you’re questioning that, just think about how popular it is to put ex-employers in your Twitter biography.)

Unless you work on ethics full time or you’re a product VP, it’s easy to feel that you have no say or no role in your company’s commitment to social responsibility, especially if you’re underrepresented at your company or speaking up puts you at risk.

Ethical leaders play a powerful central role in coordinating, setting standards and creating incentives, but they wouldn’t want to be the only ones to own this work, either. Responsibility’s a muscle we build and practice. Doing the right thing isn’t a one-off action, but a commitment to values that inform day-to-day behaviors and decisions.

So we need to create structures that ensure company values are embedded in roles across the board. This could include cementing ethical goals in core company and team OKRs to incentivize each contribution, or ensuring values are centered in job specs and hiring processes. Internal trainings that build knowledge and resilience can help, alongside mechanisms to connect the dots between product and business decisions and the implications those decisions have for individual users and our broader society. Space needs to exist for nuanced conversation and critique that doesn’t require a Ph.D. or “ethics” title but demands an open mind and the ability to listen (our recently released Ethical Explorer is a free tool to help navigate topics like data control or exclusion).

Increasingly, we should see chief ethics officers as champions and educators; just like those early digital leaders, their core function should be to get their teammates bought into this new world. This, in turn, helps workers hold their responsible tech leaders to account in an era of ethics washing.

Together, we come into our power when we ask questions, speak up, demand more and build better. The builders, questioners, makers and ethical leaders coming up in technology firms now will help us to reshape the industry for the better and create the products we deserve.

#artificial-intelligence, #business-ethics, #column, #diversity, #ethics-of-technology, #opinion, #philanthropy, #philosophy, #values


‘That Kept Us Going’: Small Businesses Stay Alive With Local Help

Cities big and small know they can’t rely on federal stimulus to support their entrepreneurs, so they are finding innovative ways to keep them afloat.

#akron-ohio, #buyers-giovy, #charlotte-nc, #coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-2020, #dean-charity, #detroit-mich, #federal-aid-us, #labor-and-jobs, #lewis-pam, #marshall-nya, #metropolitan-policy-program-brookings-institution, #new-economy-initiative, #parilla-joseph, #philanthropy, #small-business, #united-states-economy


Investing in Social Good Is Finally Becoming Profitable

Impact investments are outperforming traditional bets in the coronavirus crisis, which may be a turning point for wealthy investors looking to generate change.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #corporate-social-responsibility, #exchange-traded-funds, #high-net-worth-individuals, #personal-finances, #philanthropy


Stephen Ross, the Man Behind Hudson Yards, Thinks New York Is Too Expensive

Stephen Ross, a friend of President Trump, talks about politics, philanthropy and his pet peeve: wastefulness.

#de-blasio-bill, #high-net-worth-individuals, #miami-dolphins, #philanthropy, #related-cos, #ross-initiative-in-sports-for-equality-rise, #ross-stephen-m, #soulcycle-llc, #trump-donald-j


Whitney Cancels Show That Included Works Bought at Fund-Raisers

Black artists objected after they discovered their work had been acquired by the museum through discounted sales meant to benefit charities.

#art, #black-people, #museums, #philanthropy, #photography, #poetry-and-poets, #see-in-black, #whitney-museum-of-american-art


How a Free Meals Power Broker Spends His Sundays

For years, Winston Chiu has been committed to eliminating food waste and hunger. The pandemic has made his job a lot harder.

#chiu-winston, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #food-insecurity, #new-york-city, #philanthropy, #restaurants


Group at Center of Bannon Indictment Used Private Funds to Build Border Wall

The criminal charges were the latest twist for We Build the Wall, which had drawn praise from top Homeland Security officials while causing controversy over its construction methods.

#bannon-stephen-k, #border-barriers, #border-patrol-us, #building-construction, #defense-department, #frauds-and-swindling, #homeland-security-department, #kobach-kris-w, #kolfage-brian, #philanthropy, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #we-build-the-wall


Kids Seeking Asylum Find Some Measure of It in One Makeshift School

When the pandemic hit, volunteers had to find creative ways to educate migrant children living in limbo near the U.S.-Mexico border.

#2020-homeschooling, #children-and-childhood, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #e-learning, #education-k-12, #immigration-and-emigration, #parenting, #philanthropy, #refugees-and-displaced-persons


Melinda Gates On Covid-19: It’s Time to Demand More of All Our Leaders

“We have to vote for the right people. And then we have to hold our leaders accountable,” the philanthropist said.

#discrimination, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #gates-melinda, #philanthropy, #women-and-girls


Doris Buffett, the Family’s ‘Retail Philanthropist,’ Dies at 92

Her younger brother, Warren, entrusted her with vetting requests after he announced his intention to donate nearly his entire fortune. “Warren loves to make money and I love to give it away,” she said.

#berkshire-hathaway-inc, #buffett-doris, #buffett-warren-e, #deaths-obituaries, #omaha-neb, #philanthropy


Announcing Sight Tech Global, an event on the future of AI and accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired

Few challenges have excited technologists more than building tools to help people who are blind or visually impaired. It was Silicon Valley legend Ray Kurzweil, for example, who in 1976 launched the first commercially available text-to-speech reading device. He unveiled the $50,000 Kurzweil Reading Machine, a boxy device that covered a tabletop, at a press conference hosted by the National Federation of the Blind

The early work of Kurzweil and many others has rippled across the commerce and technology world in stunning ways. Today’s equivalent of Kurzweil’s machine is Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which uses AI-based image recognition to “see” and “read” in ways that Kurzweil could only have dreamed of. And it’s free to anyone with a mobile phone. 

Remarkable leaps forward like that are the foundation for Sight Tech Global, a new, virtual event slated for Dec 2-3, that will bring together many of the world’s top technology and accessibility experts to discuss how rapid advances in AI and related technologies will shape assistive technology and accessibility in the years ahead.

The technologies behind Microsoft’s Seeing AI are on the same evolutionary tree as the ones that enable cars to be autonomous and robots to interact safely with humans. Much of our most advanced technology today stems from that early, challenging mission that top Silicon Valley engineers embraced to teach machines to “see” on behalf of humans.

From the standpoint of people who suffer vision loss, the technology available today is astonishing, far beyond what anyone anticipated even ten years ago. Purpose-built products like Seeing AI and computer screen readers like JAWS are remarkable tools. At the same time, consumer products including mobile phones, mapping apps, and smart voice assistants are game changers for everyone, those with sight loss not the least. And yet, that tech bonanza has not come close to breaking down the barriers in the lives of people who still mostly navigate with canes or dogs or sighted assistance, depend on haphazard compliance with accessibility standards to use websites, and can feel as isolated as ever in a room full of people. 

A computer can drive a car at 70 MPH without human assistance but there is not yet any comparable device to help a blind person walk down a sidewalk at 3 MPH.

In other words, we live in a world where a computer can drive a car at 70 MPH without human assistance but there is not yet any comparable device to help a blind person walk down a sidewalk at 3 MPH. A social media site can identify billions of people in an instant but a blind person can’t readily identify the person standing in front of them. Today’s powerful technologies, many of them grounded in AI, have yet to be milled into next-generation tools that are truly useful, happily embraced and widely affordable. The work is underway at big tech companies like Apple and Microsoft, at startups, and in university labs, but no one would dispute that the work is as slow as it is difficult. People who are blind or visually impaired live in a world where, as the science fiction author William Gibson once remarked, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

That state of affairs is the inspiration for Sight Tech Global. The event will convene the top technologists, human-computer interaction specialists, product designers, researchers, entrepreneurs and advocates to discuss the future of assistive technology as well as accessibility in general. Many of those experts and technologists are blind or visually impaired, and the event programming will stand firmly on the ground that no discussion or new product development is meaningful without the direct involvement of that community. Silicon Valley has great technologies but does not, on its own, have the answers.

The two days of programming on the virtual main stage will be free and available on a global basis both live and on-demand. There will also be a $25 Pro Pass  for those who want to participate in specialized breakout sessions, Q&A with speakers, and virtual networking. Registration for the show opens soon; in the meantime anyone interested may request email updates here

It’s important to note that there are many excellent events every year that focus on accessibility, and we respect their many abiding contributions and steady commitment. Sight Tech Global aims to complement the existing event line-up by focusing on hard questions about advanced technologies and the products and experiences they will drive in the years ahead – assuming they are developed hand-in-hand with their intended audience and with affordability, training and other social factors in mind. 

In many respects, Sight Tech Global is taking a page from TechCrunch’s approach to its AI and robotics events over the past four years, which were in partnership with MIT and UC Berkeley.  The concept was to have TechCrunch editors ask top experts in AI and related fields tough questions across the full spectrum of issues around these powerful technologies, from the promise of automation and machine autonomy to the downsides of job elimination and bias in AI-based systems. TechCrunch’s editors will be a part of this show, along with other expert moderators.  

As the founder of Sight Tech Global, I am drawing on my extensive event experience at TechCrunch over eight years to produce this event. Both TechCrunch and its parent company, Verizon Media, are lending a hand in important ways. My own connection to the community is through my wife, Joan Desmond, who is legally blind. 

The proceeds from sponsorships and ticket sales will go to the non-profit Vista Center for Blind and Visually Impaired, which has been serving Silicon Valley area for 75 years. The Vista Center owns the Sight Tech Global event and its executive director, Karae Lisle is the event’s chair. We have assembled a highly experienced team of volunteers to program and produce a rich, world-class virtual event on December 2-3.

Sponsors are welcome, and we have opportunities available ranging from branding support to content integration. Please email for more information.

Our programming work is under way and we will announce speakers and sessions over the coming weeks. The programming committee includes Jim Fruchterman (Benetech / TechMatters) Larry Goldberg (Verizon Media), Matt King (Facebook) and Professor Roberto Manduchi (UC Santa Cruz). We welcome ideas and can be reached via

For general inquiries, including collaborations on promoting the event, please contact

#artificial-intelligence, #events, #media, #philanthropy, #tc


Driving Across the Globe to Fight Child Trafficking

Renée Brinkerhoff has been on a quest, on almost every continent, to use racing “as a platform to do something about” a global scourge. Next stop, Antarctica.

#automobile-racing, #automobiles, #brinkerhoff-renee, #child-abuse-and-neglect, #children-and-childhood, #human-trafficking, #philanthropy


MacKenzie Scott Gives $1.7 Billion to Historically Black Colleges and Other Groups

One year after pledging to give away most of her fortune, Ms. Scott, an author and the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, announced that she had donated to causes supporting women, L.G.B.T. rights and racial equality.

#bezos-jeffrey-p, #bezos-mackenzie, #colleges-and-universities, #high-net-worth-individuals, #historically-black-colleges-and-universities, #philanthropy


Big Tech Funds a Think Tank Pushing for Fewer Rules. For Big Tech.

Google, Amazon and Qualcomm finance a George Mason University institute teaching a hands-off approach to antitrust regulators and judges.

#amazon-com-inc, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #colleges-and-universities, #computers-and-the-internet, #conflicts-of-interest, #conventions-fairs-and-trade-shows, #george-mason-university, #ginsburg-douglas-h, #google-inc, #justice-department, #law-schools, #naidu-suresh, #philanthropy, #qualcomm-inc, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #varian-hal-r, #wright-joshua-d-1977


Covid Pandemic and Recession Hurt Nonprofits as Need Surges

Even as the economic crisis creates new demand for their services, organizations with millions of workers are resorting to layoffs as revenues dry up.

#budgets-and-budgeting, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-aid-relief-and-economic-security-act-2020, #finances, #layoffs-and-job-reductions, #nonprofit-organizations, #philanthropy, #shutdowns-institutional, #united-states-economy, #young-mens-christian-assn-ymca


When the Bake Sale Goes Global, Millions Are Raised to Fight Injustice

Online sales have become blockbuster events as long-sidelined pastry chefs lead a charge toward activism.

#bakeries-and-baked-products, #black-lives-matter-movement, #black-seed-manhattan-ny-bakery, #chefs, #jones-tangerine, #philanthropy, #planned-parenthood-federation-of-america, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #restaurants, #united-states, #women-and-girls


Patient, Can You Spare a Dime?

Hospitals are increasingly soliciting donations from patients, and the patients don’t much like it, a new survey finds.

#bribery-and-kickbacks, #doctors, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #finances, #high-net-worth-individuals, #hospitals, #jagsi-reshma, #johns-hopkins-university, #journal-of-the-american-medical-assn, #philanthropy, #united-states, #university-of-michigan