Imagine a community-run business school in the Barclay neighborhood off North Avenue, a place open only to neighborhood residents and staffed with volunteer teachers and techies. What about a mobile app that will organize all Baltimore’s social service providers’ information in one directory?
These were just some of the ideas formed during the first-ever unWIREd unconference at Johns Hopkins University this weekend. Sponsored by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council, the two-day event gave community leaders time Friday afternoon to talk about projects they’re working on or problems they’re trying to solve, and then culminated in a nine-hour brainstorming session Saturday.
Technologists, community activists, nonprofit leaders, teachers—even some students taught by Digital Harbor Foundation’s EdTech fellows—were divided among teams and told to, generally speaking, use technology to improve the city.
Check out the video below for project presentations from unWIREd.
“There’s no bad idea,” head of the GBTC Jason Hardebeck assured participants Friday afternoon. “But if you have a big idea, we want to get it down to something that can be proven or disproven.”
The goal, Hardebeck said, was to finish the weekend with basic blueprints for services or products that could continue to be worked on during GBTC’s Groundwork hackathon in September, and then in the months following.
Friday’s speaking lineup included city officials, local hackers, bloggers and teachers: Seema Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute and co-organizer of Data Day, Andrew Coy, co-executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation, Code for America’s (and soon-to-be Philadelphia’s chief digital officer) Mark Headd and new Baltimore city CIO Chris Tonjes, among many others.
When roughly 40 unWIREd participants reconvened Saturday morning — a smaller-size group than the one that showed up to hear speakers Friday — people proposed 21 different ideas for projects to undertake.
Group voting yielded four areas of focus—place making, education, community activism and social entrepreneurship—which were the larger ideas around which small, technology-based projects were created, like HirEd, a certification program whereby Baltimore city students earn digital badges qualifying them for different tech jobs around town.
GBTC recorded all four project presentations Saturday, and we will share the video here when it’s available. Until then, see the Storify for some highlights from the weekend.
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