This free festival is bringing the conversation around tech and social change to DC - DC


Nov. 7, 2017 7:38 am

This free festival is bringing the conversation around tech and social change to DC

The Public Good App House Festival is set for Nov. 13-15 at a host of venues, including public libraries.

(Courtesy photo)

As part of efforts to raise awareness about technology that is powering social good, Caravan Studios has convened local sessions in cities such as D.C., Medellin, Colombia, Nashville and Rio de Janeiro.

Under the banner of the Public Good App House, the demos brought together nonprofits, government organizations and others to see tools that could help their work. For Caravan Studios, which is a division of the nonprofit TechSoup, it was a chance to further conversations about building tech that can create social change. But for the people who gathered, it wasn’t just about how the technology worked. The sessions also led to conversations about how the technology could have an impact, said Caravan Studios CEO Marnie Webb. They talked about community organizing, and what could lead a technology to have a wide-scale impact.

As they saw the growth of the community, Webb and others started considering whether public good technology is a field of its own. They also began to consider, “What would happen if we brought these people together in a larger event?”

More than a year after planning began, the answer will come next week. The Public Good App House Festival of the Americas arrives in the District from Nov. 13-15, bringing workshops, discussions and demos. It features 50 speakers from 30 countries.

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The free festival three tracks:

  • Participatory Methodologies, which focuses on improving community engagement.
  • Active Projects, including demos of technologies that are currently in use.
  • Impact and Scale, looking at how to measure and drive growth.

The technology at the festival is focused around aligning with the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, which focus on areas such as ending poverty, ensuring access to basic human needs and tackling climate change. Along with looking at how apps are helping to drive toward those goals, the festival can also provide a forum to look at basic implications around mobilizing people to use technology to create change.


“We can’t think that we’re just going to have smart technology and social entrepreneurs build things that people are just run to use if they’ve been left out of capitalism over time,” Webb said.

And since it’s a global effort, and the festival wants to foster cross-border learning. One such opportunity will come when Catalina Escobar presents an Air Quality Data Project in use in Medellin, Colombia. It offers a chance to learn about how citizens are contributing directly to the effort to monitor pollution.

The agenda shows that D.C. has a place in the conversation. Among the speakers from local startups and orgs are TransitScreen’s Jordan Birnbaum, Michelle Chang of IMBY, Ximena Hartsock of Phone2Action , John Gossart of GoodWorld and . A Nov. 13 panel on diversity and inclusion at Shaw Library features an all-#dctech lineup of Monica Kang of InnovatorsBox, Sibyl Edwards of Black Female Founders, Dominique Taylor of Union and Deloris Wilson of Beacon DC and Matt Malzkuhn of the ASL App. On Nov. 14, the opening plenary will be led by Project 500 head Melissa Bradley and Carey Anne Nadeau of Open Data Nation.

The festival style offers a divergence from the single-site conference model. Venues such as the Hall of the Americas, Gensler and WeWork White House will play host to morning and evening discussions. Webb also noted that daytime events will be held at three D.C. public libraries in Petworth, Shaw and Mt. Pleasant. It’s one way that the festival is looking to take things to the community level.

“I think it also models how people can have convenings when they’re back home,” she said.

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