THE POINT Community Development Corporation is a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Working with neighbors to celebrate the life and art in this community, an area traditionally defined solely in terms of its poverty, crime rate, poor schools and substandard housing, THE POINT (TP) believes the area’s residents, their talents and aspirations, are the community’s greatest assets. TP offers a multi-faceted approach to asset-based community development, with programming falling into three main categories: youth development, arts and culture, and community development—all aimed at the comprehensive revitalization of the area.
The Knowledge House (KH) builds an education-to-employment pipeline in under-served neighborhoods by empowering young people with the 21st century skills to launch careers or ventures that will have an uplifting impact on their communities. In spring 2014, KH launched the inaugural Innovation Fellowship at TP with 10 Bronxites. With a focus on coding, 3D design/printing, digital media and lean startup methodology, KH worked with partners to provide 10 weeks of workshops and mentorship.
THE POINT partnered with The Knowledge House to create a polished and digitized tech-entrepreneurship curriculum for young adults and design a “train the trainer” program to lead its distribution. The curriculum allowed other community-based organizations and classrooms to replicate, adopt, and reinvent the new program: Techtivism. The “train the trainer” program facilitated the development of a scalable models while also fueling a pipeline of underutilized talent into careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), education and activism. The working title for the project was Digital Equity Activism Campaign, however the term “techtivism” was later adopted.
THE POINT and The Knowledge House convened Hive members who had participated in previous Digital Media and Learning projects, plus Tech Mentors from KH’s Innovation Fellowship, to compile past student work and modify the Techtivism curriculum. KH digitized Techtivism and created a comprehensive online toolkit for other organizations to adopt the program. TP and KH recruited and trained five alums to test Techtivism with focus groups from within TP and other organizations. TP and KH used their feedback to finalize program materials, adding recommendations for project adaptability and a risk analysis including solutions for potential barriers to sustainability. The final digitized curriculum and toolkit will be accessible online.
The final community event of the project took place on Saturday January 31, 2015 with #SocialGoodHacks 2015. With over 75 participants, including teens and adult mentors, working on 11 distinct social hacks for the day, nine outcomes were completed including media projects, apps, games and websites, with prizes for the most innovative offerings.
Project Implementation and Discovery
The project revealed the power of collaboration in bringing about a program that works not only across TP programs, but also others within the community. By working with KH, TP program participants and community engagement were enhanced, and a space was built for further community development via technology and hacking. The project was approached with the strengths of each program in mind, successfully resulting in the different cultures being incorporated in the final curriculum and plan. Time constraints prevented all of the goals stated originally from being accomplished, in particular the aim to work with a business consultant to create a plan to further scale out Techtivism. Managing both programming and curriculum building presented a challenge, with recruitment and other issues arising throughout the process. TP looks forward to continued work with KH to further grow this collaboration to bring youth development and technology to the community.
The unemployment rate in the South Bronx and Harlem is twice as high as NYC’s, at 10.8% (25% for 18-25 year olds). With 2.2 million tech jobs available in 2020, providing access to these opportunities is critical. Also, at this time, 93% of teens and young adults have daily access to mobile internet. Emphasizing tech-entrepreneurship will allow disadvantaged youth to gain exposure to the NYC tech scene and start-up culture, help close the digital divide, and fuel an education-to-employment pipeline of underutilized talent.
By challenging the organization’s goals in supporting youth on their pathways into technology-based work, TP’s model changed, becoming more integrated.This meant creating a seamless program that captures leadership, technology and social emotional learning. The project highlighted the need to continue this change in approach and to be more mindful of all the needs of our youth, including employment.
Audience and participants included six Tech Fellows, 100 young adults aged 16-24 from the South Bronx (via focus groups and hackathon), and up to eight interns.
Challenge and Resolution
During the project, the workplan was found to be too ambitious for the allotted timeframe. Most of what was intended was accomplished, but not all of the objectives were fully realized. Some aspects of the work plan were modified, including the “train the trainer” workshop series, #SocialGoodHacks hackathon, planning and management hours. These issues were resolved by scaling back on plans, including the final “train the trainer” workshops, which were adjusted to four sessions. The hackathon was planned for the last weekend of January, which added three more administrative hours for management during the final three weeks of the grant.
Consistent “train the trainer” program attendance also proved to be an obstacle. Workshops were not fully attended by the same members of THE POINT programs due to conflicting student schedules. This issue was addressed by offering the training series to as many students as possible, and finding success in exposing youth to this topic in programs as varied as Activists Coming to Inform Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), International Center for Photography @ THE POINT, Cirque du Monde, and Comic Book Club, etc. Already established youth digital groups, such as Young Hackers, were also encouraged to take part in the workshops and activities.
Participants appreciated the opportunity to engage with practical art and technology activities in a community space.
Thanks so much for putting together such a great event yesterday. It was both inspirational and a delight to see so many young folks from around the city come and hack the Bronx. My son and nephew, second place winners, had a great time at their first hackathon. It was a great introduction to the other side of the tech world (as developers) and really inspirational for them to see their contemporaries so actively engaged.
I’m very impressed and thankful for what you guys are doing in [the South Bronx]. Giving young men and women a place to practice the arts and technology is much needed for an age demographic that is usually forgotten. -Vincent Navarro, #SocialGoodHacks Mentor/Community Member
Website about project – still in progress.
Photographs from project activities and events.
List of categories students chose to work on during final hackathon event, #socialgoodhacks.
Digital Equity and Social Activism Campaign guide for teachers.
Overview of program sequence and skills that support Techtivism’s goal to empower young people to make a product that addresses a real problem that they see in the world around them.