A Piece of Actual Substance About the Tech Bus Debate

If we wanted to, we could post a piece a day about someone opining  – often mostly blathering – about the tech buses in redundant ways that make one want to flee from all OPED pieces.

The Guardian (UK newspaper) offers a piece that actually adds information and a suggestion about community engagement and tech and for those of you interested, it offers links.  It touches on a point that we plan to address in an upcoming podcast: community involvement. The piece was written by Lydia Laurenson, who lives in the city and works for an internet company. She also had a Peace Corp experience that taught her something about living in the world.  Here is a short excerpt, but click to the whole piece.

Real community engagement is unbelievably hard; if it were easy, more people would do it. Simply finding a starting point is hard. But one place we might learn from is the SF-based organization Code For America, which is a bit like a tech Peace Corps (although it primarily serves American cities). CFA exposes its year-long Fellows directly to the workings of various governments and local communities.

Crucially, Fellows gain months of exposure before they even start thinking about solutions they can build. As Catherine Bracy, CFA’s Director for Community Organizing, told me: “The point is to start with the problem and not with the technology.”

“My fellowship year clarified more problems than solutions,” writes one Code For America Fellow in a blog post. I felt encouraged reading that, because it exalts a cautious learning process.

As far as I know, the CFA Fellowship is the only program of its kind, and it’s overwhelmed with applications. Hundreds of people apply for 30 one-year-long Fellowship slots. So CFA also runs a program they call the Code for America Brigade, which helps tech folks learn more about and contribute to local communities for a few hours every week. Code For America is not the only game in town, but it’s worth knowing about. READ THE FULL PIECE HERE

And there is also the local Engage SF Effort.

 

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission

17 Comments

  1. John

    Just to be clear, this is from the UK Guardian newspaper and not the SF Bay Guardian. And to be equally clear, it’s about as relentlessly left-wing.

    So much that the UK liberal satirical weekly funny paper Private Eye routinely mocks it’s precious self-absorption via it’s “Grauniad” (sic) piece.

    Greed and envy stories sell papers and attract craven undiscriminating eyeballs, but I’m not sure there is much to see here. As you say, it’s nearly all blathering.

    • poor.ass.millionaire

      I also thought she was quoting from the bay guardian. It’s misleading.

      OTOH both papers suck- bay guardian sucks up/ down in every respect and the UK guardian has a solid arts section, but op ed and politics blow there.

    • BellaDancer

      I don’t see this as left wing. It’s well-intentioned but terribly patronizing. Techies will be careful not to parachute in to Third World San Francisco and “just move in and say you’re going to Change The World.”
      Rather, as the Peace Corps does in developing nations, techies will “improve our connection with the larger communities around us, then maybe we’ll spot cultural problems soon enough to mitigate them, and maybe we’ll see larger problems we can help with.”
      You are not the Peace Corps and the Mission is not waiting for you to ride to the rescue.
      I do think that change is the one constant and we must welcome new neighbors as we greet old friends and work together for the best for us all and for our community.

      • John

        Maybe a deal can be agreed whereby techies don’t tell us how to live and we don’t tell them how to live?

        Can you imagine? People tolerating differences and diversity? And not expecting others to solve our problems nor blaming them for those problems?

  2. poor.ass.millionaire

    Ok Lyds, you claim this piece has substance about the tech bus issue. But what you quote here says nada, zippo about tech busses! Where is that part? All I see here is some anecdotal hippy-dippy-peace-corp-meets-local-community-kumbaya. And no, I’m not going to bother reading the entire article. Fail. Your quoted section here should lead me to want to read the article, but you present nothing related to the tech busses. Fail.

  3. BellaDancer

    I don’t see this as left wing. It’s well-intentioned but terribly patronizing. Techies will be careful not to parachute in to Third World San Francisco and “just move in and say you’re going to Change The World.”
    Rather, as the Peace Corps does in developing nations, techies will “improve our connection with the larger communities around us, then maybe we’ll spot cultural problems soon enough to mitigate them, and maybe we’ll see larger problems we can help with.”
    You are not the Peace Corps and the Mission is not waiting for you to ride to the rescue.
    I do think that change is the one constant and we must welcome new neighbors as we greet old friends and work together for the best for us all and for our community.

  4. Mission What?

    Lydia: Just because you decided to run a bus sponsorship program doesn’t make you the authority on how to solve the tech invasion issue. Why don’t you get back to reporting what is actually happening instead of telling us how to feel about it?

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Lydia! I’m really glad you liked the piece.

  6. marcos

    Community engagement is not rocket science but it does require effort. Once upon a time, back when there were runoffs, political campaigns were vectors for community engagement. We organized folks around Marshall School for traffic calming, to weigh in on the cameras at 16th BART and to modify 1501 15th Street so that its parking egress did not pass by the elementary school.

    But the corrupt operators who run this city learned from their humiliation in 2000 and took steps to ensure that the people of San Francisco would be marginalized. This is why for all of the community organizers working in the Mission, Mission residents remain virtually unorganized yet the organizers still get paid.

    There is no community engagement because people are being paid to make sure that there is none, not because people don’t want to come together to influence their community. They realize that the whole reason why there is a table that people demand places at is to purposely exclude everyone from that table and don’t waste their time.

      • John

        What marcos is calling “community engagement” is really the conferring of power onto a small group of activists and “organizers” who then seek to impose their views on the decision-making process. They rely on the fact that the silent majority do not and can not get involved.

        The proof of this is very simple. People like marcos never ASK the community what they want. Rather they constantly seek to TELL their neighbors what they should want.

        Activists and organizers are pushing their own narrow agenda. They aren’t reflective of the real community at all. That is why election results are always more moderate and centrist and reasonable than what the activists push for.

        • marcos

          Nope, the more the merrier. The paid activists are the ones whose job it is to constrain participation in league with city staff for their continued funding and access. My political project is to blow that arrangement out of the water and open the door to broader, meaningful participation.

          • John

            marcos, your idea of broader, meaningful participation is a forum where you get to set policy and take advantage if the fact that 99% of residents don’t show up to push through your narrow agenda.

            Why do you never ASK people want they want? And push for that even if you personally disagree with it? That’s true organization i.e. you are a facilitator and not an agitator.

          • marcos

            You really need to take your meds.

          • John

            When marcos says “take your meds”, readers know he has been outwitted and outargued.

            Again.

            I’m sorry but if you want to pursue extremist policies, and you do, then describe yourself as an activist or an ideolog. but never an organizer because that implies that you listen and follow.

  7. Your excerpt looks like an ad for code for America.

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