You might not think much about school lunches. Cafeteria meals are one of those mainstays of American life: you go to school, you get fed. But what happens when school is out? Do those daily meals magically appear for youth across the country?

Well, yes and no.

As you might suspect, there’s no magic involved when feeding young people who are hungry. It turns out the meals DO appear, but unfortunately they are harder to find, and there are fewer opportunities to be fed.

In numbers, there are approximately 50% fewer meal sites during the summer than there are public…

Photo by William White on Unsplash

My colleague Sarah Washburn recently shared a post by Tess Wilson on our team slack: “I’m a public librarian. This is why I’m also a civic-tech advocate”. Sarah wrote, “You’ll love it.” She was right.

My love of libraries is not secret. And our commitment to collaborating with libraries is longstanding. It is a challenge, though, to articulate the connection as well as Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Tess Wilson did in her post.

Wilson writes:

… [W]hen I talk about open data, I talk about opportunity and agency — the opportunity to investigate and the agency to disrupt. And this becomes especially vital when we consider who the public library serves.

Naturally, there are scholars researching and professionals analyzing. But there are also attentive parents wanting to know more about school trends, active commuters seeking…

Pessoas da comunidade alimentam aplicativo de transporte no Brasil.

[Read the post in English, here.]

Estudantes se preparando para mapear as rotas de ônibus locais.

Você não precisa ser um expert em TI para criar uma solução tecnológica inteligente. Às vezes, o mais difícil do nosso trabalho na Caravan Studios é convencer as pessoas da comunidade que o seu expertise, inteligência e compromisso com uma causa os equipa com as habilidade necessárias para projetar um serviço ou aplicativo móvel que resolva problemas reais.

E ao falar em “projetar”, eu não quero dizer com bits e bytes, mas com conhecimento: dos problemas, do histórico e, bem, com cola e papel também.

Então quando pessoas da comunidade e bibliotecários se encontraram…

Locals power a transit app in Brazil.

[Para lêr isto em portugues, clique aqui.]

Students preparing to map local bus routes.

You don’t have to be a techie to design a smart tech solution. Sometimes the hardest part of our work at Caravan Studios is convincing community members that their expertise, intelligence, and commitment to an issue equips them with the required skills to design a mobile app or a service that solves real problems.

And by “designing,” I don’t mean with bits and bytes, but with knowledge: of problems, of history, and well, with paper and glue, too.

So when community members and librarians met at local public libraries in Porto Alegre and…

Recently, we asked, “Do we need to establish Public Good Technology as a field?” In that post, we talked about what we see as the benefits of having a field and the characteristics of public good technology. Here’s the thing: we don’t know if we are right.

This idea surfaced by spending time looking at existing projects, grouping them, categorizing them. We were exploring what they have in common so we could develop defining characteristics for the field, a precursor to standards.

We have some examples

We’ve been using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a litmus test. If a project is attempting…

This is a topic we’ve been trying to sort out one project at a time, in our own practice and in what we’ve seen of others. It shows up in different places, in different ways: Through conversations in which we find ourselves describing public good technology. And in list-making when we put some projects on and keep others off. Our conclusion: We could benefit from defining a Public Good Technology field and establishing a place for the practitioners to come together.

What are the benefits of establishing a field?

1. Finding fellow practitioners. A named field can allow practitioners to identify themselves. This vital first step to field…

At Caravan Studios, our participatory methodology fuels everything we do. It’s the how behind our work, and public engagement and ownership is a big part of that how. Recently, I shared a concept note that described the first part of this methodology. The note was geared toward people who might be interested in testing (and funding) the effort in their community of interest. In it, I said, as I often do, that libraries are the places where we hold events.

Why libraries? One person asked. Why not innovation hubs, or co-working spaces?

This is a great question. While there is…

What we have is a process, a methodology.

It might seem strange to admit what we don’t have. It’s our methodology that gives us that confidence.

We believe that knowledgeable and engaged community members have many answers. We use the first phase of our methodology to facilitate discussions that turn those answers into actionable design questions and technology innovations.

We recently had an opportunity to work with experts and interested people at the Indianapolis Public Library to consider how their ideas might fuel a technological tool that connects people to emergency food assistance. As often happens, we were all surprised by what happened next.

The problem: Indy is a food desert

Our team is never…

There is work to be done.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, shelter is a persistent need that is often unavailable to survivors seeking immediate assistance. Caravan Studios works with domestic violence and anti-trafficking agencies to develop tools to ease this problem.

We developed the Safe Shelter Collaborative (SSC) to help domestic violence and anti-trafficking agencies find shelter faster for more survivors. Regional sheltering agencies use the SSC to band together to find shelter for their clients, and when shelter is unavailable to a survivor, agencies can invite supporters to pay for hotel rooms, a common emergency shelter alternative. …

Over 21.5 million youth under the age of 18 in the United States receive free or reduced-cost lunches every day at school. But when classes end and summer begins, these students must turn elsewhere to find meals. This year, the USDA planned to serve over 200 million free meals to youth through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at local youth centers, libraries, churches, and other community-based organizations. (If you were sitting in front of me right now, we’d both be nodding in agreement that that’s a lot!)

Free food found in every state

It may surprise you that across the country, more than 53,000 free-meal…

Caravan Studios

Connects nonprofits & social benefit orgs w/ app-based tech to build solutions for real-world problems.Also tweets #opendata #hackathons.A division of @TechSoup

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store