Raising Voices to Grow Awareness of LGBTQ Issues, Climate, Data Rights and Beyond: Innovative Solutions from the White House

Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, was joined by members of the White House LGBTQ Tech & Innovation working groups to discuss some of the challenges and solutions that they tackled in response to a variety of LGBTQ issues and more. Divided into targeted focus groups, each chose a representative to present their solution to their specific issue at the White House Google Hangout held earlier this month. The result was a discussion that ranged from climate change to data collection for the transgender community and LGBTQ safe spaces to access to STEM jobs for disadvantaged populations. Below we highlight the innovative solutions that each of the working groups presented.

Candace Amori // Climate Group

“We were forced to think big!”

Candace and her group were tasked with tackling the issue of climate change and how data could be used to produce an effective change in communities suffering from specific climate related issues. By using health as a motivator, the group wanted to create a way for individuals to take an active role in forming a connection between their environment and their well being.

Their solution was to create an app to help those suffering from asthma. Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency, Candace and the group created an app called Asthma Watch which would highlight areas where asthma sufferers would be affected by hazardous weather conditions. With a strong focus on data, the app would highlight how data can be used to target health and climate related issues.

Kendra Clark // Criminal Justice and Data Security Awareness

“How do we make sure the information collected about us isn’t used against us?”

The proliferation of data that is stored from cell phones and internet usage and how it is used was the focus of Kendra’s group. Specifically they wanted to educate individuals on their rights to the data collected about them and to share these rights with larger communities that would be impacted, for example, activists in need of information about the communities they serve.

Their solution was a wiki page with a list of rights that people have to their information. The wiki page allowed people to access information quickly but also serves as way for them to access current information about data security and rights that would be constantly monitored and updated. The wiki page would answer the crucial question: what are your rights and what are other’s rights with information collected about you.

Nikki Murray // Team Opportunity, LGBTQ Youth and Opportunity

“How does a young person who identifies as LGBTQ know that a place is safe for them? We wanted to create an answer.”

Team Opportunity wanted to tackle the issue of employment and LGBTQ youth. For many young people who identify as LGBTQ, the idea of coming out to their employers is daunting and may stop them from applying for certain positions that they may be qualified for. Nikki’s group wanted a way for organizations, companies and individuals to post job opportunities that were open and willing to hire and support a young LGBTQ person.

Their solution was to create an app that worked as a job database that was targeted specifically for this group. The app would serve as a list of safe spaces where the community could find not only jobs but mentors, apprenticeships and even international communities that would be willing to support their career endeavors.

Angelica Ross // STEM and the LGBTQ Community

“How do we provide STEM opportunities to the most marginalized communities — to the trans, undocumented, immigrant communities?”

Diveristy and inclusion in the STEM world seemed like buzzwords that got people listening but not reacting and Angelica and her group wanted to take a look at the action that was so needed to diversify the STEM field. They got to work by taking a look at what diversity meant, who was the real demographic they needed to reach?

Their solution was to create a mentorship program called the STEAM program, adding the arts along with the traditional science, technology, engineering and math tracks. The group took a look at how each track could include the most marginalized communities that included, undocumented, trans women of color. The pilot mentorship program’s focus is to share stories, build communities and highlight the opportunities for these people to access resources that are available for them to further their careers in the STEAM fields.

Cynthia Yeung // LGBTQ Led Startups

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel but we want to form a strong pipeline of support for those just getting started in their business ventures.”

How do startups get off the ground without access? And what if those startups are being run by a person who identifies as LGBTQ and feels that they won’t be taken as seriously as their straight, male and uber-experienced counterparts? These are questions that Cynthia and her group wanted to answer.

Their soluton was to focus on the existing organizations that were already available to the community and to form a pipeline of resources available to those just starting their entrepreneurial ventures. Known as the LGBTQ Excelorator, Cynthia’s group will recruit other organizations, like 500 Startups, to help them provide access to mentorship, funding and other helpful resources to LGBTQ individuals looking to strike out and start their own business ventures.

Ina Fried // #Transneeds

“This is a life or death situation. The lack of data is killing us.”

One of the most innovative campaigns presented was that by Ina Fried who implored those listening to take a look at the lack of data on what the transgender community needs from the government. Ina’s group wanted to to quantify the needs of the transgender community so that the federal government could reach out with assistance and to make it accessible.

Their solution was to create a listening campaign, creating a hashtag —#transneeds — and a number that the trans community could text to and voice their immediate concerns. The response was immediate and widespread. The trans community needed and wanted to be heard regarding issues such as housing, jobs, healthcare, etc. The group achieved widespread publicity from actors and politicians. Rush Limbaugh even devoted a whole program to the #transneeds agenda. The message of the campaign was heard clearly, data is imperative. Research and programs are necessary so that the trans community can live without fearing for their lives.

At the conclusion of the google hangout Megan Smith thanked the group for their continued efforts and their passion to keep the dialogue going. Megan closed by saying, “ LGBTQ people are a minority proportionally with a lot of the world but because of the internet we can use it in creative ways to raise our voices. There are many, many people who would love to include us if they had the opportunity to hear our needs and just grow in awareness of our issues.

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