Stanford is the beating heart of technology, change, and innovation in Silicon Valley and, arguably, the world. However, never has there been an official student organization on campus that helps organize and connect students to use technology for taking action and collaborating on the world’s most pressing problems.
That’s what I found out in the fall quarter of my sophomore year, when I was sitting in a Computer Science lecture and the professor, Keith Schwarz, mentioned that there wasn’t an official organization on campus focused on using Computer Science for social impact. Keith, who is now one of our organization’s advisors, also mentioned that many students reach out to him asking how they could use the skills they learn in Computer Science classes to have a bigger social impact in the world. I immediately thought to myself, “How come there isn’t such a group? Why not create one then? I should do this.” I couldn’t stop thinking about that idea. If we could create such an organization, we’d empower students to turn their social impact projects into a reality and help their projects become successful, inherently increasing our capacity to have bigger social impact.
I was lucky to experience the power of technology early on, before the age of 15, when I led an online language exchange program to teach languages to hundreds of people from all over the world. Later, as I ended high school, I started a project to make educational opportunities in the US affordable to everyone in Brazil. Before crowdfunding was popular in the USA, we started a crowdfunding campaign in Brazil which ended up becoming one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns in the country’s history, raising $200k in 4 months. This experience, together with other projects I’ve worked on, made me realize the power of the Internet and technology to unite people around a cause. It’s an idea I’ve become obsessed with since then, driving me to work on new projects and on CS+Social Good.
Throughout that journey, I found out that students in other organizations also wanted to start tech for good initiatives within their organizations and that several other students on campus were interested in the project. That’s how our team of 11 amazing people started CS+Social Good, Stanford’s first organization to use Computer Science for social impact. We are here to ensure that those who want to make the world a better place have the support, resources, and guidance to do so.
There are 4 pillars we need to tackle. These are four of the areas that need change.
The initial email about CS+Social Good that I sent to Keith mentioned: “If there was a student group for CS+Social Good, we could create a powerful network and increase collaboration, exponentially increasing students’ potential to make social impact.”
We believe that if we can build a strong community of people who want to use technology for good, there will be a lot more collaboration. And when there is more collaboration, people are more likely to succeed and to have more impact.
Culture & Mindset
We envision a world where technology helps us solve some of our biggest problems. For that to happen, we need a culture shift in which a new generation of tinkerers, thinkers and doers can build meaningful ideas and make a change. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we need to tackle. It’s very difficult to sell a product, but it’s even more difficult to change a mindset. This type of change won’t happen overnight and won’t happen easily. This type of challenge inspires us to work harder and smarter.
Ultimately we want to not only change the culture at Stanford, but also in the tech industry as a whole. We have seen small changes on campus, but if we can show everyone all the different fields they can impact through computer science, people will become more socially aware — many more people will be working on social projects in the future and technology will have a much bigger role in making social impact.
Foundation & Resources
One of our concerns is that there are not that many resources on campus or in tech in general since investing in social projects might not always be as appealing as investing in the next Snapchat or Tinder. We are taking a step ahead to build the foundation people need to develop their projects successfully by giving them all the support and resources they need.
Connection to industry & opportunities
If we can connect people to opportunities in the industry and elsewhere, we can make sure that there is always collaboration between people no matter where they are. More often than not, we hear teachers or students say that they don’t know about the latest technologies or projects being developed in the industry, and vice-versa. There is a definite need to bridge the gap between technology and the people and problems it can solve.
Special thanks to our amazing team: Edward, Gloria, Katherine, Manu, Neil, Ngoc, Priya, SunMi, Vicki and Vinamrata. Your incredible work inspires me everyday to work harder, smarter and better!
After reflecting on our progress and on our goals, we have decided that “Foundation & Resources” and “Connection to industry & opportunities” both have the same end goal — to create worthwhile learning experiences for people, be it by giving them resources, mentoring, connections or other opportunities. We summarized them into one pillar:
Learning: providing people with the opportunities, connections and resources they need to learn how to use their skills to solve pressing social problem