by Hack the Hood Co-founders Susan Mernit, Zakiya Harris, and Mary Fuller
The statistics on low-income young people of color getting the training to work in tech are as dismal as the current diversity numbers at many big tech companies. Opening up the pipeline of opportunities for young people of color to work in tech is a hard problem many organizations are working to solve.
Across the US, many STEM organizations, college pathways and pipelines to employment programs, coding academies, hackathons, and fellowship and training programs are working to improve math, science and digital arts education and create fellowships, apprenticeships and internships that will give young people the breaks they need.
Both #YesWeCode, Van Jones's energetic outreach organization, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact, Mitch and Freada Kapor's foundation, focused on issues of digital inclusion and impact investing, have been tracking groups working to change the face of tech through training young people and there are dozens, if not hundreds, on their lists.
Hack the Hood is one of the youngest of these programs, and also probably one of the most ambitious.
In two seasons of a summer boot camp program in Oakland, CA, our team has introduced young people of color, ages 15-21, to tech careers by hiring and training them to be actual web consultants for small businesses in their own communities. In addition to the hands-on learning, youth get instruction in web development and tech skills, coaching in workplace soft skills, links to mentors from tech companies, and education about careers in the industry. Even more importantly, youth make a tangible, immediate, and positive impact on their neighborhoods. They gain a perspective on tech as a vehicle for much needed change that they can participate in.
The results of our work: 96% of participants graduated our program; they became tech zealots, and are now motivated to pursue further training so they can work in the industry--and they have created over 120 beautiful Weebly websites for local small businesses. These results are so inspiring that we want to replicate them throughout the Bay area, and eventually, nationwide.
To that end the Hack the Hood team has been using the investment we received from the Google Bay Area Challenge, and from some other funders, to plan nimble, effective ways we can scale up and meet our goals of reaching 5,000 young people by 2017.
We're developing curriculum and training materials and a partnership model that will allow us to team up with youth organizations, school districts, city governments and local small business organizations in cities throughout the Bay Area to offer Hack the Hood intensive boot camps, weekend workshops, and other programs. Our goal is to bring on partners in 5 Bay-area cities by the end of this year, laying the groundwork to launch additional programs--and partner training--starting in Spring 2015.
The investment we have received from Google via the Bay Area Impact Challenge has been powerful, and is supporting the core of the expansion work we are planning, but we have ambitious goals. Because we want to have a networked model our goal is to recruit and empower partners who have the same on the ground knowledge of their communities we have about Oakland--but to share with them our program, methods, and secret sauce.
For us, success will be not only mean that our core Hack the Hood program flourishes, but that all our partners are successful with our model for broadening the tech pipeline while supporting local small business and creating transformative opportunities for low-income youth.
The support we're about to receive from the Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen Foundation is especially meaningful, because we plan to use it to support our networked model. Specifically, we're going to use the funding--and their wisdom and support--to build a model for assessment and evaluation that will help Hack the Hood and all our partners measure and communicate the impact of our work as we scale out the network.
We think this evaluation platform will be an essential tool in building our network, attracting funders, and helping us identify the best parts of Hack the Hood as we grow.
Our organization is so much about the vision of fostering change for young people of color, and supporting a more inclusive tech pipeline, that these measurement tools seem essential. Shared values and vision can bring people together, but understanding the impact of an investment and the metrics of success are what lead to long-term sustainability and growth.
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