Virtual Ignites Recap: Innovation, Inspiration, and COVID-19

May 14, 2020

This week we hosted our first virtual Ignite event. The theme for this event was stories of innovation and inspiration sparked by COVID-19. We were excited to have over 50 attendees dial-in and join us for this event. 

The pandemic has sparked a sense of urgency to come together and build solutions that will support a more equitable and inclusive future. As we continue to adjust to new regulations and health guidelines, there is an opportunity to begin thinking about what life after COVID-19 could look like. This event featured six speakers sharing their ideas for how tech can contribute to a more equitable future in the Bay. 

Ignite Speakers & Talks

Nikki Adamson, Flexibility and the Future of Work

To kick off the event, Nikki Adamson shared her thoughts on building more flexible workplaces. 

Nikki’s talk focuses on flexibility through the lens of working parents. As work-life balance gains momentum in the workplace, Nikki shares how critical this is for families with two working parents. Her talk highlights the challenges many parents face such as missing work or costly childcare. Nikki concluded her talk by sharing potential solutions including paid family leave and intentional shifts of labor at home. 

Karin Underwood, At Home and At Risk

Our second speaker, Karin Underwood, shared her research on the health impacts of COVID-19 on some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Karin started her organization, CoachMe Health, to provide health coaching to low-income Americans.  She works with some of the most vulnerable in our communities to drive behavior change through health coaching. Karin shared more about what she’s hearing from low-income workers as they manage the impacts of the pandemic. She calls on the tech community to help better leverage technology to bring health coaching to those who need it most.

Kelly McBride, Rapidly Scaling at Code for America

Next up, Kelly McBride shared with us how her team at Code for America (CfA) is building and launching a service to help people claim their earned income tax credit (EITC). 

The GetYourRefund tool is the result of research conducted by CfA on how to help people find and keep living-wage jobs. The research found that before people find stability in the workforce, they need access to flexible cash. Kelly shares more information about the EITC and how is helping more people access this important cash support. Kelly’s talk highlights how improving government technology can build more equity in our communities. 

Mira Stern, Investing in Local Talent in the Bay

Our fourth speaker was Mira Stern. Mira gave a provocative talk, comparing the California gold rush to the growth of the tech industry.

Mira challenged us to think deeply about our history in California and what we can learn from the past. Like the gold rush, the tech industry has drawn many newcomers to the Bay. The tech sector has created wealth and opportunity for many. But like the gold rush, the rapid growth of the tech industry came at the expense of longtime residents of color and has widened wealth gaps in our communities. Mira urged us to consider how more equitable practices in the tech sector (such as hiring locally) will lead to increased social and economic impacts.  

Julia Wunsch, Mobility in the Time of COVID-19 by SPIN

Our fifth speaker, Julia Wunsch, share about micro-mobility in the time of COVID-19.

Julia gave attendees a brief overview of how SPIN, the SF based e-scooter company, is managing operations during the pandemic. Julia shared SPIN’s company values and how they are working to serve essential workers at this time. In particular, she highlighted SPIN’s Everyday Heroes program, which provides free rides to essential healthcare workers. To learn more about how SPIN is thinking about community engagement, check out Julia’s talk. 

David Frazier, Permaculture in Tech

Our sixth and final speaker was David Fraizer. David gave a fast-paced, info-packed talk on lessons the tech industry can learn from permaculture. 

Permaculture is a design system that mimics nature. David started by sharing how elements of permaculture can help us re-shape the tech industry. Elements of permaculture such as diversity, ethics, and feedback loops are all critical to building more equitable practices. David’s talk touched on solutions presented in many of the talks that came before him and highlighted several best practices for building more equity. It was the perfect final talk for this fascinating round of virtual Ignites.