Shifting the Technological Paradigm

Oct. 4, 2012 / By

Often understaffed and overworked, non-profiteers have often had to juggle multiple tasks all white struggling to get schooled on all the latest #hashtags, widgets and cloud computers.

At this weekend’s first ever CA Nonprofit Tech Festival, non-profit employees across the state came together to share both skills and challenges, and to come up with ideas and solutions to the most common and complex technological difficulties facing the work of social justice movements today.

By definition, a techie is someone who highly knowledgeable about technology. But for many of us more technology-challenged, techies can be elite computer nerds who would charge us to breathe the same air if they could. Aspiration, the event’s organizer, proved us all wrong.

The organization, a non-profit itself, is unique in that it takes a values driven approach to technology. This means their technology specialists give free advice and services to nonprofits, activists and foundations.

Aspiration’s free services range anything from giving technology price checks for those wondering about fair pricing for technological services to providing privacy counseling in governance control.

“Usually, 90 percent of techies are white and male, so we’re trying to flip that paradigm,” said Misty Avila, program manager at Aspiration. “We want the people using tools to define how they’re being used and created and for the tools work for people on the ground, not for the developers.”

Although Aspiration is based in San Francisco, the organization chose Fresno as a central point for the event, making it a point to highlight the Central Valley.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work throughout the Central Valley, the Bay Area and Southern California for a few years now and wanted to have a way to have people on the ground connect across networks,” Avila said. “We wanted to specifically highlight social justice in Fresno because the Central Valley doesn’t get the love it deserves.”

Sessions around maintaining WordPress were the most popularly attended in the group, which totaled about 65 participants. An entire day of the two-day conference had WordPress dedicated sessions.

“I can’t point to just one thing I learned, there so many things that are going to be helpful moving forward,” said Ana Bonilla, Building Healthy Communities Long Beach Hub Coordinator. “One thing I can say I learned is how to upgrade our WordPress site, really making it customizable and a site that we can be really proud to call BHC Long Beach and really own it.”

However, WordPress wasn’t the only thing on people’s minds.

Because the event was participatory-led, those who attended decided the topics of debate and learning. Participants lead conversations on youth media, social networking dashboards and map-making, just to name a few. Attendees also came together to share best practices and challenges.

Coachella Unincorporated Youth Reporter Ivan Delgado, 20, was among one of many who shared their stories.

Participants also created their own post-it boards for topics and resource-sharing, which will be digitized and sent to everyone who attended.

After the success of the first conference, Aspiration hopes to hold its second tech festival next year.

“We definitely plan on doing it again annually, but are also looking into doing it upon request,” Avila said.

For more information about future events, go to

Building Healthy Communities Long Beach Hub Coordinator Ana Bonilla talks about what she’s taking back to her city. from Michelle Zenarosa on Vimeo.

Coachella Unincorporated Youth Reporter Ivan Delgado talks about the CA Nonprofit Tech Fest.

IvanDelgado from Michelle Zenarosa on Vimeo.

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Michelle Zenarosa

Michelle Zenarosa is a media-maker committed to building alternative and vibrant community media platforms. She has worked as a journalist for over a decade at various media outlets that include local newspapers, news wires and industry trade magazines, as well as non-profits like the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Growing up in the diverse Southern California area, she is dedicated to grassroots community-based journalism at the local and hyperlocal level, where she believes it has some of the most direct impact. She has been a facilitator for storytelling by youth in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Palestine. Michelle received her bachelors in Journalism and Peace Studies at Cal State Long Beach and masters in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work has also been featured in independent magazines like Left Turn, $pread, Make/Shift and MaximumRocknRoll as well in the PBS docu-series "America By The Numbers."