A common refrain around Software for Good is “We should build…” During meetings and on Slack, sharing a news story about an urgent problem or just venting about clunky app functionality is often followed with, “We should build an app to do X,” or “I should write a script to make X easier.”
Lately, we’ve been getting more strategic about turning those “shoulds” into working software. One product we’ve been able to bring to life is Can I Vote If?, a tool that allows people to look up voting eligibility; for example, if they’ve recently become a U.S. citizen or are about to turn 18. Can I Vote If? uses an API to pull in voting law data by state and makes it easy to search.
The idea was born at 2017’s Code Switch, a hackathon hosted by Blacks in Technology Twin Cities. A team included our developer Jenessa White won first place with their prototype. Then, our interns helped develop the web app. Now it’s ready to use for this year’s elections.
We know we can build more tools like Can I Vote If?. Our team pays close attention to social and environmental issues; we’re engaged in local activism and volunteering, and some of us have backgrounds in nonprofits and social work. And we love building useful things.
But we also know that we don’t have all the answers. We’re not the frontline experts for these issues. We don’t want to come in with reckless assumptions and build something that doesn’t actually meet anyone’s needs — or that makes the problem worse.
So we’re asking those of you who are the frontline experts: What’s on your wish list? What do you want people to understand about your work for social change, or about your everyday interactions with frustrating processes? Could technology make it easier to make a difference?
We can’t promise that we’ll build something based on every suggestion we get, but we will use this input to:
1. Better understand the problems we want to solve (and we’ll share what we learn).
2. Identify software products we can build as a company for tangible impact on social and environmental problems.
We’ll be announcing more direct ways to share input soon, including in-person conversations on tech for good. For now, we’d love to see your wish list for tackling social and environmental problems.