Categories
non-profits savannah school

Extracurriculars

Last night was the always-fun Creative Coast Holiday Mixer. It’s a great chance to see people I only ever see at that party, catch up, and talk about what everyone is working on. Someone asked me “Is TechSAV your main extracurricular?” That got me thinking about all of my extracurriculars, and whatever the opposite of that is. So, instead of just thinking about it, I figured I would list them here… because multiple people have asked, and I sometimes forget, so I figure it would be good to have them all in one place for reference.

I think this is also a way to show me at “fully committed”. It feels like I’m busy enough that there’s always something that needs doing, but not so busy that I feel like I’m losing my mind or can’t rest.

If you’re not involved in non-profit work, or advisory boards, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to meet new people, help in a cause you care about, and bank some sweet sweet karma.

The Not Extras

  • Family: May is off at college, and Brian is a sophomore in high school, so my kids don’t require the daily maintenance they used to. Jen is super busy with all of her extracurriculars. I would say family stuff is pretty much under control, it just requires the regular work of maintaining a marriage, and making sure the kids stay on track.
  • Work: Planted is still chugging along, and I’m still the CTO. I’m also the only developer and opsling, so this definitely keeps me jumping. My work days are packed with solving interesting problems with an amazing team.
  • Me: I did alright on the me front this year. I lost a little weight (not as much as I wanted, but losing is better than gaining), started exercising semi-regularly, and have been doing a lot of work on being kinder, more thoughtful, mindful and reducing the amount of anger and stress in my life. I’ve also been working on learning about white supremacy and coming to terms with my own biases, microaggressions and misconceptions. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Understanding and Dismantling Racism. It’s a great intro to racism and how to fight it.

The Extracurriculars

  • TechSAV: We’ve officially been a non-profit for 18 months now! I’m the cofounder and director. TechSAV is trying to build the technology community in Savannah through events, education, outreach and community service. We do things like codebar (see below), monthly lunch-time talks, happy hours, and maintain a 200+ strong Slack group for distributed mentoring, advice, job hunting, etc. It’s a lot of fun working with my co-conspirators and doing guerilla economic development. It doesn’t take a ton of time, but it means being “aggressively accessible” and always being willing to talk to folks, and always looking for ways to do outreach and help the community.
  • Susie King Taylor Community School: I’ve been on the governing board for a while now, and clerk of the Governance Committee for about a year. It takes a lot of time… monthly board and committee meetings, writing and reviewing policies, emails, etc. It’s extremely rewarding, though, to be a part of a school that’s doing innovative work, and the growth over the last couple of years has been amazing. This will get even more involved next year when I start co-clerking the whole board, not just Governance. If you’ve been on other advisory boards or even non-profit governing boards, a charter school is a whole new level of time commitment. Prepare to spend nights and weekends reading up on laws, writing policy, etc. It is the most rewarding board experience I’ve had so far though – being a part of educating kids, and working with committed and passionate educators, board members and parents on behalf of students is literally the best.
  • codebar Savannah: Savannah was the second codebar chapter in the US! We’ve been doing workshops every month since January 2018, and I just scheduled all of the workshops for 2019. It’s a free monthly workshop where students can learn how to code, and coaches get to help the next generation of developers. It’s a ton of fun, and not a huge time commitment apart from one evening a month and some planning / question answering. It’s a lot easier than trying to coordinate quarterly Railsbridge workshops – mostly because it’s not an 8 hour commitment on a Saturday.
  • Various advisory boards: Someone me asked what the difference is between a governing board and an advisory board. The main one is that a governing board is has fiduciary responsibility for the health and maintenance of the entity. It’s a big deal for a non-profit. It’s an even bigger deal for a school. It’s a significant time commitment, and there’s frequently a fundraising requirement. By comparison, advisory boards are awesome. It’s frequently just a way to lend your reputation to a cause you believe in. Sometimes, it’s answering a few questions over email a few times a month. Sometimes there’s an annual meeting. There’s no fiduciary responsibility. There’s no real responsibility at all, except for whatever you agree to advise them on. Here are the advisory boards I’m on right now:
    • iVolunteer International: This one’s recent and I haven’t done much advising yet, but I love the concept and the team is great.
    • Savannah Arts Communication Arts: May went here, and Brian goes here. I’ve spoken to Dr. Cook’s classes the last few years, and it’s great fun. No meetings, and I get to corrupt high school students with my crazy ideas once or twice a year? Yes, please!
    • Savannah State Computer Science IAB: I don’t even know if this is still happening, but as far as I know, I’m still on it?

There are other short-term or one-off things that come up every year, like cooking for an event, or school things.

There you go, my not-extra curriculars and extracurriculars in one blog post. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting.

Categories
development non-profits ruby on rails savannah

I’m on Team #OfficeHours

Inspired by Matt’s tweet, I’m trying out offering office hours. You grab half an hour of my time and we can chat about whatever you think I can help you with.

If you’re in Savannah, I also like to do coffee meetings weekdays between 8-9, but you should email me about those.

Some rules, because it wouldn’t be official without some:

  • Please don’t try to sell me anything. If you want to get feedback on your pitch, great, but I just… I don’t want to.
  • You set the agenda. Some things you might ask me about:
    • Savannah’s tech scene, TechSAV, or codebar Savannah.
    • Savannah restaurants
    • Baking bread
    • Technical leadership
    • Ruby on Rails or CSS (or databases or javascript or whatever)
    • How to create a guerilla organization that actually gets things done.
    • How to write a resume that a robot can read
    • Being on a board
  • I guess “no sales pitches” is really the only rule.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you set up your own #OfficeHours and share what you know! It’s ridiculously easy to set up either Calendly or a Public Calendar on Google so people can talk to you.

Categories
current events non-profits politics savannah

Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.