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Principal Investigators: Derrick Anderson, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs (SPA), and Jeremy Liu, Senior Intelligence Analyst – Office of the President, Arizona State University

Bloomn, an online social impact innovation competition, community, and accelerator platform, is designed to sustainably support and inspire the next generation of public interest technologists. The project will feature two types of competitions: education (launching fall 2021) and social impact (launching summer 2022).

The education competitions will challenge and incentivize students worldwide to innovate at their own respective school/institution for a cash prize. The social impact competitions will challenge and incentivize innovators from various backgrounds to address social impact problems collaboratively, transparently, and inclusively.

Leveraging information generated by the competitions, the project team will create an innovation dashboard to track, synthesize, and visualize the inputs and outputs of each competition. In addition, the project will generate a research report to document the design, development, and impact of the competitions, as well as contextualize the project within the broader prize-induced innovation ecosystem.

The PIT Difference

Bloomn’s competition design is one of equitable access to the largest number of interested competitors, stakeholders, and impact catalyzers as possible. Competitions run throughout the entire year and are not limited to a small subset of interested problem solvers, growing the community in a barrier-to-entry minimized fashion while making challenge participants more competitive for future opportunities.
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Justice Media Co-Lab


Principal Investigator: Brooke Williams, Associate Professor of the Practice of Computational Journalism

A partnership between Boston University’s College of Communication (COM) and the new Faculty of Computing and Data Sciences (CDS), the Justice Media co-Lab engages faculty, students, and external experts in research and innovation collaborations, and curricular and co-curricular programs with the potential for real-world impact.

The co-lab acts as a home for interdisciplinary faculty, students, and external partners to collaborate in computational journalism and innovation endeavors focused on advancing justice through accountability and transparency.

To date, students have partnered with The Associated Press, MuckRock, the NAACP, The Bay State Banner, The Boston Globe, CBS and NBC Boston, The Intercept, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and GBH public radio, among others. The collaboration has resulted in publication of data-rich, investigative journalism on the share of public contracts that go to Black-owned businesses, police campaign contributions (The Boston Globe and The Baystate Banner), and federal prosecutorial misconduct.

“Despite it being an important part of the PIT ecosystem, we have not seen many efforts in PIT-UN to bring journalism together with computing and data sciences. We hope our collaboration will inspire our peers at other PIT universities to reach out to their media and communication colleagues and collaborate on similar endeavors. This type of interdisciplinary, practical program can be replicated at other schools, and we are in a unique position to facilitate this. In the future, we believe there is an opportunity to create a network-wide challenge around the creation of technology solutions that will enhance media and journalism. Our expansion this year into this innovation arena will lay the groundwork for this possibility.” 

—Project Team

The PIT Difference

The project will lay the groundwork for an integrated curricular offering bringing together data and computing with journalism in a more robust and institutionalized way. The team is pioneering a potential standard at not just our university, but also others around the world, and it is providing a holistic road map on media partnerships, curricula, career pathways, and faculty engagement.

Developing Community-Led and Equity-Focused Public Interest Technology Curriculum


Principal Investigator: Sarah Fox, Assistant Professor in the Human Computer Interaction Institute

Faculty from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and Institute for Software Research will develop a process for co-designing public interest technology (PIT) curriculum alongside community partners, such that materials and activities that address emergent technologies of concern to the public are mutually beneficial and trusted across institutional boundaries and organizations.

Centered on a set of People’s Guides to Technology, the principal investigators will work with community partners and students on a set of PIT courses at CMU to prepare explanations and exercises that support nontechnologists learning about technologies that affect their lives and to facilitate community dialogue. The project includes a community engagement strategy to allow other institutions to learn from and build on the pedagogy.


“We aim to create curriculum for and with communities left out of conversations about technologies impacting them, build shared resources and extend the repertoire of PIT approaches. We will partner with community organizations to define topics of need, interpret tech deployments, provide feedback to students developing content, and circulate guides. We will make materials open source. Collaborations with PIT-UN members will allow us to share and scale our curriculum and community engagement strategy.”

—Project Team

Integrating Community Knowledge and Core Resources in a Graduate Certificate Program in Data Sciences for Social Impact


Principal Investigator: Francisca García-Cobián Richter, Research Assistant Professor

The project will develop a community-academic network and data science resources for the graduate certificate in Data Sciences for Social Impact (DSSI) to encourage students to undertake community-relevant projects that advance equity and social justice and connect with the experiences of those represented in the data.

The project will generate a data and project guide covering relevant issues in the areas of social welfare used by students during their learning experience. Additionally, the program will foster a network of local academics and community partners to support experiential learning for students to learn about data technologies and through the experiences of people who are represented in the data and establish an ethical framework around the use of these tools.

The PIT Difference

By developing a data and project guide with feedback from community members and faculty, the project prepares students with the tools to integrate community knowledge into their analysis, within an ethical framework.

Sociotechnology of Cyber Security: An Experiential Learning Course


Principal Investigator: Brian Gran, Professor, Department of Sociology, Law (secondary), and Applied Social Sciences (secondary)

The project will develop an interdisciplinary, experiential-learning course on cybersecurity open to all Case Western Reserve University undergraduates. Additionally, the project will facilitate cybersecurity apprenticeships and internships in the public sector, including at Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC), and a cross-industry consortium supporting information security teams of many of the largest companies and organizations in the National Organization for Human Services. 

The PIT Difference

“Through support of PIT-UN, CWRU, and our partners, we believe we can contribute to overcoming barriers to PIT equity and access. We will recruit high school students from East Cleveland and other Cleveland schools enrolled in the Provost Scholars program and other CWRU students to enroll in this course. The course’s experiential-learning component will provide hands-on experiences that will translate into apprentice and internship opportunities.”

—Project Team

Establishing the ASRC IlluminationSpace as a Hub for Public Interest Technology, STEM Pathways, and Science Communication and Outreach at CUNY


Principal Investigator: Annette Gray, Ph.D

Over the past two years, the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York has piloted several STEM outreach, education, and communications programs. To better serve NYC’s underrepresented communities, CUNY will bring the programs under the ASRC IlluminationSpace (IS) umbrella to create the IS Hub, focused on using PIT in four areas: K-16+ STEM education, science communication, community-based science, and STEM workforce development.

The creation of the IS Hub aims to foster deep and ongoing collaboration between CUNY STEM and New York City’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) communities, making science more accessible and responsive to local needs; and providing individuals from underrepresented and underserved groups pathways to STEM education and careers. The project entails a science communication curriculum and fellowship, a Communicating Your Science seminar series, IS Digital Community platform, IS Virtual Classroom, and CSL Internship and summer programming.

The PIT Difference

“BIPoC students and communities are systematically excluded from opportunities to access, develop, and shape the use of PIT to solve major challenges and improve the human condition. The IS Hub will create spaces, programs, and resources that foster collaboration between diverse and differently resourced stakeholders to address shared goals, such as healthier communities, workforce development, and greater access to life-improving technologies. The hub’s areas of work (K-16+ STEM education, science communication, community-based science, STEM workforce development) will address inequitable public education resources and the lack of entry points and pathways to STEM training and community employment of PIT.”

—Project Team

Building the CUNY PIT Lab


The project will establish the CUNY PIT Lab at CSI St. George to further institutionalize CUNY’s commitment to PIT and strengthen CUNY’s participation in the PIT-UN. The CUNY PIT Lab will build on the field-building goals outlined by PIT-UN and help to define PIT across CUNY’s academic programming. 

Through a demonstration space for PIT in action, community engagement, an international conference, and formal assessment of PIT at CUNY, the lab will foster collaboration across the wider PIT-UN ecosystem and build strong, diverse student talent pipelines from high school into college that encourage career development and workforce transformation in the PIT space.

Principal Investigator

Katie Cumiskey, Professor/Academic Coordinator CSI St. George/CUNY

Advanced Technology in Society and the Public Interest


Principal Investigator: Nicholas Zingale, Associate Professor, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

The transdisciplinary Advanced Technology in Society and the Public Interest (ATS-PI) involves the disabled community as equal partners and focuses on large questions regarding the future of human-machine technology and humanity. The project is designed to educate students and professionals to develop a talent pipeline through the ATS-PI curriculum and innovative, student-led pedagogy; engage the broader Northeast Ohio community in ongoing dialogue around ATS-PI; expand transdisciplinary efforts; and set an example for effective transdisciplinary efforts for other institutions. 

The project encompasses seven areas: offering an ATS-PI graduate certificate consisting of four interdisciplinary courses; establishing ATS-PI Student Innovation Fellowship connected to the UIF program; setting up an ATS-PI website; creating ATS-PI storytelling podcasts; organizing an ATS-PI university forum discussion; forming an ATS-PI affiliation program connected to the CSU T.E.C.H. Hub; and applying for federal funding to connect ATS-PI to either the CSU Center for Human-Machine Systems or Case Western Reserve University’s Human Fusions Institute.

The PIT Difference

By centering on individuals’ perceptions of themselves and the future of life, this project will more positively affect people with disabilities through the development of advanced technology. ATS-PI will recruit, select, and retain diverse cohorts of SIFs, including women and African Americans from urban studies, engineering, and physical therapy programs, as well as faculty and community affiliates. This aligns with demographics of the overall CSU population (54% women, 16% African American) as outlined in the Diversity Report Action Plan. Representation of the second SIF cohort will meet or exceed the percentage of traditionally marginalized students and students of color at CSU as a whole.

Smart City Privacy & Equity Community Awareness & Empowerment


Principal Investigator: Brian Ray, Professor and Director, Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection

The leading civic data privacy leaders network will collaborate with computer science, social work, and law faculty to deliver a set of model resources for communities to raise awareness of the surveillance risks posed by smart city technologies. The project seeks to generate Smart City Privacy & Equity (SCPE) case studies to evaluate surveillance risks and participate in determining how to responsibly adopt and use smart city technologies. In addition, the project will recruit students from multiple disciplines to work with communities to assess smart city technologies and learn how their respective disciplines can play a part in ensuring that technology serves the public interest.

The PIT Difference

This project directly addresses the major barriers to equity and access that communities face when governments acquire and deploy smart technologies and other surveillance tech and that universities often fail to teach students to understand and address within their respective fields. The project team has worked extensively to address these issues with groups such as Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Facial Recognition Task Force, CyberOhio, CDPLN, the CSU T.E.C.H. Hub, California Privacy Protection Agency (CalPPA), and the Oakland Privacy Commission.

Columbia-Lehman Public Interest Technology
Data Science Corps (PIT-DSC)


Principal Investigator: Tian Zheng, Professor and Chair, Department of Statistics, and Jennifer Laird, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology

This project, a collaboration between Columbia University and Lehman College, will expand and scale a Public Interest Technology Data Science Corps (PIT-DSC) summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program that offers experiential learning through a series of PIT projects working with NYC’s underserved communities. The program allows NYC’s own data science talent to contribute to important projects while diversifying the data science pipeline to include students from across the City University of New York. The project features a data-solution design studio that facilitates skill transfer with project owners and ensures project success. The REU program materials and the design studio curriculum will be developed to become a PIT-UN infrastructure. 

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PIT-DSC provides learning and research opportunities to students who are currently underrepresented. At Lehman, 56% students are first-generation college students, more than 80% are Black or Hispanic, and almost 60% are from the Bronx, which includes the poorest congressional district in the U.S. By sourcing real-world PIT projects from community organizations, such as Town+Gown, NYC, PIT-DSC opens career pipelines for minority STEM students into public interest technology.

Designing Workshops to Support Ethical Data Use


Principal Investigator: Betsy DiSalvo, Associate Professor in the School of Interactive and founder of the Culture and Technology Lab (CAT Lab)

This project, a collaboration between Georgia Tech’s DataWorks, which employs and trains people from historically minoritized communities to do data cleaning, annotation, and archiving, and nonprofits, will develop participatory processes for creating tools and templates to empower a broad range of ethical data practices and to develop data ethics and literacy with middle-skill data workers and partners, for whom data is peripheral to their practice.

This project kicks off with an initial workshop (Data 101 Workshop) to articulate an organizational data profile and plan, followed by another workshop (Data Checklists Workshop) to create a checklist for the collection and use of data, guided by the principles and mission of partner nonprofit organizations.

The PIT Difference

The work is grounded in equitable and sustained partnerships with nonprofits and community organizations. The DataWorks program specifically addresses this barrier by hiring and training minoritized workers. Through DataWorks, the co-principal investigators have partnered with and provided data services to numerous local organizations, including the Center for Civic Innovation, a nonprofit citizen advocacy and social enterprise organization; Concrete Jungle, a nonprofit that provides fresh and healthy food to those in need; the GreenLight Fund, a national social innovation foundation (DataWorks assisted the GreenLight Fund in collecting data on Atlanta); and Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, a nonprofit that supports Black enterprise. 

Westside Neighborhood – English Avenue: Building a Sustainable Community through Design and Technology


Principal Investigator: Julie Ju-Youn Kim, AIA, Associate Professor and Director, Flourishing Communities Collaborative, School of Architecture

Addressing socioeconomic and technical needs of Westside neighborhood English Avenue, this project leverages existing community resources to develop affordable housing and the attainable establishment of positive neighborhood-based, citizen-centric social impact and equity through technology.

Housed in the School of Architecture, College of Design, Flourishing Communities Collaborative (FC2) creates scalable and replicable models that can be applied to multiple communities. The project empowers through design by engaging communities who would not otherwise have access to technology, architecture, construction, or engineering.

FC2 serves as a platform for cultivating careers in public interest and social engagement while ensuring that the student pipeline is made up of diverse races, ethnicities, abilities, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. Additionally, the project provides community partners with design methodologies to enable them to apply design thinking to their problem-solving pursuits.

“We position the home as an essential instrument for daily life and community engagement. In this project we will employ design research methods, including site analysis, schematic design, and performance simulation, to empower a current resident with a new affordable home aimed at redefining resiliency and economic sustainability. This project maintains the current historic fabric of single-family homes, building equity for the residents. In a historically vibrant, but rapidly shrinking neighborhood, our work will bolster retention and help to stabilize the community.”

—Project Team

The PIT Difference

The median income for households in the Westside neighborhood is $24,011, compared with $46,631 for Atlanta as a whole. Nearly 80% of Westside households earn less than the median Atlanta household. This project seeks to positively affect the current 3,000-plus residents of the English Avenue neighborhood by empowering through design and engaging communities and inspiring solutions for individuals who would not otherwise have access to innovative technology, architecture, urban design, construction, or engineering. 

Technology Studies to Save the World


Principal Investigator: Latanya Sweeney, Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology at the Harvard Kennedy School and in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Investigation Plans details why a problem is important and provides background knowledge and experimental ideas. In 2020, Latanya Sweeney, the Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology at the Harvard Kennedy School, worked with her students to create 50 plans. The project will make Investigation Plans widely available through an open-door policy — any researcher or educator can partake in the project — and actively seeks to include more representation from faculty of historically Black colleges and universities. The goal is to guide students from across PIT-UN to produce 30 scientific papers with real-world impact.

The PIT Difference

This project will work with faculty to offer and nurture research opportunities using the proposed Investigation Plans at two colleges for women: Spelman College, a historically Black liberal arts college for women, and Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal arts college.

GISEC3: Social and Urban Vulnerability
Analysis for Resilience Building


Principal Investigator: Carlos Genatios, Ph.D.

Building on the existing GISEC (Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Awareness and Community Engagement) project launched in 2019, GISEC3: SURE (Social and Urban vulnerability analysis for REsilience building) will contribute to the assessment of social vulnerability and environmental risk raising awareness of the ethical and societal urgency that climate change, disasters, and resilience building require.

GISEC3: SURE will advance the PIT field by creating a survey for social and urban vulnerability assessment and by expanding the GIS academic program and project and research risk platform showing students and faculty the importance of risk awareness and public responsibility to reduce the impact of natural disasters and to build resilience. 

The project entails developing a survey and app that will generate local results from higher learning institutions and high school students and faculty and comparing the results with data produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The methodologies will be incorporated into the project and research learning platform that supports the educational pathway. This social and urban risk and resilience awareness initiative incorporates the Resilient305 strategy led by the Office of Resilience of Miami-Dade County.


GISEC3: SURE enrolls students from the diverse community of Miami-Dade County, creating opportunities for underrepresented groups to enter the IT sector. The project allows both Hispanics and African Americans to participate in an academic pathway from high school (dual enrollment) to an associate of science degree, with an integrated CCC; to a bachelor of science degree in IT; and then to a graduate certificate. Given the project’s reach into a community that is more than two-thirds (69.4%) Hispanic and where 17.7% are African American, the potential impact is significant. Additionally, GISEC3: SURE will develop a tool to raise awareness of social and urban vulnerability and risks under environmental hazards and will contribute to resilience building in communities with large minority populations.

AI for Good, Experiential Learning and Innovation for PIT


Principal Investigator: Sandra Allain, Director of Law, Policy, and Engineering and Professor of Practice, School of International Affairs

Faculty from the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs will develop educational online modules and a PIT track within the existing Nittany AI Advance program. The ADVANCE PIT and LEAP for PIT initiatives led by the Nittany AI Alliance and the Law, Policy and Engineering Initiative will help grow the field by strengthening partnerships with NPOs and NGOs; provide greater connection to marginalized communities in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; increase the number and diversity of students introduced to a career in public interest technology; enable a collaborative and sustainable outreach model and innovation framework for PIT that can be implemented in other PIT member institutions; and provide an online micro-credential offering with broad reach for communities, NGOs, and NPOs.

The PIT Difference

Penn State Outreach and the College of Engineering have a director of inclusion, equity, and diversity who will support the ADVANCE PIT and LEAP for PIT projects to identify the sociological challenges affecting Pennsylvanians, including identifying technological disparities for people in marginalized communities with a focus on intersectionality. The directors can assist identifying subsets of communities experiencing disparity, especially in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where the ideation sessions with NPOs, NGOs and community innovators will take place. Further, the LEAP for PIT microcredential will be disseminated through the partners to encourage participation of community innovators from diverse socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds.

Bridging the Digital Divide in Indian Country


Principal Investigator: Sascha Meinrath, Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State and director of X-Lab

X-Lab, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that addresses digital equity and access, seeks to address the urgent need raised by Native American allies to bolster broadband implementation capacity among tribes by developing technical expertise and educational resources through workshops and pilot deployments. With over $1 billion in federal money earmarked for tribal broadband, Native American constituencies have identified a great need for additional support and skills training. In collaboration with Native-led institutions, X-Lab will assist in skills training, implementation and engineering support, and grant writing to help ensure that the networks being deployed by partner institutions are adequately funded and meet the needs of local constituents. 

X-Lab will work with Native American partners to create educational and training materials for local communities to incorporate best practices and empower decision-making around the tribes’ own broadband spending; empower a new vanguard of young tribal technologists with on-the-ground, practical work experience in broadband implementation; and strengthen X-Lab’s broadband research partnerships with allied tribal communities. All of these efforts support more documentation of connectivity needs across Indian Country and aid in the formulation of policy interventions at the federal level to address these communities’ needs.

“By creating collaborations among university institutions and cohorts of Native technologists, this initiative ensures that students are sensitized to the digital divide and equipped with resources to bridge it. Planning and implementation for broadband across Indian Country empower a new generation of Native technologists to become leaders in broadband justice.”

—Project Team

The PIT Difference

The project is designed from the bottom up to address inequality and represents the accumulated knowledge of over 15 years of working on Native American broadband initiatives with tribal entities. X-Lab’s team members have been internationally recognized pioneers in the digital inclusion sector and have participated in or overseen many of the initiatives at the forefront of digital equity and community networking partnerships and active collaborations that the proposed initiative builds upon.

Career Launch Pad: Building a
Cyber-Protection Apprenticeship


Principal Investigator: Justin M. Pelletier, PhD, Director, Cyber Range and Training Center, RIT Global Cybersecurity Institute

Faculty with the Global Cybersecurity Institute (GSI) at Rochester Institute of Technology will build a federally certified, Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP) in cybersecurity. The project entails conducting a pilot with 100% diverse participants gaining paid work experience and providing not-for-profit critical infrastructure partners access to no-cost security evaluations. 

The pilot Cyber-Protection IRAP will offer six months of full-time paid work experience and training through GCI’s not-for-profit security services center, the Eaton Cybersecurity Assessment and Forensic Evaluation (SAFE) Lab. The SAFE Lab provides undergraduate students paid work conducting security assessments for partner companies. 

The diverse pool of apprentices will provide security evaluations for nonprofit and municipal organizations. The evaluations help organizations understand the vulnerability and risks to cybersecurity threats and assist nonprofits to respond to changes in the face of new technologies. Additionally, the training curriculum for the pilot Cyber-Protection IRAP will be developed in consultation with the New York State and U.S. Departments of Labor and industry partners to develop the IRAP specifications, learning outcomes, and requirements and provide career transition assistance.

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Deafness creates communication barriers resulting in significant and unique learning needs not present in other disabled populations. The project will broaden participation of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the cybersecurity workforce in which deaf individuals are underrepresented and underutilized. The apprenticeship program will help the team develop the sensitivity and skills to create an inclusive workplace not only for deaf and hard of hearing apprentices but also for all employees to succeed.

Public Interest Technology California
Digital Equity (PIT-CDE)


Principal Investigator: Ahoura Zandiatashbar, Assistant Professor and Spatial Analytics and Visualization Institute (SAVI) Co-Director

The Public Interest Technology California Digital Equity (PIT-CDE) project entails developing a methodology with multidisciplinary community and faculty partners that quantifies and maps digital inequity in every California neighborhood. The PIT-CDE Cohort will provide local communities the theoretical and technical knowledge to assess digital inequity and design evidence-based policies and action to mitigate localized digital inequities.

The PIT-CDE Atlas and Cohort project includes community-led research and development of a web tool to measure and visualize digital equity scores. The tool also will allow scenario planning for mitigating action and educational programs for theoretical and technical knowledge to assess the divide and design actionable policies.

The PIT Difference

The project will create an easy-to-use digital equity atlas that reveals invisible disparities to a diverse audience, including elected officials and policymakers across California and supports scenario planning. By incorporating other social disparities’ data and relating it to the digital divide, the atlas can show how the lack of broadband access exacerbates other prevailing disparities in access to opportunity.

Improving Access to Justice through the Strategic Analysis of Litigation Events


Principal Investigator: Amy Kristin Sanders, Associate Professor of Journalism and Law

Using machine learning, the project will engage in large-scale analysis of the U.S. court system, examining thousands of pages of records to answer public interest attorneys’ questions, provide guidance on where federal courts in Texas fail to operate justly and assist public interest attorneys in advocating for systemic change. The project’s community partners, who represent low-income and historically underrepresented groups, drive the project by asking questions that are central to their public interest mission. Using the answers that are uncovered by conducting systematic, empirical analysis of court records, community partners can better litigate their cases and advocate for policy changes that bring about systemic reforms in our justice system.

Additionally, to foster sustained interest in the use of public interest technology to support access to justice issues, the team will offer workshops, demonstrations, and trainings for university legal clinics, nonprofit community legal groups, and other volunteer attorney networks by attending two key conferences, one national and one in Texas (where pro bono attorneys gather).

The PIT Difference

“The major barriers related to public interest technology parallel, in many ways, the major barriers to access to justice. As a society, we have not overcome the ‘access’ gap with either technology or justice. Improving equity in education, increasing access to technology, and ensuring individuals have the skills and knowledge to make use of that technology play a tremendous role in increasing equity and inclusion in society. Our SCALES technology is designed to democratize access to court records by addressing all those challenges — key challenges present throughout public interest technology sectors.”

—Project Team 

Data and Community Science: Getting minoritized undergraduates into the field of Data Science for Public Interest


Principal Investigator: Adriana Picoral, Assistant Professor, Career Track

A big obstacle for drawing minoritized students into data science is unawareness of what various data science careers entail. This project aims to increase awareness of what data science is, how it can improve communities, and what various careers with data science skills are available now and emerging in the future; provide professional skills training to minoritized (in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and disability) undergraduate students pursuing a career in community-focused data science; connect local community organizations with minoritized undergraduate students for data science internships; and shed light on how community-university collaborations can increase diversity in the field of data science.

The PIT Difference

The University of Arizona is a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI). By offering paid summer internships locally, the project aims to attract nontraditional tech interns to PIT by engaging students enrolled in nontraditional data science introductory courses, such as WFSC 223 – Dealing With Data in the Wild and MATH 107 Exploring and Understanding Data, which do not have the prerequisite courses in calculus and linear algebra.

William & Mary Cybersecurity Awareness Initiative


Principal Investigator: Chon Abraham, Associate Professor in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business

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The William & Mary Cybersecurity Awareness Initiative leverages educational resources and experiential learning geared at high school and college minority students, who are often underrepresented in the cybersecurity space. Students will be placed in both public and private organizations to partake in experiential learning, such as thwarting Internet Protocol (IP) theft, ransomware exploitation, and misinformation in voter suppression. The program is geared to accomplish three goals: building cyber workforce capability through experiential learning, improving diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, and providing public and private community organizations with a means to raise their cybersecurity awareness and resiliency.

The PIT Difference

W&M aims to increase its population of minority students, including women, in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math fields, or variant areas such as cybersecurity and analytics. The limited number of resources dedicated to these students is a barrier within our ecosystem, weakening our schools, businesses, and local governments, all of which are affected by cyber-related attacks or face mis/disinformation. Another barrier is the lack of competent employees who understand how to seek and leverage cyber resources. Our awareness efforts are aimed at creating a local workforce pipeline and establishing lasting student placements.

The Ethical Tech Initiative of D.C.


Principal Investigator: Robert Brauneis, Professor of Law, and Dawn Nunziato, William Wallace Kirkpatrick Research Professor

The Ethical Tech Initiative of D.C. partners with marginalized communities to bridge communications, education, and technology gaps to provide access to justice to underrepresented communities, including incarcerated persons and other self-represented litigants, to advance the values of access, fairness, due process, and equality. The initiative also researches widely deployed technologies to develop interventions to advance the values of content integrity, nondiscrimination, and transparency within such technologies. In addition, it offers experiential learning opportunities, including fellowships and internships, to provide D.C. area students with real-world exposure to the practice of public interest technology in these contexts.

To date, the project has engaged distinguished visiting technologists (DVTs) to help the team study how marginalized communities can benefit from the development of access to justice technologies, become a partner law school with the Access to Justice Tech Fellows Program and sponsored one fellow, conducted a roundtable with leading experts on “How Tech Can Improve Access to Justice” and scheduled roundtables on “Providing Access to Justice Technologies to Self-Represented Litigants” and “Providing Access to Justice Communications and Educational Technologies to Incarcerated Persons,” held a career panel with fellow PIT-UN member Howard University, built the ETI website, hired nine student research assistants, and engaged in a collaborative research project to examine the effects of efforts to combat misinformation on social media platforms.

In 2022, the program will host more roundtables and three DVTs, hire research assistants to provide technical solutions to access to justice for marginalized communities, sponsor Access to Justice Tech Fellows, enhance the Artificial Intelligence Litigation Database and website, and sponsor more activities geared at shoring up the goals of the initiative.

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Marginalized and underrepresented communities in general, and incarcerated people in particular, face enormous obstacles to accessing communications and educational technologies, including access to justice technologies. The vast majority of these incarcerated people do not have regular access to effective technology to communicate with their legal counsel, particularly regarding noncriminal matters, or to engage in meaningful legal educational opportunities while incarcerated. The AI Litigation Database will expand to raise awareness of biases in predictive algorithms and of effective challenges to address those biases.

Sustaining DataLab and Expanding
Its Reach in Liberal Arts Colleges


Principal Investigator: Matthew Rudd, Chair and Associate Professor of Mathematics

Sewanee will expand its social data institute by adding a pre-college cohort and a faculty development program for the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and the Appalachian College Association. In 2021, Sewanee created DataLab, a summer social data institute, that worked on projects for social good, such as analyzing carbon sequestration data from farms in Haiti, applying machine learning techniques to photos from Haiti and cave art in Utah to build public understanding, and identifying opportunities for improving local medical care by analyzing data on local ambulatory ER.

The next phase of the project will entail engaging two consortium partners, the Appalachian College Association and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, to allow both faculty and students to engage in PIT with a data analysis for public good frame. The project team will train faculty in data for public good processes and help them identify and scope data projects, encourage faculty to identify promising students to participate in the program, and provide both students and faculty with opportunities to foster positive social change through PIT.

The PIT Difference

DataLab puts diversity, equity, and inclusion at its center. The project will proactively seek participants and faculty of color from among existing students and partner institutions. Happily, students of color have long been drawn to Sewanee’s computer science and civic engagement programs, which are demonstrably more diverse than other academic programs at the university.

Community-engaged Experiential Learning for All Students through
a Scalable Community Consultancy for Public Interest Technology


Principal Investigator: David Lee, Assistant Professor of Computational Media

The project advances experiential learning in PIT through a community consultancy that integrates human-centered design and business strategy to deliver real-world projects for nonprofits; promotes participation from students of diverse backgrounds; and links tech projects across the University of California, Santa Cruz, to community needs. 

With the goal of creating a strong pipeline for community-engaged experiences in PIT available to all students, this project will develop a model for a community consultancy where students work with nonprofits to conduct real-world “strategic assessment and design exploration” projects grounded in human-centered design and organizational strategy. The project’s threefold objective is to provide opportunities for students to deeply engage with the community, create a structure that ensures that opportunities are available to all and promoted to diverse populations, and produce outputs that help root tech project courses across campus in the needs and strategic goals of partner organizations.

The PIT Difference

The project enables all students to access PIT work while still in high school as a dedicated cohort experience to maximize impact and participation of underrepresented and first-generation students. On the community side, the projects are grounded in a deep understanding of an organization’s needs. Community leaders also have the ability to shape the direction of sustainable projects based on their goals, not driven by the need to produce rapid results in a short time frame.

Data Learning for Better Drinking Water in Small Utilities


Principal Investigator: Rebecca D Hardin, Associate Professor, Environmental Justice Conservation + Restoration

Water utilities across Michigan report that they face severe challenges in replacing current systems management expertise and that they need to attract young learners to future water workforces. The project will use open-source, open-access technology to create interactive, responsively designed modules. The project will pilot, revise, and adapt the modules for use in both professional development contexts and classrooms to generate interest in public utility careers and enhance the data skills of existing workforces. 

Additionally, the project will improve data science training and implementation for water quality monitoring across the Midwest by co-developing a master training module for small-scale civic and tribal utilities with interactive data-rich learning exercises based on actual monitoring and management practices in the Ann Arbor system.


A major barrier to equity in public interest technology involves dominant stereotypes of innovation spheres as competitive, venture capital-intensive, white male-dominated spaces. To counter this, the project will use stories, link software skills with sustainability knowledge, and support social networks of underrepresented professionals and their mentors. That is, the team sets up tasks within contexts and stories that have deep meaning to communities such as specific land use, water quality, or food security issues so students can “back into” scientific, software, and data analytics tools through a specific problem or solution that has meaning for them.

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Expanding Public Capacity for Community Cellular Networks


Principal Investigator: Kurtis Heimerl, Assistant Professor, Computer Science & Engineering

The project will expand community cellular network infrastructure and training programs to support digital equity within urban neighborhoods. The project team will expand the Cooperative Cellular Network — a novel PIT-UN-funded cellular system — to three new sites across Tacoma and Seattle. Additionally, the project will survey local digital literacy needs and extend and formalize the ongoing technology training program to expand community access to and engagement with the network. The team will work in close partnership with the Tacoma Cooperative Network, Black Brilliance Research Project (BBR), API Chaya, Tacoma Public Library system, and other community partners. 

In Tacoma, the project team will work with public libraries to train staff to implement digital programming for high-need patrons and to train existing community partners. In Seattle, the team will work with BBR and API Chaya to streamline, methodize, and amplify the Digital Stewards program, which trains community stakeholders to manage and support community networks, and especially to incorporate young people into the program.

The PIT Difference

The project team believes that universal access to critical internet services can be accomplished only if solutions are community-driven. The partner organizations live and work in communities lacking comprehensive internet access and engage, serve, and collaborate with underrepresented populations that are ethnically, racially, and socioeconomically diverse. Guided by principals from participatory action research and co-development, the researchers will work with various partners to engage community members in the deployment and evaluation of the networks, train network maintainers who live in the communities where network nodes will be sited, and support the team in doing outreach and literacy training.

The Puget Sound Clinic for Public Interest Technology
at the University of Washington-Seattle


Principal Investigator: Nicholas Weber, Assistant Professor in the Information School

A public interest technology clinic at the University of Washington-Seattle will pilot an undergraduate course and experiential learning program focused on service projects with community-based organizations in the Puget Sound region. In addition to establishing a clinic at UW-Seattle, the project will offer a series of workshops with existing PIT clinics to create a white paper on the state of clinical models for public technologists and community engagement.

The project will advance the field of PIT through: 

  • Experiential Learning: The PIT Clinic at UW will enable university students to apply emerging skills in technology policy and development to organizations and municipal governments serving the Puget Sound region through grants to community-based organizations that will work with students and faculty on service-based projects.
  • PIT Course and Textbook: The project will build on the work of PIT-UN members who have developed PIT this work by developing an open-access textbook that will provide executable Jupyter notebooks, datasets, policy briefs, and case studies relevant to PIT in practice.
  • PIT Clinic Collaboration: The extension of a clinical model to technologists working in the public sector is being pursued across several PIT-UN members. This project seeks to convene these members through workshops on the governance of a clinic, PIT educational experiences for undergraduate students, and techniques for effectively collaborating with both government and public serving organizations. Each workshop will focus on identifying barriers and opportunities for engaging diverse communities through clinic services and coursework.

“The Puget Sound region in Washington is home to industry headquarters of major technology companies. … These companies collectively dominate the local technology labor market and are often seen as the only viable career path for students obtaining STEM degrees. And yet, civic technology projects and meet-ups for community engaged work often draw upwards of 2,000 participants for hackathons, one-off projects, and service to the public sector. There is a strong appetite among technology professionals and students for public services, but few formal educational opportunities to do so.”

—Project Team 

The PIT Difference

The project focuses, initially, on developing a systematic response to educational inequalities through an experiential learning program that matches community-based organizations and diverse college students in the Puget Sound region. In addition, the clinic provides paid fellowships and mentoring for students to ensure reliable faculty guidance through service projects and future educational and career pathways into the public sector.