Unfinished Live, held September 2022 in New York City and virtually, invited leading experts and engaged people to contribute to shaping our digital future where new technologies and policies enable a stronger democracy, a fairer economy, and a more just society. The annual conference is held by Independent Sector member Unfinished, which works to strengthen our civic life in the digital age.
Independent Sector recruited a cohort of leaders from organizations that support underrepresented and underserved communities to attend Unfinished Live. Their attendance and subsequent reflections help support our storytelling project to amplify and learn from their experiences and how they see a new web creating more opportunities for the communities they serve.
Tashia Roberson-Wing, the NREI John R. Lewis Social Justice Policy Fellow with the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation attended Unfinished Live and shared her reflections with us.
When presented with the opportunity to attend the Unfinished Live Conference, I accepted the invitation without hesitation! I was intrigued by the idea of bringing social impact advocates, artists, journalists, and technologists into the same space to imagine the future of technology, culture, and governance to create a thriving multiracial democracy and just economy. Before attending the conference, I understood that technology impacted us all. I left the conference astonished by the impact of technology on our lives and democracy.
Once at the conference, I immediately felt out of my league. In full transparency, I come from a social work, social justice, and child welfare background with no background in technology. The conference was the first time I had ever heard terms like web 3, blockchain, and surveillance capitalism. The uncharted territory made me excited to learn more. I left the conference with three key moments.
My first key moment was during the session with Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.” She illustrated how society has been blind to high-tech giants taking advantage of our personal data for their own gain, leading to surveillance capitalism. As a result, over the years these high-tech giants have undermined society’s autonomy and democracy as a whole. What stood out the most during her segment was her call for action regarding creating laws and regulations to address the concerns of data collecting by big-tech and surveillance capitalism. As I listened to the session, I felt a couple of emotions, such as worry and confusion. I immediately started to wonder how surveillance capitalism may impact marginalized communities. As someone who works in the policy arena, I started to contemplate the role I could play in helping to protect our democracy and society’s autonomy from high-tech.
Though the first session I attended was a bit scary, I also found moments of hope and excitement for the future of technology. My second key moment was attending a session that highlighted how the tech industry offers opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals to obtain careers in tech. I had the opportunity to hear one of the panel members speak about their experience going from being incarcerated to coding in tech. It was truly a beautiful experience and an example of how we are more than the mistake we make.
Another key moment was being in community with the other individuals that Independent Sector sponsored to attend Unfinished Live. Within the group, I felt comfortable asking questions and expressing my thoughts throughout the conference. There weren’t a lot of sessions led by Black and brown people, and at times I felt like the experiences of marginalized individuals were left out of the sessions. But, within the group, we had opportunities to express how we could use what we were learning to impact diverse communities.
Ultimately, I left the conference with the understanding that tech impacts all of us and influences our democracy. All of us belong at the table helping to shape tech — even the most marginalized and those who society has counted out. It’s when we allow space and include diverse communities/cultures within tech, that our democracy will thrive.
Unfinished, an Independent Sector member, is a network of networks bringing together the collective efforts of partners to strengthen our civic life in the digital age. The top photo is courtesy of Tashia Roberson-Wing, who is pictured in the center with nonprofit community leaders. Loriane Ngarambe, community engagement manager at Independent Sector, is pictured to her left.