Skip to main content

Pacman pie image Julia Solórzano


Virtual volunteering

This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to speak at a first time conference PyTennessee 2014 in Nashville, TN. I gave a talk called “To the Moon and Back: Taking the Leap in Solving Big Problems.” It’s a talk I had given at SecondConf 2013 and am very happy to have been given the opportunity to bring this talk to the Python community.

During my talk, I touched on the past, present and future of solving big problems as technologists. I ran through a few scenarios outlined in the MIT Technology Review article titled: Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems, by Jason Pontin. Pontin points out a few conclusions about why we have failed to solve big problems and ends the article with this statement:

It’s not true that we can’t solve big problems through technology; we can. We must. But all these elements must be present: political leaders and the public must care to solve a problem, our institutions must support its solution, it must really be a technological problem, and we must understand it.

— Jason Pontin

This statement presents an answer to the question of our ability to solve big problems. So, how can we help as technologists? Where can we even start?

I mentioned a few virtual volunteering opportunities where we, as professional technologists, can help contribute our talents. I’ve started a short list below and also made it completely open source, forkable on Github. I encourage you to submit a pull request, or even shoot me a message on Twitter or email me at for events and/or opportunities where professional technologists can give back. It’s an exciting time and I am looking forward to hearing about all of the opportunities we have to help contribute and solve big problems.

Click (One-day event)

A free event for teachers and programmers. I learned about this while at PyTennessee 2014 and am thrilled to hear about this opportunity to connect professional educators and developers.

Code for America (Organization)

Code for America brings together local governments and technologists to make better cities for everyone.

Code Montage (Organization, Events)

Code Montage helps empower coders to improve their impact on the world. On January 18, 2014, they held a “Coder Day of Service” in which 1300 volunteer coding hours helped amplify 50 projects.

Make Good (Virtual volunteering)

Virtual volunteering opportunities for web designers and developers.

Random Hacks of Kindness (Organization, Events)

Making the world a better place by developing practical, open source technology solutions to respond to some of the most complex challenges facing humanity.