Ideas & Innovations 2017: Tech for Good

3 Portland Projects Using Tech for Good

Activist giving, gaming while black, and bots with 'tude: these projects put the soul back in tech.

By Zach Dundas June 12, 2017 Published in the July 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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According to one cofounder, Super Good is "like a mutual fund for giving."

Image: Michael Novak

Automated Resistance

Like so many, Megs Senk and Tara Dubbs found themselves aswim in postelection calls to action and fundraising pleas. The ad-industry creative pros had a thought: “Can we aggregate this?” With three collaborators, they launched Super Good, a web platform that asks users to pick among 10 broad causes—women’s issues environment, etc.—for which Super Good selects three charities each. Users set a monthly donation (minimum: 50 cents a day), and the platform automatically splits that contribution among groups in chosen areas. (A third-party service handles the money.) “It’s like a mutual fund for giving,” says Dubbs, a 30-year-old copywriter. “Hopefully,” adds Senk, a 33-year-old art director, “it’s a model that makes giving easier to sustain for the long haul.” 

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Image: Michael Novak

Gaming While Black

“No one was doing a podcast about people of color in gaming,” recalls Kahlief Adams. So he started one: Spawn on Me, launched in 2013, now 160-some episodes deep. As Adams describes it, one episode might delve into “why black hair is important, and why games always get it wrong”; the next, how companies market sports titles to African Americans. The show spotlights game creators of color. “It’s a way to say to a listener who might not realize it, hey, there are people who look like me making games,” the 38-year-old Portlander says. The freewheeling, banter-rich listen is enlivened by insiders but comprehensible to nongamers.

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Image: Michael Novak

Bots with Soul

“A lot of firms will build you a great website,” says Darius Kazemi. “We want to make things no one else would make.” Feel Train, his Internet-y creative consultancy—structured as a co-op, but so far just Kazemi and cofounder Courtney Stanton—created Twitter and Facebook Messenger bots that automatically served followers New Yorker poetry. The duo collaborated with Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson on “Stay Woke Bot,” which helps busy activists automate responses to basic questions posed via social media. And in May, their “Relive 44” bot began reposting Barack Obama’s entire presidential Twitter oeuvre in chronological order. (The latter two projects: pro bono.) “I’m always trying to figure out what emotion we can evoke,” Stanton says. “We’re just trying to remove barriers between users and the core material.”

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