For an extreme finish, Fellows were split into four teams and given a 24-hour Design Quest focused on ethics in tech: “How do we ensure that technology works positively for the planet and people? Your intervention has to be capable of having impact at scale and also be actionable by you and your peers.”

24-HOUR DESIGN CHALLENGE UNSCHOOLSF

The design brief set parameters that the interventions would have to be:

  • Applicable to the current system
  • Actionable by you or your peers
  • Executable within 12 months
  • Applicable and accessible to the community and not rely on government interventions/regulation, the approval of a grant, or funds, etc.
  • Able to be replicated by others in a way that maintains its effectiveness
  • Impactful at scale

Teams mapped systems and connections, ideated throughout the day and late into the night, prototyping intervention ideas. When we closed the space at 10 PM, teams scurried off to continue brainstorming through the night and early morning.

Saturday morning dawned and Fellows arrived at The Laundry. Each team had 10 minutes  to pitch their interventions to a panel of three judges, with 10 minutes of feedback from Adam Little, Jennings Hanna and Judi Brown. Our mentors Jeremy McKaneNancy Giordano and Antoinette Carroll also joined the final presentation via video chat!

The first team, B.B. Winston psyched us out with a creepy pitch for invasive tech apps (that scarily were based on real-life apps) and presented their three-step strategy for addressing tech ethics: 1) Awareness (by messing with people) 2) Understanding (this kind of tech is bad), and 3) Application (a pledge for tech ethics).

The second team’s pitch involved “Taking Back Our Data,” giving control to individuals to charge advertisers and corporations for using their data. They also recommended using crowd-sourced big data to run disaster response and distribute real-time information and opened it up to the audience to explore what other (positive) things we could do with this kind of collectively shared information.

The third pitch opened with a question to the group, “When was the last time you were wrong? Afraid? Annoyed? Embarrassed?” The team told a story of the history of capitalism, profit, and control and proposed an empathy intervention for software developers that centered on a hackathon for solving ethical problems.

Last, but not least, Team Four invited us all to “take a moment to think about how tech makes you feel.” Excited? Nervous? Life-saving? And “how should tech be”? Paper was passed out and feelings were scribbled. The group designed a viral campaign to engage the question with the hashtag #iwishtechnology, inspired in part by Antionette Carroll’s Dear Oppressor project and Before I Die.

After deliberating, the judges came back to award a winner: the #iwishtechnology team! Judges loved the fact that they had “shipped” their idea – sharing it with their social media communities and getting people to answer the prompt. One judge said “you shipped shit! Early and often is my motto with prototyping.”  The simplicity and possible scalability of the idea were two other key factors that secured them the win.

Once teams had received their prizes, Fellows gathered to raise their glasses of Prosecco and sparkling juice to cheers to another successful UnSchool fellowship. A final meal awaited us upstairs, and after eating, Jessy gathered us for our last reflection exercise.

First Fellows broke into pairs and used appreciative inquiry interviews to create “X-maps” of the Ideas, Obstacles, Tactics, and Outcomes each Fellow envisions for achieving their next disruptive social change intervention. (We look forward to seeing who can activate their outcomes first! See what we did there? A little competition can gamify any challenge!) Fellows then wrote a colorful shared narrative of the intense week we shared. Flip charts for each day had four quadrants - what happened each day, what was funny and/or amazing, what could have been better, and what did you learn? The answers ranged from whimsical to serious, literal to figurative, and had people laughing and even misting up at times.

A final thought from each of our fantastic San Francisco Fellows, and then they were out the door to enjoy more bonding (or napping) in the sunshine! It was a magical journey, including yellow school buses, walking tours of the Tenderloin, and memories to last a lifetime.

We miss you all already, are excited to have you in our growing #unschoolsalumni community, and can’t wait to see what these seeds grow into!