Showing posts from June, 2008

IDEO: Design for Social Impact

I just gave a talk at IDEO, the famous Silicon Valley design firm. IDEO is very interested in making a bigger positive impact on society, and I was heartened by the great turnout and conversation. Doug Solomon, their Chief Technology Officer, was my connection to come in, and I appreciated Doug's invitation! IDEO has been working with the Rockefeller Foundation to bring more of the design community into the social sector. They just released a manual on how to do this, called Design for Social Impact , which is freely available on the web. When cutting edge, well-respected and innovative firms like IDEO take the plunge, it makes talking about (and doing something about) global social issues more acceptable to the wider design and tech business communities. Hope to see more groups following suit!

Mr. Jim Goes to Washington (Again)

As part of the large national award we received from the Department of Education, we are spending a lot more time in Washington. I talk to lots of folks: congressional staff, members of Congress, folks at the Department of Education, the publishers, disability activists and so on. I hope to provide a little flavor of what this is like, since as an engineer and not-very-political-guy, this is new to me. But, like many social entrepreneurs, I'm beginning to figure out that being absent from the halls of policy is not serving our mission. I had the chance to meet with Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa last month, and tell him about for ten minutes. I was surprised to find he was aware of the controversy around the big award and asked sharp questions about how we were dealing with challenges around delivering on this. He is a huge figure in disability policy, and it was an honor to get to talk to him about what we're doing. The biggest issue I'm still

Up there with Gordon Moore!

Well, that's a very optimistic title: I never expected to be up there with Gordon Moore. But, I was totally amazed to have my comments on the future of technology in the latest issue of IEEE Spectrum right next to Gordon's comments! Tech Luminaries Address Singularity Gordon Moore is one of the fathers of Silicon Valley, and has had wide-reaching impacts. He's from my alma mater, Caltech, where he has been chair of the board and the biggest or one of the biggest donors. He was a co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor as well as Intel, two of the Valley's most seminal companies. And my personal favorite is that his foundation gave the initial funding that led to our extremely cool Miradi software for environmental project management. He's best known with Moore's Law, the exponential growth projection that implies that computers get faster and cheaper at ever-amazing rates. I know he's tired of all of the Moore's law hoopla, though. The IEEE spec

Remembering Peter Scialli

I know that the community will be sad to hear of the passing of one of our original staff members, Peter Scialli. Peter started working with me over twenty years ago, with his access tech company ShrinkWrap Computing. The name was a play on Peter's Ph.D. in psychology, which was his other career path beyond technology, which he loved so well. Peter became one of the top dealers of the Arkenstone reading machines, Benetech's founding social enterprise. When we sold Arkenstone to another company, Peter offered to fill our technical support needs on an interim basis. This coverage really helped with a difficult transition. Peter then stepped into the role of alpha user and support guy. His photo was our user photo (see the picture above). He was our main and only tech support staffer for the early years of He left us a few years ago to go back to his original profession of psychology, and became a project director of a counseling a

Guatemala: the Secret Files

Frontline World is airing a terrific piece on our Guatemala work tonight on KQED in the Bay Area (9 pm PT). You can view it online right now . It already aired on the east coast. I don't think we've ever had such extensive and thoughtful coverage of a topic: there are the video segments, slideshows, extended interviews and more. Everybody at Benetech is so proud of our human rights team getting this kind of exposure and promoting the importance of human rights.