April 24, 2018

Workbar Speaker Series Preview - A Q&A with Activist and Former Boston City Council Member Tito Jackson

While there is a ton of innovation regarding technology that helps industries, enterprise companies, and consumers, one feature of the Boston tech scene that often goes overlooked are the organizations and startups focusing on social impact.

This Wednesday, Workbar Central Square will be the host of the coworking company's Speaker Series. Activist and Former Boston City Council Member Tito Jackson will be moderating a panel about social innovation and how it affects people's lives.

We had a chance to speak with Jackson about the upcoming event and his point of view on social innovation as a whole. During our conversation, we learned a little bit more about the upcoming event, including who some of the panelists are.

Also, be sure to register for the upcoming event!

Colin Barry [CB]: From a broad point of view, what do you find interesting in terms of what’s happening within the innovation community in Boston?

Tito Jackson [TJ]: I am excited to see that diversity, inclusion, and equity are becoming central topics versus afterthoughts.  I am excited about the work that the Boston Ujimaa Project is doing; I love what Glynn Lloyd is doing at Eastern Bank; Hack.Diversity is dope; Melissa James is the bomb; Winston Henderson is awesome and is a movement starter; Black Market is fire; Resilient Coders and David Delmar and Stephanie Castanos rock! The Collier Connection is also a force to be reckoned with in Boston.

CB: Why do you think it’s important for companies and organization to focus on social impact?

TJ: Companies need to realize that doing well and doing good are synonymous. Millenials as employees are extremely focused on social impact.  Hence, social impact will be a competitive differentiating factor in the long term.  ROI is not the only bottom line that companies need to value, brand loyalty is also built by cause marketing and purpose-driven investments. 

CB: What are some of the social issues that can be solved within Boston’s innovation community?

TJ: The Innovation community has the ability to help us with social issues like unemployment and help to reintegrate returning citizens (those who are returning from incarceration).  In Massachusetts, for every one person who can write a line of code, there are currently 17 open jobs.  We are not maximizing our human capital by not fully including people of color, women and those who have made a mistake in the past.  

The innovation community should be advocating for educational investments like computer science for all K-12 students, which is currently a reality in San Francisco.  Why should Boston students and the Boston Economy be left behind?  We need the innovation community’s voice in the forefront advocating for our children’s education. Human capital is all we have here in Boston. Our students are 100% of our future, so we need to treat them and fund them like it!

The innovation economy can also help Boston deal with our Wealth Gap. The Boston Federal Reserve Bank in 2015 noted that the median net worth of a White Family in Boston is $247,500 and a Black Family's net worth is only $8.00. No that is not a typo, please look up the study for more information it is called The Color of Wealth. We need disruptive thinking, institutional disruption, government disruption and disruption in the innovation community to fix this bleak reality. This is not simply a social-economic issue.

CB: You’re moderating the upcoming Workbar Speaker Series panel this Wednesday titled: Discussing Social & Community Innovation. What can attendees expect out of this panel discussion? There is a great variety of panelists participating. Could you go into detail about who the panelists are? Have you worked with any of them in the past?

TJ: The most awesome panelists ever!  An interactive and fun panel that will engage the crowd and keep it real!

Justin Kang, Executive Director of City Awake and VP of Economic Growth at Boston Chamber of Commerce - I know and admire Justin Kang. Justin has been a transformative voice in Millennial voice and how to recruit and retain our talent.  He is one of the most energetic, strategic and thoughtful minds in Boston. I can’t wait to be on the panel with him.

Cullen Schwarz, Co-Founder of DoneGood - I have been a fan of Cullen’s work as a democratic strategist from afar.  I am so excited to hear more about Done Good and how to flip a passion for politics to a successful venture.  I am also excited to hear what Cullen defines as is the bottom line and KPIs.

Trish Fontanilla, Community Organizer, Mentor, and Entrepreneur - I am excited to hear from Trish on how she integrates all of her skills and talents to make an impact in the community and in business.  I would also like to hear about how Trish consistently pushes the ability of companies, organization, and leaders to expand their vision of what success means.

Stephanie Castaños, Relationship Manager at Resilient Coders - I’ve done a decent amount of work with Resilient Coders and Stephanie. I am very excited to hear about how Resilient Coders continues to grow and transform lives.  I am also interested in hearing how programs like hers expand, grow and scale to help even more folks in need.  I am also amped to hear how Resilient Coders has used their program to help participants who have had legal obstacles in the past work at some of the fastest growing companies in Greater Boston.

CB: Any other additional comments you’d like to make about the event?

TJ: Show up and be wowed by the awesome, fantastic and amazing panel!!


Colin W. Barry is a Staff Writer & Editor at VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash