March 27, 2017

Wine, Tequila and Nonprofits Bring Boston's Tech Community Together for Good

Last Thursday, I had the great pleasure of attending my third installment of TUGG (Technology Underwriting the Greater Good) Makes Boston, the 11th Annual Wine & Tequila Party at the Innovation and Design Building in Boston’s beautiful Seaport District.

This annual event was hosted by TUGG, the nonprofit arm of Boston’s tech community that connects New England’s tech entrepreneurs with social enterprises serving our underserved communities. The party was attended by well over 1,500 tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and philanthropists who all come together annually to vote on six non-profits, all vying for one of two $50,000 awards.

This is no ordinary party and these nonprofits are far from your average do-gooders. The returning nonprofits, First Teacher, Resilient Coders, and Thrive were accompanied by the newcomers, Mbadika, MEDIAGIRLS, and Tech Goes Home who all pitched their hearts out to as many attendees as they could scope out in the crowd. All of this in hopes of gaining a vote for the prize money. Meanwhile, attendees feasted on sliders and sushi, sipped on 9 varieties of wine and 2 varieties of top-shelf tequila, while jamming out to JAM'N 94.5's DJ E Dubble awaiting the announcement of the winners.

Anyone who’s attended this party, be it this year or any of the years past, knows it’s well worth the ticket price and the trip (especially since Uber covered your trip there and back). The party favors are quite the perks but the real treat is getting to know and see the nonprofits in action. Let me tell you a little about each one:

Returning Nonprofits

$50K WinnerResilient Coders was this year’s returning nonprofit winner (and the winner for last 4 years in a row)!

Resilient Coders is an organization that equips people in their teens and early twenties from low-income areas in Boston and Cambridge to learn how to code. Starting in their Resilient Bootcamp, these fledgling developers learn code literacy, after which they progress into the Resilient Lab where they work for real companies.

The best part? Students are both paid to learn and paid to work once they’ve made it to Resilient Lab. There seems to be little that Resilient Coders hasn’t figured out when it comes to making this organization a thriving success. With partners all around Boston and a foolproof 50% learning and 50% building curriculum, it’s no surprise that Resilient Coders came out on top for the 5th year in a row. 

“This isn't about one-off camps or hackathons. This is about meaningful change.”

First Teacher is a community of parents and caregivers working together to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Started in 2014 by Dinah Shepherd, a local teacher in the Roxbury community, First Teacher aims to close the opportunity gap that exists for children raised without the proper education they need in their early, formative years. Shepherd collaborated with a group of parents in Roxbury to create a program where their own children under the age of 5, could learn and grow together. This program is intended to be a drop-in, not a drop-off initiative where parents and caregivers work with their own children, as opposed to simply dropping them off to learn with someone else.

“First Teacher is not a charity, it’ a movement in Roxbury built and completely facilitated by parents in Boston.”

Thrive is an entrepreneurial mentoring program that pairs college students with middle school students of under-resourced communities.

Working through college student chapters that operate as entrepreneurial hubs for their peers and local community, Thrive teaches life skills through entrepreneurship. Within the youth mentorship program, participants create their own ventures, earn revenue, and donate all profits to charity over the course of an academic year. This full-circle program provides exceptional learning opportunities for youth in underserved communities and meaningful leadership experience to the college students mentoring them.

“As individuals, we can succeed and do great things but to truly Thrive it takes a team.”

New Nonprofits

$50K WinnerMEDIAGIRLS is a program that shows girls and young women how to use social media to share their authentic selves, post positive content, develop their critical thinking, and take a stand on meaningful issues.

Through four unique programs, including a 10-week after-school program for middle school girls and “MEDIAMINDS” workshops targeted at both boys and girls, MEDIAGIRLS is pulling back the veil on inundating sexist and undermining messages presented by mainstream media. They’re equipping young boys and girls with the mental tools that break the trend and teach them to think critically about what they see on social media.

“MEDIAGIRLS gives girls skills and practice in using social media to speak up for issues they care about, express authentic feelings, and lift one another up.​”

Mbadika (pronounced bah-GEE-ka) is an organization that is nurturing the interest of children in Boston and around the world from the heart of Dudley Station in the Roxbury Innovation Center.

Mbadika hosts workshops that engage youth with hands-on experiences to learn how STEM and provide DIY kits that equip children with the necessary knowledge and skills to understand the product design and development process.

“Mbadika means ‘idea’ in Kimbundu. The word ‘Mbadika’ embodies the entire spirit of this site to our organization.”

Tech Goes Home is a national award-winning initiative helping to provide under-served residents the opportunity, tools, education, and access required for 21st century skills development.

With six high-impact programs, Tech Goes Home is focused on tackling the current gap in technology adoption and Internet access in Boston and across the country. Since 2010, TGH has trained over 20,000 participants in at least one of their programs and has pilot programs planned in Tennessee, New York, New Mexico, Connecticut and Louisiana.

“Our school, community, small business, and early childhood initiatives provide an impactful and cost-effective model to help families and participants gain access to the skills, hardware, and Internet access needed for 21st century success.”

These organizations are nothing short of an inspiring bunch. The four nonprofits who didn’t win the vote still walked away with $10,000 and are part of TUGG’s portfolio of over 35 innovative, high impact startups helping Boston be a more equally accessible, educated, and empowered place.

“Boston tech came out in full force to support social innovation at TUGG Makes Boston. The positive energy of the evening was contagious and brought out the best in our community," said Elizabeth Dobrska, TUGG's Managing Director. "There’s something truly inspiring about how TUGG's Annual Wine & Tequila Party unites so many of Boston’s brightest, from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike, to celebrate and propel the good that our organizations do across this city. You have to be there to fully grasp the magnitude of it!”

If you’re interested in getting involved with TUGG or any of the nonprofits in their portfolio, contact them here or donate here and keep an eye for the next party because you won’t want to miss it.

Nina Stepanov is a Contributor at VentureFizz.  Follow her on Twitter: @ninarstepanov.

Photo credit: @CarbonBlack_Inc Twitter.