CEO & Co-founder
President & Co-founder
We began 2020 with a grand vision for the year. Like many, we had no playbook for a global pandemic, economic crash, or national demonstrations for racial justice. As the uncertainty of 2020 set in, we doubled down on what we do best – connecting tech with our local community. Fortunately we had the right tools at hand: strong corporate members, firm community relationships, and a whole lot of grit. This – our second year of operations – would turn out to be a true test of our model.
As lockdowns spread across the area, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. After cancelling tech company visits for hundreds of kids, we established the Family Tech Support Center to provide tech support to Seattle students. Volunteers staffed the FTSC five days a week, twelve hours a day, from April through June. Our Greenlight Fund raised and distributed $63,000 for immediate needs to students and their families. The tech industry poured resources into the COVID-19 response and we shared regular updates to keep our community and industry informed.
These were not crisis-only responses, rather a strengthening of our foundation. Our partnership with Seattle Public Schools is now an ongoing, collaborative effort to address digital equity. More of the tech workforce has come to sea.citi to learn about and engage with the community with nearly 1,000 workers attending events, more than a hundred volunteering with our projects, and many making donations from our recommendations.
Our community is stronger when we work together. We are impact driven and equity minded. To rebuild better than before, cross-sector collaboration is critical and sea.citi is where tech and the community collaborate to get results. Our world-class tech sector has much to offer the community and we are building the bridges to make that happen.
WHO WE ARE
We are building a vibrant, inclusive, and thriving community and innovation economy across the Seattle region.
OUR MISSION: sea.citi is a tech industry nonprofit strengthening our region by promoting civic engagement and building relationships between community, government, and innovation workers.
member companies engaged with neighborhoods and people
events focused on local civic and community issues
attendees from across tech and the community
distributed through sea.citi initiatives to support students
Learn more about sea.citi’s work and impact in 2020:
COVID-19 Response & Recovery
sea.citi was at the forefront of aggregating information about the local COVID-19 response & recovery from the tech industry. As our members poured millions into the effort,we kept the community and industry connected through events, volunteerism, and information.
We started weekly updates of our COVID-19 Response page to help tech workers stay informed about COVID-19 and ensure social distancing strategies didn’t upend community connections. Our goal was to highlight stories about how the innovation economy in our region was leading in uncertain times. Tech companies were some of the first entities to take decisive action by closing their campuses to keep employees safe and slow the spread of coronavirus. Our sector led by example and the success of our weekly updates are a testament to tech workers’ desire to take action. As the pandemic and its economic fallout intersected with the renewed momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, we broadened the scope of our updates to include meaningful racial equity work both in tech and in the community.
We heard from tech industry and community leaders about how they were making community connections during a time of social distancing. Adopting the #CommunityConnections hashtag we collected stories from our members and shared those with the community on social media.
sea.citi’s Community Connections amplified stories of people working in the tech industry who are undeterred by these uncertain times, people finding ways to connect across social distances, and the community organizations that inspire them.
David Ham, President of glamazon, Amazon’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group
David shares how Amazonians are supporting each other, local businesses and the community at-large.
Will Daugherty – President & CEO, Pacific Science Center
Will shouts out local leaders’ data-driven approach and the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, and reminds us why PacSci is such an asset to our region!
As we adjusted to a new normal due to COVID-19, we investigated how our region moves into an uncertain future. Connecting with local leaders, across sectors, to help shed light on the pandemic’s shorter-term impacts and envision ways to leverage our community assets for equitable recovery.
We were joined by Alex Hudson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC). Founded in 1993, TCC is a policy and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to making transportation accessible to all in Washington State. Focused on structural reform, TCC works upstream to influence legislation and policies that affect funding for departments of transportation and transit agencies.
We were joined by Walter Washington, Senior Director of Housing Services at Wellspring Family Services. Wellspring’s services are concentrated in four areas: mental health, family homelessness, early learning, and basic needs. Each year, Wellspring helps thousands of children and families break the debilitating cycles of instability, homelessness, and adversity to achieve positive, permanent change in their lives. The organization is focused on building trusting relationships and long-term solutions in the communities it serves.
Michelle Caulfield, Deputy Director of OSE, joined us for a conversation about the pandemic’s impact on local sustainability policy and practices, and how OSE’s work fits with the City’s overall recovery efforts. Michelle gave a thorough overview of what sustainability means to the City of Seattle and how it is investing in community needs.
Patty Hayes, Director of the Seattle & King County Health department, has over 30 years of experience in public health, policy development and advocacy. Patty has been responsible for the COVID-19 response for King County and gave some straight talk on how we’re doing in King County right now, how we know it’s working and what we can expect in the coming 6-12 months.
David Keyes, Seattle Information Technology’s Digital Equity Manager, has 30+ years working at the intersection of information and communications technologies, race and social justice, and community engagement. David enlightened us to the complexities of digital equity work and how the City is taking action on the recently passed “Internet for All” resolution.
Cuc Vu, Director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs, joined us for a conversation about the City’s ongoing work to be a welcoming and equitable place for the diverse immigrant and refugee communities that call it home. She discussed the challenges that COVID-19 has exacerbated and shared ways that immigrant ingenuity is influencing the City’s work.
Tina Walha, Director of the City of Seattle’s Innovation & Performance Team, joined us for a conversation about her team’s multidisciplinary approach to innovation across city bureaucracy. She discussed how data science, behavioral science and design thinking help City departments creatively solve problems.
Digital Equity & Students
Inequities in digital access have been spotlighted by COVID-19. More than ever students need access to computers, internet, and technical support, however, these resources alone do not increase equitable access. Drawing on extensive relationships across education and tech, sea.citi ensured local students could continue learning in the virtual environment.
In March, Amazon donated nearly 9,000 laptops directly to families who did not have devices. To ensure students were successful navigating the new world of virtual education, sea.citi created the Family Tech Support Center (FTSC) — a public-private partnership between sea.citi, Seattle Public Schools, Alliance for Education, Amazon, Google, Expedia, Facebook, Amperity, Tableau, Microsoft, and parent and tech volunteers. With donated hardware and software, volunteer power, and cross-sector collaboration, the FTSC supported hundreds of students’ access to online learning to continue on the road to educational success.
The Family Tech Support Center fielded approximately 2,500 calls and supported 750 families between April and June. Volunteer-collected data from operating FTSC resulted in “Navigating the Digital Divide”, which details the emerging support and strategic needs of virtual learning. This report was shared broadly with school administrators and has informed both state and city policy-makers.
While working on policy changes to support digital equity, sea.citi evolved this work by working with the Tableau Foundation to fund ongoing digital equity efforts within Seattle Public Schools, including hiring a Digital Equity Manager at the district. These long-term initiatives are designed to lift up the students furthest from educational justice and build a stronger relationship between the district and the tech industry.
“The support from sea.citi demonstrated that solving these questions is possible through true cross-sector collaboration between private industry and public institutions. With a deliberate approach and a willingness to deeply engage, we have been able to not only ensure that every family has a device, but also has the tech support they need to work with it.”
– Denise Juneau, Superintendent Seattle Public Schools
The pandemic’s impact on education dominated headlines, first as schools closed then as they moved to remote instruction. To help tech workers better understand what was happening on the ground, we invited people working on solutions to explain the breadth and depth of the challenges administrators, educators, students, and families faced.
We were joined by Lisa Chick, CEO of the Alliance for Education. The Alliance for Education’s mission is to support excellence in education by advancing educational justice and racial equity for students in Seattle Public Schools (SPS). They do this by bringing resources to the district in the form of programs, dollars and stakeholder partnerships. The Alliance has been especially focused on supporting the district’s pandemic relief efforts.
Carlos Del Valle, Executive Director of Technology at Seattle Public Schools, joined us for a conversation about the district’s ongoing work to adapt to remote learning. He discussed the challenges of shifting from providing technology services internally to working directly with families, and how the digital equity factors into the SPS’s strategic plan, Seattle Excellence.
Laptop Drive for Educational Equity
sea.citi partnered with the Washington Technology Industry Association and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to collect and refurbish computers for immigrant and BIPOC students. We want every child and young person in our region to thrive in their education, communities, and life.
Distribution with CBO partners focused on students spanning seven school districts in South King County, Washington including: Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, South Seattle, and Tukwila.
computers donated to immigrant and BIPOC students
“Many of Zillow’s local social impact efforts happen at the intersection of tech and education. When we learned that more than 5% of the 128,000 students in this region started the 2020/21 school year without a device to access remote learning, we rallied to contribute laptops. We believe every student should have the tools they need to succeed and were thrilled to be a part of the drive.”
– Samantha Tripoli, Social Impact Manager, Zillow
sea.citi continued to partner with Communities In Schools of Seattle to connect tech with local schools. CISS’s mission of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life while Seattle students have been learning remotely was especially resonant this year. COVID-19 shutdowns canceled tech workplace visits we organized for hundreds of students. In response, we refocused efforts on supplying basic needs and technology for students and their families.
We relaunched The Greenlight Fund to provide direct support to students and families. Through regular contact with students, CISS was able to unearth and react quickly to their needs. Funds were used for direct financial assistance to struggling families, accessing healthy food, enabling tech connectivity, and addressing other hurdles.
“Our school supply distribution was a great success. The distribution days were set on a Friday and Saturday to give room and time for families to come at times convenient for them. We had it set up like a drive-thru and we were really busy, but we had enough volunteers as runners and other folks collecting data on if families had internet connection to make it run efficiently.”
– CISS Site Coordinator
raised to support families
Local initiatives and candidates impact daily life far more than national politics. But when it comes to navigating the ballot, it can feel wonky, boring, or event painful. sea.CIVICS demystifies local politics for tech workers by connecting issues and candidates with real life.
For the second year we provided educational workshops for innovation workers to delve deeper into the basics of local civic and political life. Our ballot education workshops provide workers an introduction to civic life in Seattle and cover the important – but lesser known – topics on the ballot.
sea.citi’s November King County Voter Guide is a nonpartisan look at the hottest topics on the ballot. The content focused on Charter Amendments and Initiatives to ensure tech voters understand the nuance of these sometimes complicated issues.
The pandemic brought about new challenges for voters. Before the election, we wanted to make sure tech workers in King County had all the necessary information to submit their ballots, regardless of how they voted. After the election, there was (and still is) a lot to parse out, we invited politically savvy tech leaders to help us do so.
Shortly before Washington State’s 2020 legislative session began, employees from Amazon, Zillow, Rover, Uber, Vulcan and Tableau gathered at Amazon’s Day 1 building to hear from Senator Reuven Carlyle and Representative Gael Tarleton about their priorities for the upcoming session. The conversation took place within the 36th district, which both Senator Carlyle and Representative Tarleton represent. The district includes Belltown, Interbay, Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard, and Greenwood. Eileen Sullivan from Amazon moderated the discussion.
Kendall LeVan Hodson, Chief of Staff at King County Elections, joined us for a conversation about the pandemic’s impact on local election planning and what voters can expect for the general election in November. Watch the recording below — Kendall shares her wealth of knowledge with warmth and enthusiasm — and follow her calls to action to do your civic duty!
sea.citi, New Tech NW and Create33 brought together an impressive group of local tech leaders to discuss their reactions to the 2020 general election.
Rebecca Lovell, Executive Director of Create33, facilitated a panel discussion between:
- Harini Gokul, AWS Leader and Medina City Council
- Heather Redman, Managing Director at Flying Fish Partners and Community Leader
- Racquel Russell, VP at Zillow and Former Deputy Assistant to President Obama
- Jonathan Sposato, Chairman at Geekwire and PicMonkey
The panel’s key takeaways from the election included the swing towards moderate candidates both locally and nationally, the power of record voter turnout and the most diverse Washington legislature ever elected, as well as the idea that, “It ain’t over” — both in terms of the fact that history teaches us that the pendulum between conservative and liberal governments is always in motion and that an election is just one step, the work is ongoing.
Nick Merriam, CEO of sea.citi & Matt Oppenheimer, Co-Founder and CEO of Remitly followed the panel with a fireside chat. Matt shared how Remitly has built advocating for their customers into the company’s culture. When deciding how to enter into public discourse and navigate civic issues, Remitly uses the following principles: Stay focused on issues that impact their customers; Remain non-partisan; and Take a stand on issues that are morally wrong and impact their employees.