My journey as a Citizenship Champion and leading Avanade's Social Justice Hackathon
- Posted on November 2, 2023
I have been with Avanade for five years, and since day one, Avanade has felt like the exact right place I needed to work with colleagues who love to solve complex problems in a creative way. Technologically, working at Avanade means being at the center of innovation. It’s exciting because it gives a glimpse of what the future looks like and the unique opportunity to shape it.
Culturally, Avanade has provided me with a multitude of avenues to share my time, skills, and passion for volunteering with local and global communities. Throughout my time at Avanade, I have consistently taken on a variety of leadership roles and volunteered for various opportunities. I have been a Midwest region Citizenship Champion for three years, as well as the Allyship Lead/Men as Allies Program Lead for Women’s Employee Network. I have also been actively involved with INSPIRE Black Employee Network's Social Justice Hackathon since its inaugural event three years ago.
My involvement in the Social Justice Hackathon has been a truly transformative and deeply fulfilling journey. It all began after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, which ignited a worldwide movement against racism and inequality and served as a stark reminder of the urgent need for change. My desire to contribute to the sparks of change made me search for meaningful ways to contribute to make a difference. But the COVID pandemic made in-person volunteering challenging.
Fortunately, Avanade’s INSPIRE Black Employee Network announced that they were going to organize Avanade’s first-ever Social Justice Hackathon and they needed volunteers to plan the event. I eagerly stepped up to volunteer because I wanted to become a stronger ally to underrepresented groups , not realizing at the time that it would eventually transform into a three-year commitment—a commitment that I wholeheartedly embraced year after year as this journey profoundly reshaped my perspective on social justice and the essence of community engagement.
In its first two years, the Social Justice Hackathon primarily focused on social justice challenges involving discrimination, inequity, and systemic racism plaguing the criminal justice system, healthcare, government and law enforcement, education system, social and political engagement, and corporate representation as they relate to underrepresented groups and marginalized communities in the United States.
This past year, I chaired INSPIRE Black Employee Network’s Social Justice Committee and organized Avanade’s third annual Social Justice Hackathon. I aimed to expand the scope of the hackathon to include not just underrepresented groups in the U.S., but also historically marginalized communities in other parts of the world. I searched for Avanade employees around the world who have First Nations backgrounds and Avanade employees who identify as LGBTQ+, inviting them to participate in the Hackathon so they could share their valuable insights on the challenges they've encountered and showcase the support that Avanade has provided to them in addressing these challenges, promoting inclusivity, and fostering a sense of belonging within the organization.
My vision of expanding the impact of the Social Justice Hackathon resulted in a significant milestone this year, as the Hackathon featured speakers, panelists, and participants from not only North America but also Europe and Growth Markets.
A significant highlight of the Social Justice Hackathon was the Social Justice Panel Discussion. For the first time, Avanade employees from Australia and Brazil, who identify as part of First Nations and LGBTQ+ communities , joined a diverse group of panelists from the U.S. Together, they shared their experiences about the unique challenges faced by different underrepresented groups with regards to social justice and how we can all work together to solve these challenges. The Social Justice Panel Discussion was an exceptionally remarkable event, uniting voices from diverse backgrounds around the world, representing different expertise, perspectives, viewpoints, and various aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and diverse-abilities. By amplifying the voices that often struggle to find a platform for expression, the Social Justice Hackathon made an immensely profound contribution to Avanade's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The participants and teams in the Social Justice Hackathon utilized their technical expertise to craft inventive solutions that tackle real-world challenges affecting individuals on a global scale. This year's winning solutions focused on alleviating food insecurity (improving physical well-being), mitigating the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable communities (addressing environmental justice), and addressing wrongful convictions (combating systemic racism in the criminal justice system).
For the first time since its inception, the Social Justice Hackathon has been honored with the North America Group Award in the 2023 Avanade Volunteer Impact Awards. This recognition is a testament to the significant impact INSPIRE’s Social Justice Hackathon has made by mobilizing Avanade’s exceptional talent to tackle pressing social justice issues through technology-driven solutions.
I want to thank Avanade for supporting us and providing the resources and platforms necessary for all of us to partner and collaborate to make a genuine human impact. I am also grateful to the outstanding Social Justice Hackathon volunteer committee that helped make this all possible. It is through our unique capabilities and collective experiences that we are able to expedite our journey towards building a more equitable and beautiful future for everyone. One person can't change the world alone, but all of us can together.
In Avanade’s Social Justice Hackathon, I found my passion of combining allyship and tech savviness to solve social justice challenges. In Avanade’s Citizenship Champion program, I have discovered the joy of volunteering as a collective experience that extends beyond the individual. Volunteering unites and engages everyone at Avanade, binding us together for a shared purpose and a common goal: to improve the lives of everyone in our communities.