October 12, 2021
Written by Raymar Hampshire
We believe in a “big tent” PIT field that is inclusive, with a primary focus on people, and that is composed of individuals committed to designing, implementing, and advocating for tech-enabled solutions with the goal of advancing the common good in an equitable manner. Our team’s understanding of the field includes social entrepreneurs who are developing products and services that address shortcomings from existing markets and government. Like public interest technology, the field of social entrepreneurship includes many definitions. We have adapted J. Gregory Dee’s definition of social entrepreneur which states:
“Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents, in the social sector, by; adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value) [through the creation or use of technology]; recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission; engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation and learning; acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand; and exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and outcomes created.” The last clause of his definition, “exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and outcomes created”, is of particular interest to our work.
BIPOC social entrepreneurs and their communities are often directly impacted by the solution they are developing. As such, they benefit from a unique perspective of what accountability looks like for the constituencies that they serve and the outcomes they create because they are a constituent. In the field of public interest technology, solutions are often designed to reflect the lived experiences of it’s creators. We came up with the term PIT entrepreneurs to better situate and mainstream the lived experiences and embodied knowledge of these practitioners.
In our report titled, “Building Career Pathways for Diverse Public Interest Technology Entrepreneurs” we found that these practitioners aim to create social justice and equity, while collaborating with stakeholders across sectors and disciplines — synthesizing learning and developing knowledge in order to deliver innovative solutions. We also found inequities within the startup ecosystem based on race and gender that compound challenges of securing funding and developing key relationships needed to support their development.
PIT entrepreneurs bring valuable skill sets and experiences to the field of public interest technology. It is our hope that the field of PIT provides a more responsive experience for PIT entrepreneurs who can contribute their knowledge to help ensure that the field is built with diversity, equity, and inclusion as a guiding force and not an afterthought. We believe that these practitioners and their solutions can advance the common good in an equitable manner.