What if one connection could impact thousands? A month ago (June 6th and 7th) I traveled to Boulder, Colorado to attend the T3 Summit and learned the possibilities for answering that very question. T3, short for Teaching Tech Together, was a totally new venue for me and the timing seemed just a little off. We were literally wrapping up Demo Day when Teresa and I had to race to the airport to make our flight to Colorado. My mind was not 100% ready to switch into learning or connecting mode or so I thought.

I’d never heard of this conference until I was connected to one of the organizers through a social justice tech ally – Shannon Turner of Hear Me Code. It turns out that I was unfamiliar with T3 because (1) it was a new event, and (2) it was an invite-only event. Thanks to Shannon, we were invited to attend, and also thanks to her, I am still discovering the mandate of T3.

Shannon sat on a panel discussing teaching technology together and how it requires that the civic tech community find unique ways to help the community at large. As I listened and reflected, I realized she was not only teaching the method but lives it!

Hear Me Code is a Washington, D.C. organization that teaches women the computer programming language Python so that they are empowered with coding skills. Through lots of probing, just weeks earlier, I learned that the woman coding a website for Rebuilding Re-entry’s Demonstration Day was trained by Shannon. Clean Slate D.C., which is a criminal records sealing/expungement site, was incubated in part by a volunteer attorney and Code for DC; however, the lead software programmer was a woman who learned to code through the free classes made possible by Shannon Turner. These types of relationships were what T3 was all about.

Shannon was able to share our interaction as a case study so that others might learn how to build an unlikely partnership in their cities. I was able to speak up as the nonprofit partner and share how teaching one woman to code was contributing to improving prison re-entry outcomes in Washington, D.C. Women coding and prison re-entry wasn’t a programmatic connection immediately made, but it turned out to be a perfect match.

During our time together in Boulder, Shannon, Teresa and I were able to really map out how coming together has lead to great things and could yield even more results. If Shannon’s student could continue developing the site post Demo Day, then Mission: Launch would be able to pursue funding to maintain this community-owned, open source platform that will help thousands of D.C. resident.

We all left with a renewed commitment to supporting each other’s efforts and a coffee date. T3 accomplished its stated goal. It is kind of crazy, but by us slowing down long enough from our busy lives here in D.C. to gather in Colorado, we were able to visualize how Hear Me Code and Mission: Launch really are teaching tech together. Hear Me Code needs meaningful projects where students can practice their new skills. Mission: Launch, Inc./Rebuilding Re-entry envisions social justice tech that often needs the contribution of volunteer coders in order to build prototypes and determine viability. It’s an unlikely connection that will surely change the city for the better.