Journalists have to approach issues they care about differently than others. There’s a fine line between influence and bias. I’ve joined the board of Coded by Kids, a program of coding classes for youth, and I’d like to share why.
In my reporting on technology, I’ve come to see technical literacy as a form of social justice. The digital divide has many outcomes. So I’m proud that at Technical.ly we’ve always covered access issues, including youth STEM learning like robotics and code development, and tried to introduce those topics to our broad readership of technologists and entrepreneurs.
In doing that, I first met Sylvester Mobley, a West Philly native, former Marine and software developer, who founded Coded by Kids. He reached out and, then as editor, I put a reporter out to cover his work. Since then, we’ve hired a different editor, and my role is a bit more in flux, as I transition into more of a publisher, in which I don’t as comprehensively influence day to day editorial.
And then in the fall, Sylvester asked me to join his board of advisors, as he had incorporated as a nonprofit. I had been asked to be on boards before but I had felt both ethically constrained and uncertain of my value. There are a few things different this time:
- Timing: With these changes in my role at Technical.ly and coming off a leadership course that stressed balancing work with board service, I was more open.
- Subject: As shared above, the idea of a dependable supplement to in-school training around software programming interests me. It’s an important idea.
- Founder: I like Sylvester’s story and, though I’m still getting to know him, I believe in what I’ve heard and seen of him.
- Model: Related to the note above, the discussions around sustaining Coded by Kids includes plans for revenue (more on that), in addition to services and relationships. There’s lots of talk already about accepting volunteer turnover and building longer term relationships whenever possible.
- Board: I asked Sylvester to share with me who else would be on the board. There were other smart people I respected and wanted to work with. It was a team I wanted to join.
- My value: I clearly understand the value I can provide Sylvester. I do not have a coding background that would make me a very helpful volunteer, but I have experience with fundraising and balancing mission with sustainability and building out a team, I’m interested in the issue and have relationships in other markets if he’d like to grow his work in other places. In our early board meetings and in my first few introductions I’ve made for him, I’ve felt like I can be valuable.
I look forward to the opportunity. I’m sure I’ll share more on this to come.