Vote for the Geeks Give Back award: 5 inspirational groups making a positive change in our community

Jennifer Carlson, Apprenti’s director and co-founder, accepts the award for the Geeks Give Back category at the GeekWire Awards 2019 event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

If you’re looking to be inspired by the tech community, look no further than the finalists for this year’s Geeks Give Back award.

Now in its fourth year, this GeekWire Awards category recognizes an organization that is making the community a better place. The finalists are: Fledge, Future For Us, Unloop, UW Center for an Informed Public, and Year Up. Read more below about this year’s finalists.
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Community voting is now open in 13 GeekWire Awards categories, and these votes will be factored in with feedback from more than 20 judges. On March 26 we will announce the winners live on stage at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — in front of more than 800 geeks at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. Community voting ends March 6.

Past recipients of the Geeks Give Back award include the Visualize No Malaria campaign, jointly launched by global health nonprofit PATH and data visualization company Tableau; the WTIA’s Apprenti apprenticeship program; and the Technology Access Foundation, which brings STEM instruction to underserved students in the Puget Sound area.

For more community impact stories, check out our Impact Series that highlights people and initiatives finding innovative solutions to societal challenges with technology.

Cast your votes below and grab your tickets. This category is presented by BECU.

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Michael “Luni” Libes, Fledge incubator founder, at Demo Day in June 2016. (Photo by Rachel Román for GeekWire)

Founded in 2012, Fledge is a startup accelerator that focuses on mission-driven for-profit companies, or “socially conscious” startups. The Seattle-based organization operates programs around the globe where companies, known as “Fledglings,” participate in an intensive two-month accelerator program and receive a $15,000-to-$20,000 investment in exchange for revenue-based equity.

Each accelerator ends with a “Demo Day” where participants from all over the world share inspirational stories about their mission-driven company. Past participants built solutions ranging from a network of veterinarian shops in rural Malawi, to fish farming in Uganda. Fledge recently announced it received a record number of applications for the 2020 accelerator program.

In their words: “Fledge is a global network of conscious company accelerators and seed funds that help entrepreneurs create impactful companies and co-ops at scale through short, intense programs filled with education, guidance, and a massive amount of mentorship.”

Future For Us

Nathalie Molina Niño (left), founder of Brava Investments, a venture capital company that funds enterprises that benefit women, is interviewed by Kavita Malling, a Future for Us advisor, at the Future for Us Assembly on April 27, 2019. (Anthony Smith / Soul Breathing Photography)

Launched at the beginning of 2019, Future For Us is a platform for minority women to connect, mentor, and support one another to build the future of work. In addition to connecting members to a peer network, the platform focuses on professional advancement, advocating for pay equity and the opportunity to move into leadership roles.

Founded by Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno and Aparna Rae, the organization hosted its first conference, The Assembly, in April last year. The sold-out event drew nearly 300 attendees, speakers and volunteers from across the tech sector as well as from banking, retail, education, government, aerospace and nonprofits. Future For Us also hosts monthly events and The Assembly will return in 2020.

In their words: “A platform dedicated to advancing womxn of color at work.”


An Unloop event at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. (Unloop Photo)

Unloop co-founders David Almeida and Lindsey Wilson saw a problem and an opportunity. The problem: Nearly half of people who are released from prison will be re-arrested, many of whom are unable to find living wage work because of their conviction. As product managers at Seattle startups, Almeida and Wilson knew first-hand the growing demand for software developers with thousands of job openings in the Seattle region. The next step was creating a pipeline to connect the two.

Since launching its first cohort in 2016, Unloop has grown its programs that provide education, support and opportunity for currently and formerly incarcerated people. In partnership with community colleges, Unloop offers one-year training programs in Washington State prisons covering not only coding but also soft skills, preparing participants for a future career in the tech industry.

Employer partners, such as EnergySavvy and Moz, work with Unloop to provide internship and job opportunities post-release. As of last year, Unloop has graduated more than 80 participants.

In their words: “Unloop provides a pathway to a career in software development for people marginalized by a conviction.”

UW Center for an Informed Public

The interdisciplinary team leading the University of Washington’s new Center for an Informed Public, from left to right: Ryan Calo, Chris Coward, Kate Starbird, Emma Spiro and Jevin West. (University of Washington Photo)

Last year, the University of Washington announced a new initiative called the Center for an Informed Public (CIP), bringing together a multidisciplinary team to address the ways that society gets its information in the technology age. A key objective of the initiative is to keep it nonpartisan.

Led by Director Jevin West, an associate professor at the Information School, the CIP pursues three areas of investigation:

Where does misinformation start and how does it propagate?

How is that misinformation converted into personal beliefs and then into actions?

 What sort of legal, policy actions are available to address the spread of misinformation and incentivize the right behavior?

The CIP is part of a growing field addressing misinformation and disinformation. West draws a comparison to a health crisis, where providers both treat those who are already infected and administer vaccinations to prevent the spread of the disease. The researchers are working with technology companies, educators, news media, government officials, and libraries to better understand the problem and gather data.

In their words: “Our mission is to resist strategic misinformation, promote an informed society, and strengthen democratic discourse.”

Year Up

A Seattle event in October 2019 celebrating a new Year Up partnership with Seattle Central and South Seattle colleges. Guests included (from left to right): Stephanie Gardner, former Year Up outreach director (second from left); Chelsia Berry, Seattle Central associate dean for STEM-B; Heaven Hamilton, Year Up graduate; Seattle Central President Sheila Edwards Lange; Karina Berry, Year Up graduate. (Year Up Photo)

Originally founded in Boston in 2000, the nonprofit training program Year Up launched in the Puget Sound region in 2011. The national initiative helps lower-income students take technology courses tuition-free and connects them with internships. Students also receive “wraparound” support including career skill development and social services.

After partnering with Bellevue College for many years, Year Up shifted its focus last year through a new partnership with Seattle Colleges, including Seattle Central and South Seattle colleges — locations that are easier for students to reach.

A strength of the Year Up program is its ties with industry partners including Amazon, Expeditors, Smartsheet, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Expedia. According to Year Up, 90 percent of graduates have jobs or enroll in additional education programs within four months of finishing the program.

In their words: “Year Up’s mission is to close the opportunity divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education.”

A big thanks to our longtime awards presenting partner, Wave Business, for supporting this fun community event. Also, thanks to gold and category sponsors: BECU, BCRA, Blink, EY, JLL, Premera, Slalom, and WSGR. And to our supporting sponsors First Tech Federal Credit Union, Bader Martin, Akvelon, Flyhomes, Funko and Moz. If interested in sponsoring a category or another component of the GeekWire Awards, please contact us at

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