Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Natives in Tech

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One-line solution summary:

Build a collective of Native technologists that craft a tech ecosystem for Native peoples.

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Pitch your solution.

We are committed to building a tech ecosystem for Native peoples. Part of this solution is building free and open-source software such as Native Owned Businesses, Indigemoji, MMIW Face Meshing App, and many more. If we could accelerate the progress of these community solutions then we could be an example to other indigenous communities throughout the world who want to use tech in order to empower their communities online. Our solutions are examples because they are made in the open, they are free to use, distribute, and change, and through the open-source ecosystem, such as GitHub, they are readily available to be picked up and modified. The best part is that our solutions and community spaces are framed from an indigenous perspective and better engages indigenous technologists than what they would find in other tech communities. This is critical to growing the ecosystem: seeing others like ourselves in tech.

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

The opportunity for indigenous entrepreneurs to thrive within tech requires a culturally appropriate tech ecosystem that includes a technical workforce that creates solutions tailored for indigenous communities. They have specific needs and concerns that cannot be properly solved from those without culturally relevant experiences. We want to target communities from North and South America which encompasses millions of indigenous peoples in different countries and regions, all with varying degrees of access to technology and the many issues that revolve around access. Along with access, there is a lack of core infrastructure for indigenous technologists, which we believe is due to a lack of tech expertise in building sophisticated architectures for indigenous communities. Why don't tribal governments in the US support localization in their indigenous language? The specification for this has been around for decades. The answer eludes us. However, this is what drives us to build solutions that are appropriate for indigenous peoples. That means culturally tailored solutions, giving future indigenous technologists space, opportunities, and resources to fail, and in failing learning to solve problems and becoming the next architects for our complex communities that exist online.

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What is your solution?

Building community-based projects that solve problems for indigenous communities, that can be replicated in other communities, that provide a direction in terms of how these problems can be architected, and in the process fostering the growth of indigenous architects building solutions for their own communities. This is the way in which we are shaping and building our tech ecosystem. We utilize free and open source technologies to help us build our solutions. For example, ThisLandIStand.app utilizes Next.js, a React-based framework that Vercel built. On the other hand, Native Owned Businesses utilizes Vue, a reactive framework Evan Yu created that is comparable to React. The database is built using Hasura, a database as a service. Suffice it to say, we utilize different technologies to solve different problems, while also learning different types of architecture patterns. We plan on using GitHub projects and issues to track our work and progress. We deploy our services on Netlify, through an open-source partnership, which also provides deploy previews so we can see the changes we make before the world does. We generally try to follow agile methodologies for our cadence to ensure we push changes out on a consistent basis even as volunteers.

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?

We are targeting indigenous folks in the technology space that want to deploy solutions for indigenous communities. Our target population ranges from high school STEM students, to college graduates in computer science, to language preservationists wanting to learn more about licensing and data sovereignty, to the hobbyist programmer just trying to hack on code. We have several ways in which we engage with the community: social media (Twitter +1K, Facebook +50, LinkedIn +150, Instagram +200), Slack (+110), and a Discourse instance (~10). The ecosystem is still quite young so we are pushing out ideas that we think would be helpful but we also want to engage and learn from community members to make solutions amenable to their needs. These conversations can happen in a myriad of locations as discussed above. We hope our solutions provide an architecture to make it easier for them to adopt.

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Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?

Increase access to jobs, financial capital, and skill development opportunities
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Building tech solutions for indigenous communities that are free to use and replicate and giving priority and support to indigenous developers to grow in their role aligns directly with increased access to jobs, financial capital, and skill development opportunities. There are so many incredible opportunities that we wish to put funding behind so that these projects can be taken to their full potential in terms of their desired outcome and in terms of getting indigenous people involved in the solutions process to help further their growth in the tech field. These opportunities are critical to their growth and their communities.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Tulsa, OK, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

We chose Pilot because we have several projects that are in the pilot phase. A non-exhaustive list of our in-progress projects:

We are testing our projects with various communities:

  • Native Owned Businesses - With Native-owned business leaders. Currently in a soft-opening phase.
  • This Land I Stand - With Native and non-Native audiences
  • Indigemoji - With programmers and technologists on GitHub
  • Native Talent in Tech - With Native and non-Native audiences
  • Natives in Tech - With Native and non-Native audiences

Through our analytics platform dashboard, we estimate that we are reaching around one thousand people per month amongst our various platforms.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Adam Recvlohe

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

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Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?

Yes
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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology
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Describe what makes your solution innovative?

We are building on things that already exist, but with our technical expertise, we can improve and innovate upon them for the benefit of Native peoples. For example, there are already many types of Native Owned Business directories. What makes our solutions to things stand out is we are 1) improving upon the concept because we come from a technical background. For example, we are adding search capabilities to our Native-owned business directory that allows a user to search by language, territory, or tag. We built the app as a single-page application that provides a better user experience. And 2) making it free and open for others to build upon. We want to see more, not fewer, business directories that can be further improved upon but also directories that engage users and make them more usable and in turn bring more dollars into Native communities. We think this will empower more people to want to build better and more friendly user experiences and in turn, make searching for Native-owned businesses a more convenient experience that translates into dollars going into the hands of indigenous peoples. 3) Lastly, this solution then becomes a trusted resource for other Native peoples who are beginning to learn to program and do it in a way that is culturally relevant.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

We use several different kinds of technologies based on the problem and the learnings we want to take from building it in order to enhance our technical abilities. As I mentioned before, we use Vue to build Native Owned Businesses but use React to build Native in Tech. Natives in Tech specifically uses NextJS, a React-based framework. However, it compiles pages statically or dynamically based on the use-case. This makes it much faster to load which is a critical experience for Native and non-Native consumers alike. Regardless of the technology, we try to make it performant so that everyone, including Native folks who live on the reservation, can use these projects with relative ease.

For Natives in Tech we rely on Slack, Discourse, GitHub, social media, and our website in order to connect with Native peoples online so that we can ask questions and grow in a tech space that centers our identity and culture.

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Provide evidence that this technology works. Please cite your sources.

Here are some stats about the technologies we use:

  • 110+ and 90+ allies (207 total) Native peoples in our Slack
  • 1.5K+ Twitter followers with an average reach of 30K tweet impressions per month with a max of 40K tweet impressions per month
  • 1K+ visitors to our various sites (NiT website, ThisLandIStand, etc.)
  • 3K+ page views per month to our Discourse
  • 10+ repositories in our GitHub organization

Links

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Big Data
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications
  • Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality
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What is your theory of change?

Our theory of change goes:

  • Creating free content to share on our YouTube/Discourse/Blog and projects on our GitHub
  • Native people see the content, learn from it, want to replicate it, or are inspired by it
  • More Natives will want to participate in tech
  • More Natives will begin developing technology
  • More tech and innovation will be developed for Native peoples
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 4. Quality Education
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
  • 15. Life on Land
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In which state(s) do you currently operate?

  • Oklahoma
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In which state(s) will you be operating within the next year?

  • Oklahoma
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

We currenlty serve around 110+ Native peoples right now in terms of our Slack presence. As far those who are active I would maybe say about 30 or so. In the next five years, we hope to reach around 500+ Native peoples in our Slack with an active number of around 100 people.

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and -- importantly -- how will you achieve them?

The goal of Natives in Tech over the next year is to continue to grow the Natives in Tech community through meetups, conferences, and open source projects. In the next five years we would like to become an organization with an executive director and several other employees working toward making tech accessible to Native peoples. The way we get there is by continuing to put content out there that shows the amazing things that Native people are working on and doing in order to garner more financial support for our organization.

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

We measure our progress in a few ways. We want to see increases in these metrics:

  • Backers in our Open Collective each month
  • Searches for our site each month
  • Users of our sites each month
  • Repositories under our Natives in Tech GitHub organization each year
  • Users in our Slack each month
  • Meetups each year
  • Conference each year
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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

Because we are an all volunteer organization, most of our barriers are financial. We would like to hire more full-time staff in order to grow projects and programs that we think would have a positive impact on the Native tech community. Other barriers are more social in nature. Working on getting more Native people into tech will not be easy as their is stigma that only certain types of people work in tech. We need to continue to dispel these myths and reach Native folks enough to change their mind about what tech workers look like.

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

We overcome our barriers by working on our projects outside of work. This however puts a lot of burden on our volunteers which we do not like to do. We will continue to pursue funding as much as is possible considering the amount of resources we have currently. As far as social barriers, the best thing we can do, and are doing, is putting out content on YouTube for Native people to access and see themselves in. We hope to put out even more content over the years to make being a Native person in tech as normal as going to college.

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

Our team includes:

  • Coty Sutherland (Waccamaw Siouan, Volunteer, Redhat) - Board of Director
  • Nick Sahler (Taíno, Volunteer, Netflix) - Board of Director
  • Adam Recvlohe (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Volunteer, SimSpace Corporation) - Board of Director
  • Shea Vassar (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Part-time, Independent Contractor) - Social Media Manager
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How long have you been working on your solution?

4 years

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

We are a board made up of Native people with several years of experience in the software development industry working for large and mid-size companies. Coty Sutherland works at Red Hat, Nick Sahler works at Netflix, and I work at SimSpace Corporation. We have tons of experience and so that gives us an edge in providing the most up-to-date solutions to our projects.

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

We are a mix of Native folks who come from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds in technology. We are working to recruit more women to the leadership team as the program builds. We are currently recruiting more women to the board of directors for our non-profit.

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

Our barriers include:

  • A strong ecosystem hub for Native peoples
  • Access to technology for Native peoples
  • Opportunities for Native peoples to grow in tech and make architecture decisions
  • Financial support for full-time employees

We are applying to Solve in order to address each of these barriers above. With funding from Solve we can:

  •  Grow our ecosystem hub on Slack by reaching more Native peoples
  • Gain access to other Native peoples in tech, through Solve, and collaborate with them in fostering Native centric application development
  • Collaborate with technical architects at MiT that can help us broaden the scope of our work and the way in which we solve problems in our communities
  • Create employment opportunities for Native peoples to work on these projects full-time which brings monies into Native communities while also building Natives in Tech
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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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Please explain in more detail here.

We are seeking help with:

  • Funding for an executive director to lead the development of the different projects
  • Funding for technologists to build on existing projects and to create new projects
  • Additional funding for our existing social media manager to work more on our social media campaigns
  • Funding for various needs that each project has that will help it to increase its reach and usage
  • Network with the broader Native community that can bring more attention to our work
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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

We would like to partner with:

  • Austin Serio and his work already with Solve
  • Michael Running Wolf and his work with Indigenous in AI
  • KŪ KAHAKALAU and her work in the Native tech space
  • MiT faculty working in tech with offline and decentralized architectures
  • Dr. Elizabeth Rule and her work on the Indigenous Guide to D.C.
  • D. Fox Harrel and his work with VR/AR
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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Prize to advance your solution?

The prize would help us with:

  • Funding for an executive director to lead the development of the different projects
  • Funding for various needs that each project has that will help it to increase its reach and usage
  • Increase the financial well-being of Native peoples due to increased opportunities for Native peoples in tech or getting into tech through our projects
  • Grow the tech community that Native people can tap into to further their abilities amidst the stress of project development


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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI For Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Innovation for Women Prize to advance your solution?

With this funding we can:

  • Provide funding for the MMIW face mesh app that connects interested persons who want to support this cause on social media and also by connecting with others on the platform
  • Provide funding for technologists currently working on the existing project
  • Provide funding for the technology needed to provide this service (servers)
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Solution Team

 
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