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Twitter Fights Poverty—How Else?—With Computers

Ian Eck | May 13, 2014 | Story Tech World

This morning, Twitter announced a partnership with the non-profit Compass Family Services to build a “Twitter Neighborhood Nest” in the mid-Market/Tenderloin area, which will devote itself to “reducing the technological divide that affects homeless and low-income families.”

This news comes a week after Salesforce’s Marc Benioff announced that his SFGives campaign had met its goal of raising $10 million to fight poverty in the city, thanks to $500,000 donations from 20 San Francisco companies, a list from which Twitter’s name was conspicuously absent.

Now it’s tempting to look at the words “Twitter Neighborhood Nest” and scoff at the snappy startup language and lofty sentiments. It could almost seem like the company is setting up a roost in the middle of the Tenderloin to perch over helpless chicks.

But no matter how deep your anti-tech cynicism runs, the initiative seems earnest. Twitter is, after all, a company devoted to what one might call the democratic spread of internet content, so it makes sense that their philanthropic endeavors would run in a similar vein: "I envision low-income families coming into the learning center to get tech support on a laptop which they might not otherwise be able to access or afford," said Compass Executive Director Erica Kish. "The basics—everything is done on the computer these days. Looking for housing and jobs, studying English, getting your GED."

In fact, in low-income central-city neighborhoods, 84% of households with children do not own computers, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Those numbers don’t spell out a pleasant future for those tech unsavy at-risk youth. Twitter’s Neighbor Nest plans to be a hub that not only provides the community with computers, software, and WiFi; but also promises hands-on technology education for children of all ages, as well as tech training and job search support for parents.

The Nest won't open until the summer of 2015, so the details are vague, but as of now it will be run by a combination of Twitter staffers and employee-volunteers. Though an exact location has yet to be decided, Twitter is currently looking for spots in the Tenderloin/Mid-Market area that are easily accessible to both Compass constituents and Twitter employees.

Kish says she welcomes their graciousness, but, after two years of Twitter’s grants, volunteer hours, and hardware donations, this latest partnership is no surprise. “It’s like going from dating to getting married.”

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