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Digital Impact: Reflections from New York City

Data World Tour, Opinion

Lucy Bernholz reflects on lessons learned from social sector leaders at Digital Impact New York City

The Digital Civil Society Lab welcomed 80 civil society leaders to the Digital Impact World Tour convening in New York City on October 23.

Given the depth and breadth of the academic and civic tech communities in New York, the panel discussions were particularly illuminating. Throughout the previous eight global conversations we have convened this year around the “possibilities and responsibilities” of the digital age for civil society, we have examined the implications of digital dependencies between civil society, the marketplace, and the public sector from the perspectives of a variety of activists, funders, nonprofits, tech developers, and scholars.

In New York, we also heard from civic innovators seeking new business models for data-driven businesses and neuroscientists examining the ethical implications of emerging technologies. Both areas of work reflect the extent of change that digital dependence is creating for civil society.

The NYC conversation focused directly on the ways digital environments are reshaping our experience of constitutional rights to speech and assembly, as well as the structure of civil society. Our own Rob Reich facilitated a discussion highlighting efforts by artists, technologists, racial justice advocates, and First Amendment activists to protect human and civil rights using digital tools.

This conversation demonstrated how these concerns are relevant and pressing issues for all nonprofits and contributing to a shared sense of fragile democratic institutions.

Videos of the panel sessions and interviews with individual speakers will be posted soon. You can also check out what NYC participants contributed to the Digital Impact “Idea Board” of digital resources they use and need in civil society. Our next stop is Mumbai in February 2018 where we are partnering with GuideStar India – stay tuned!