Technology for Social Change: A Contemplative Approach

by Jim Fruchterman, CEO at Benetech

My dream is that the benefits of technology reach all of humanity. My upcoming visit to Naropa is a chance to explore the connection between my dream and the university’s unique leadership role at the intersection of contemplative education and social entrepreneurship. I am looking forward to learning even more about the affinities between Naropa’s Buddhist-inspired values and the principles of Benetech, the technology nonprofit that I founded.

Naropa teaches its students to put wisdom and mindfulness into practice in service of the greater good, while Benetech is rooted in the premise that we must bring human insight and social responsibility into the technology sector’s practice. As a social enterprise, our goal is to see to it that the benefits of the digital age touch the lives of all people, not just of the wealthiest or most able.

As a nonprofit social enterprise, we’re freed from the need to make large sums of money in our work. We’ve built the largest accessible online library of braille and talking books for people with disabilities like blindness or dyslexia, providing equal opportunity to succeed at school and beyond. We serve the human rights community with secure software tools to capture the stories of human suffering to make advocates more powerful in their search for justice and reconciliation. We make matches between many volunteer technologists and software projects for social good. Our team is always looking for new ways to create positive social change at scale.

No technology degrees are necessary to accomplish this. We can do so by being open, cultivating generosity, and bridging an entrepreneurial mindset with a spirit of giving. I see this approach as an authentic expression of contemplative practice that channels Naropa’s motto: “Transform yourself. Transform the world.”

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