New Nonprofit Aims at Tech Collaboration, Social Change

A new nonprofit launched Wednesday by a tech advocacy group and a cofounder of Twitter will focus on using technology to drive improvements in the U.S. education system and other social changes.

One goal of ConvergeUS, the brainchild of the TechNet IT CEO network and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, is to convene diverse groups to work on a "technology innovation blueprint," a plan for using technology and social media to drive social change, its founders said. ConvergeUS will work with three other groups each year to work on social issues, with a summit every year where top thinkers in technology and social issues will gather in Silicon Valley, said Rey Ramsey, TechNet's CEO.

"We have some things really left to do for America," Ramsey said during a kick-off event. "Everybody in this room understands the transformative power of technology. There's almost no area in our lives untouched by technology. But there is remaining work to be done in the social sector."

A relatively slow pace of technological innovation in the social sector, compared to other areas of tech growth, "gnaws at me," Ramsey said.

ConvergeUS builds on a philosophy at Twitter that "doing good" is important, Stone said. "You can really have a positive global impact, you can make money, and you can have a lot of fun along the way," he said. "This is a new definition of success for business. You have all of these three things together, or you don't have success."

Julius Genachowski [cq], chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, praised the effort. "Anything that we can do to support this effort to converge our best minds, our best talent, our best platforms in the technology space, the business space, and the social space will pay tremendous, mutually reinforcing dividends for the country," he said.

The new group will host an annual summit starting late this year, with social innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, problem-solvers and subject matter experts invited to tackle social issues. The group will work on other social projects aside from the three identified as major focuses every year, the founders said.

ConvergeUS on Wednesday announced partnerships with two groups focused on improving parts of the U.S. education system, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a coalition focused on improving reading proficiency, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, focused on improving student performance in math and science education.

ConvergeUS has also named Babson College as an academic partner. The Massachusetts college has been ranked the No. 1 college for entrepreneurship for 14 straight years by U.S. News & World Report.

Another nonprofit partnership will be announced in a few weeks.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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