Notable Women in Computing Decks in Gaza and the West Bank (+Another project)
Last week, Katy Dickinson and I took this Kickstarter to Gaza and the West Bank for a week of workshops and inspiring technical women in the Middle East (Katy's Twitter and my Instagram cover the trip in detail). Katy used the decks to showcase world-class mentors and we both used this project to teach crowd-funding.
The decks got a rave reception:
Sometimes it can seem like crowdfunding projects are ephemeral. The money goes in, the product comes out, and then after a month or two after all the orders are fulfilled all the energy dies down. It is over. But so far, this one kept going. It kept going through the website, where people from Qatar to San Francisco are buying decks every month. It kept going with everyone who gets a deck and loves it enough to tweet about it. And it kept going in the projects it inspires.
Last Monday, Katy and I taught a workshop at the start-up hub Gaza Sky Geeks on how to crowd fund a project idea. Sitting in that presentation were 2 college students from Gaza: Heba and Basel. Both are involved in start-ups supported by Gaza Sky Geeks. Together, they had started and nurtured Gaza's first ever Debate Club in circumstances that are beyond scary. Because of their Debate Club, they were both invited to the U.S. for events in the spring and summer, and came to the presentation looking for ideas on how to raise the money they need to travel from Gaza to Stanford University and Pennsylvania.
At our goodbye dinner, the 3 of us cleared plates of hummus and honeyed deserts, pulled out Heba's battered laptop, put it on the rutched-up white restaurant table-cloth, and got to work. Using what I had learned from the Notable Women in Computing Cards Kickstarter, we designed an attractive and achievable perk list and honed an update plan. We talked about how to be transparent and thankful, and the importance of constant communication.
We left Gaza Wednesday morning. By the end of Thursday, Katy and I had given that crowd funding presentation to two groups in Gaza, a group of women entrepreneurs in Ramallah and a mixed-gender university in Hebron. We reached about 250 people in 4 days.
Early Friday morning, I went through 3 hours of security at Ben Gurion airport and flew back to the Bay Area. By the time I landed at SFO, turned off airplane mode and popped open Facebook on my phone, Basel and Heba had launched their own crowd funding campaign. They had raised almost $1000, using the best practices we learned from running this Kickstarter. I could not stop smiling.
In reading the story above, you might have felt strong things about politics in the Middle East. Like Katy and I, you might have friends for whom the pain and danger there is a lived reality. All I know for certain about that region is that friends my Mom and I met in Jerusalem and Gaza were geeks. They are nerds who love computers and the internet and science fiction and superheroes and were excited by the hard, worthy work of telling the true history of women in technology.
We geeks are a strange community, with our attachments to our tricked-out devices and our lack of easy eye-contact, our few-but-firm-friendships and our passionately memorized lists. But I know that we are stronger when we stick together and offer other women a place at our nerdy table. It is a place women in technology have earned from the beginning. I also know bringing healthy debate and strong geekiness has a lot of potential to help the communities of the friends we visited.
It might well be that the deck of cards you bought from this Kickstarter is sitting on your game shelf next to Settlers and Carcassonne. The poster might still be in the tube as you try to find a 24x36 frame. But you should know that because you backed this project, half-way around the world, 2 geeky college students whose daily lives are harder than most of us have or will ever live are now 22% of their way to their goal in their first 3 days of seeking crowd funding.
For that and everything else you do for women in technology: thank you. I know I say it in every post, but I mean it in every post. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your support has touched so many lives. Thank you.