This Nonprofit Shows Coders how Rewarding Social Impact Coding can be

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Fancy dinners, state-of-the-art office space, big recruiting networks and even bigger IPOs. It’s easy to see why tech talent from Harvard and MIT flock to companies such as Facebook and Microsoft over the public and nonprofit sectors.

But believe it or not, the U.S. Census Bureau may be coming back into style.

Coding it Forward, the brainchild of Harvard students Chris Kuang, Athena Kan, and Neel Mehta, seeks to show promising tech students at colleges and universities across the country how rewarding it can be to use their skills for social impact.

The now-certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit quickly built up a network of over 1,000 students, breaking down the barriers to entry to socially-minded technology opportunities.

Then they partnered with the Census Bureau to create the Civic Digital Fellowship, a 10-week program that sent 14 highly-qualified students last year to intern at the agency for 10 weeks in Washington D.C.

The fellowship, which provides free travel and housing, as well as a $3,300 stipend for all participants, is the first fully-funded data science and technology internship program in the country partnered with a federal agency.

“It was troubling to us that the healthcare, education, nonprofit and government sectors have all traditionally been overlooked by tech talent,” Kuang told The Buzz. “The feedback we received on the fellowship is that it is a unique experience and an extremely valuable opportunity. It’s opening the eyes of the next generation of digital leaders to a variety of opportunities in social impact and civic technology.”

“We even had fellows turn down offers from Facebook and Microsoft,” Kuang added.

Coding it Forward was accepted into Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program in September, and is currently preparing for its second cohort of fellows. It has also grown its leadership team, welcoming 2017 fellows Rachel Dodell and Mariam Baqai as a board member and director of university partnerships respectively.

Kuang said this year’s fellowship program would support anywhere from 30 to 50 students at three federal agencies – the Census Bureau, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, positions are also available at a nonprofit and a mission-driven for-profit startup.

As a nonprofit, Kuang said the organization is always looking for grant opportunities and socially-minded tech students. If interested in helping or connecting, please email chris@codingitforward.com.

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