It’s Time to Level Up! What’s Next for TechBridge?

Every organization wants to level up. TechBridge is doing it by taking our approach to ending generational poverty through the innovative use of technology national! To find out more, listen to this episode.


TBT - EP01 - Nicole Armstrong and John Hutchins

John Hutchins::

We realized that poverty is the generational thing. Um, and that, you know, th the really for somebody to get out of poverty, they have to have, um, $10,000 say,

Nicole Armstrong::

Fresh, probably about five, six years ago, where we started to talk about this idea of breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Adam Walker::

This is Techbridge talks, a podcast exploring how we can use technology to break the cycle of generational poverty.

I'm joined today by Nicole Armstrong. Techbridge's CEO. And John Hutchins, Techbridge his board chair this year at our 2021 digital ball. We announced that we're doing something we've never done before. We're going national. Stay tuned to hear more about what going national means for Techbridge and how we plan on level.

In order to alleviate generational poverty by providing predictable pathways out of poverty for those in need.

Nicole and John, welcome to the show.

John Hutchins::

Thank you, Adam. Thanks Adam. I'm

Adam Walker::

really excited to have this discussion. Uh, thanks for joining me. This is a big deal. Uh, I think we sort of alluded to it in our, in our last episode. Uh, but now I really want to expand on that. So, Nicole, let's start with you. Uh, what's the big news and how is tech bridge level?

Nicole Armstrong::

Wonderful. So the big news is that we have established a national board of directors, and I think that's important because we really, while Atlanta will continue to be our home and, and it's very important that we can continue to deposit into the community. What we've realized is that if we establish a national board of directors, Uh, across the nation and we will be able to one tap into the expertise that they can bring to the table for tech bridge.

But more importantly is really look at how we get our tools and our systems in the hands of many other nonprofits. And so we're really excited about the opportunity to do that.

Adam Walker::

I'm excited about it too. I think it's going to give us a really great opportunity to serve so many people nationwide. So, so John.

Question for you. You're the tech bridge board chair, which is, uh, a big and involve positions. I've got really got two questions. What's your focus as the board chair in, why were you willing to take on such a big responsibility?

John Hutchins::

Um, my focus at the, uh, at the board chair, um, For the last year, uh, has been working with Nicole very intensely on trying to transition our board from what was three local boards, one in Georgia, one in Alabama, and one in Tennessee.

To, uh, this launching place where we can have a national board and we can have, uh, folks from all over the nation, uh, some, some high profile people on our board, um, from across the nation. And that's, it's been, uh, it's been a big job, uh, to try to make that transition. Primarily my, my number one focus is communicating with our current board about, you know, where we are now, what, what is going to look like.

And then, you know, helping to try to, um, put some strategy around who we're going after being very clear about, uh, you know, who we'd like on our board and, um, working with the nominating committee that we put together to try to identify those people and, and get the right people on our board, uh, for the future.

Adam Walker::

I love that. I love that. I can't wait to see where all of this goes. So, uh, so speaking of, of where we're going, Nicole, we're, we're talking about. Techbridge is going national, but in reality, we've had a national footprint for some time. Can you talk a little bit more about.

Nicole Armstrong::

Sure. So it's interesting because I think we kind of did a mission refresh probably about five, six years ago, where we started to talk about this idea of breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Uh, and then, so, so we, we had the shift and then we started developing. Platform called justice server about three years ago. And I think what happens by perhaps by accident, right? Cause innovation sometimes happens by accident is that we built this phenomenal platform and we started getting requests for our justice server platform across the nation.

And so right now, We're in three states, uh, in eight states. And, uh, I think over 50 cities. And when I joined tech bridge, I started to think, Hmm, this is interesting. So we're based in Atlanta. We can continue to add value to the Atlanta community, but what would happen if we took our other platforms, many of which are unknown to, to the, the broader community.

And what if we took those. Made those available nationally. And so when we think about some of our core platforms, our supply chain management for hunger platform, which has been in existence and have been used by feeding America for over a decade, what if we took that platform and iterations of that platform?

And made it available nationally, and we're doing a lot of work and homework with United way. We're learning a ton, a ton about how we kind of create, provide access to key services faster for families experiencing homelessness. So what we're calling our home Bridger application and made available nationally.

And then what if we take our workforce development efforts, particularly our TCP program, and then the platform that we are creating that will be, that we can put in the hands of other workforce development agencies. What have we then made that available? Nationally? We could really, really number one, begin to have a.

More pervasive impact on this breaking the cycle of poverty. But more importantly, we will be able to get data across these four pillars that, that no one really collectively is pulling together. And so, so that's what it, that's the reason why John and I kind of sat down with the board and said, wait, we could continue to have a local impact, but also.

Uh, share that nationally. And so I was super excited about what that means for, for us going

Adam Walker::

forward. Me too. And it makes sense, right? I mean, technology does not, is not limited by geography. And so there's no reason that we can't. Non-profits uh, all over the country and perhaps even beyond in the future.

So, um, I love that. So, uh, this next question, a two-part question for both of you, I'd love to have you sort of both weigh in on this. Uh, so John, we could start with you. Uh, so, so Techbridge's mission, as we've mentioned so far on the show is to end generational poverty through the innovative use of technology.

And so. Just simple question, but I think it's worth asking is why is ending generational poverty important? And why is technology such an important component of doing that?

John Hutchins::

Yeah, well, I mean, the, the reason it's important is because, um, you know, poverty doesn't exist in a vacuum. Poverty is generational.

Um, and when you really start, when we. Did this shift to really start focusing on poverty. We used to do work for all kinds of nonprofits, and we did a shift a number of years ago to focus on poverty and very quickly, uh, as we got into that and learned more about poverty and, and, and worked with more nonprofits who were, uh, trying to have an impact on poverty.

We realized that poverty is a generational thing. Um, and that, you know, th the really for somebody to get out of poverty, they have to have, um, $10,000 saved, uh, which seems like a small amount of money, uh, unless you, you and your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents have been in poverty for a hundred years, then $10,000 is a lot of money.

So, um, that's one of the things that that came about with technology career program is we wanted to teach people how to save the money that they earn so they could build up some wealth. There are a lot of different things about, um, poverty and, and the accumulation of wealth that we could talk about forever.

That's the reason we focused on generational poverty is because there's really only one kind of poverty and it's generational poverty. So,

Adam Walker::

so why is technology important, uh, in, in ending generational poverty?

John Hutchins::

Well, because you know, you have to use the resources that you can bring to bear. Right. And, um, so technology, um, can have a greater impact across a broader, you know, one of the things that, um, Nicole sentiment, again, Talking about local impact, this move to national.

We still want to have a local impact, but we want to have it in more localities than we currently do. But the local localities across the nation, the impact is ultimately going to be local, but, you know, bringing technology to bear, you can, you can impact more. Local communities, um, with less resources, if we take our platforms and we make them available in other localities and other to other non-profits who are working in multiple localities, like the United way, as an example, you know, we can have a bigger impact.

And so technology for us, it's all about impact. Um, you know, we, we, we don't. We're not looking for credit. We're not looking for fame. We're not looking for notoriety. What we're looking at is having an impact and really making a difference in the lives of individual people on the local level.

Adam Walker::

I love that.

So, Nicole, over to you, uh, what, what would you say about ending generational poverty and in what role technology plays in that.

Nicole Armstrong::

Well, I love John's responses and, uh, just to kind of tack onto it. I think the first thing is Dessa. We just talk numbers, right? And we talk about kind of the shift that happened, uh, that tech bridge kind of embraced and why we did it in Atlanta.

And that's because as we all know, Atlanta is the most unequal large city in America, a 24% poverty rate. One in every four people are in poverty. So, so it made sense that we really wanted to double down our efforts on figuring out how do we break this? And so we kind of looked at really four key pillars.

Uh, of that we believe are all kind of tied into poverty. The first is hunger. One in six households in America are currently food insecure. And that means that, um, that, that they have little to no access to food. It could be your next door neighbor or the house across the street. Uh, pre COVID. That was 37 million post COVID, 54 million families wake up every day.

Hungry. Wow. Right. If we then think about what's happening in homelessness, 2.2% of the population in America experienced homelessness and that's what's reported so 17 out of every 10,000 people don't have a place to sleep, have a place. This is like, so if we get talking about working. You don't have a place to lay their heads.

And then if we think about what's happening in social justice, where access to justice is more critical than ever before, American's need a lawyer from everything from unjust evictions to wrongful conviction and denying access to legal assistance, is to deny their rights and protection. And then we kind of go to workforce development.

We are seeing this digital equity gap. So even if we solve for hunger or homelessness for social justice, making sure that marginalized communities are a part of the job for the future is the only way we keep them from the other three. So as you can see, I get really excited because these are real big problems that we need to solve.

The reason why I think that technology is important is if we do a look back 30 or 40 years ago, In order to solve for hunger folks were going door to door, or you have to go to the, um, the shelter or you had to go to a food, a food agency to get food. And what technology does is technology is a force multiplier.

Technology allows us to access more people and to use to use means so that we can really help digitize the ability to serve people. And so. I think that now more than ever, we can break the cycle of generational poverty through the use of innovative technology. By, as John said, putting these technical assets into the hands of as many nonprofits as possible.

Adam Walker::

All right. I love that. Wow. That was inspiring. Inspiring. Thank you so much. So another question to both of you a little bit, a little bit more on the personal side, but I just want to get to know kind of this side of you a little bit. So, Nicole, you mentioned our four pillars, hunger relief, homeless support, social justice, and workforce development of those four pillars, which is your favorite to focus on and why?

I know that's tough. I know it's hard to ask the question about, I got to ask Nicola, start with you. Probably

Nicole Armstrong::

go with workforce development, just because I'm a tech, I'm a closet closet tech. And I believe that as we look at the future that not having digital skills. Uh, we'll, we'll definitely be a huge disadvantage.

And so if we can continue to work towards closing what I, I actually don't even think that it's a digital equity gap. I think it's, I think it's a charity that's happening. That's growing that continues to grow, particularly as we come out of COVID it is absolutely critical that not only adults, but. Kids and the youth understand the power of technology so that they can become problem solvers to help solve many of the issues that we're trying to solve right now at tech bridge.

Adam Walker::

That's right. That's right. That's great. All right, John, which of the four pillars, uh, is your favorite and why?

John Hutchins::

I have to say probably hunger, because that's the thing that I've been involved in personally longer than any of the other four pillars. I mean, social justice is something that I've, I care very much about, cause I'm a lawyer.

Uh, but hunger, I think, you know, it just absolutely boggles my mind that, you know, 54 million people wake up in America every morning. Not knowing where their next meal is gonna come from. And you know, that's really the difference between hunger and food insecurity is what we struggle with in this country is more food insecurity than anything like you wake up and you've got kids to feed and you don't know where.

You're going to get the resources to feed them. And the reason I think hunger is, is such a, a sort of an attractive problem to me is because it's totally solvable. It's not in this country. It's not a supply issue where we don't have a shortage of food in this country. As a matter of fact, it's just the opposite.

We have an over abundance of food. Distribution issue. It's an access to resources issue. So going back to the issue of why technology is something that you can use to solve some of these problems, you know, in the old days, like, uh, Nicole was talking about if you were hungry or you needed some food to feed your kids, you'd go to.

The local food agency, the food pantry, but what if you get to the food pantry and there's no food there, but there's, but there's food at a food pantry, two miles away. You'd have no way of knowing that. And those food pantries didn't have a way to communicate with each other. And that's what our technology has solved for.

Now. Now food agencies can communicate with each other. And so you can tell somebody who shows up your food pantry and they're looking for cereal to feed their kids. And you're out of cereal. You can say there's a food pantry, two miles away from here that has, um, that has cereal and you can go there and get it.

Now there's another problem with that is, uh, has the person going to get from where they are to where they need to be, but that's a distribution issue. So. You know, rather than rely on having to, uh, have the individual rely on their own, you know, two feet to walk two miles, we can more equitably district distribute the food, using our technology so that they don't show up at a food pantry and they can't get what they need.

So, um, you know, it's a very solvable problem and yeah. Technology helps to solve those problems.

Adam Walker::

That's right. Sorry. That's why we're, that's why we're here. That's why we're doing this. So, uh, so Nicole, last question to you. We started the conversation talking about going now. Uh, we we've, we've dug into that a little bit.

We were going national. It's a big deal and it's a complex process. So what is next? What should people expect next from Techbridge as we're leveling up?

Nicole Armstrong::

I think the next is, uh, expect some big announcements on a board appointed. In terms of our national board. And then I also think just as we begin to continue to, uh, formulate our go to market strategy for some of our largest products, expect to hear about that and, uh, and, and expect to hear about how we plan to get our technology in the hands of as many nonprofits as possible.

Adam Walker::

That's perfect. That's perfect. Well, this has been fantastic. Inspiring. I always enjoy talking to you. Thank you so much for joining me today for this. Gotcha.

Nicole Armstrong::

Thank you, Adam. Thank you, John.

John Hutchins::

Thank you both. I enjoyed it.

Adam Walker::

Thank you. Listening to Techbridge talks a podcast about breaking the cycle of generational poverty through the innovative use of technology.

This podcast is produced by tech bridge to find out more about our work and how you can be a part visit tech that's tech Also make sure to follow us on social media. Thanks again for listening and tune in next week for more great content.