How Can We Build Tech to Serve the Public Interest?

September 30, 2021

September 30, 2021

6:00 PM To 8:00 PM

29 Little West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014


Event Description

This event will explore the growing and dynamic intersection of technology and social change

As the power, speed, and scale of technology continues to grow, many technologists are waking up to a new scope of responsibility — grappling with how their work intersects with civil and human rights, democracy, misinformation, inequality, and society at large. This panel will explore the emerging field of Public Interest Technology — a growing community of technologists, entrepreneurs, activists, regulators, artists, organizers, lawyers, and educators who are working to help ensure that tech advances can create a more prosperous and just future for all.

We will discuss the growing and dynamic intersection of technology and social change, as well as some of the following questions: How can we craft technology that truly serves the public interest? What is the role of the private sector in this work and what are some new approaches? How are folx building technology companies in ways that are more equitable, responsible, and sustainable? How are folx leveraging technology to address systemic problems in healthcare, education, criminal justice, media, and so on? And critically, what is our agency and responsibility as individual technologists entrepreneurs?

About Eli Pariser:

Eli Pariser is the co-director of New_Public, an incubator for better digital public spaces. He’s been an author, activist, and entrepreneur focused on how to make technology and media serve democracy. In 2004, at 23, he became Executive Director of, where he helped pioneer the practice of online citizen engagement. In 2006, he co-founded Avaaz, now the world’s largest citizen’s organization. His bestselling 2011 book The Filter Bubble introduced the term to the lexicon. And Upworthy, the media startup he co-founded in 2012, reached hundreds of millions of visitors with civically important content. He currently co-directs the New_ Public project with Talia Stroud at the National Conference on Citizenship.

About Roxann Stafford:

Roxann is the Managing Director of the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, a +$20-million independent joint venture formed by the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. With a focus on sustainability and equity, The Knight-Lenfest Fund is designed to strengthen local journalism at scale, through supporting journalistic excellence and serving the information needs of communities. The Fund’s framing is a mutual aid approach to journalism where news and information are a vehicle for solidarity and increased agency.

She was previously the Director of Program (NYC) for Matter, a startup accelerator and venture capital firm grounded in the principles of design thinking that supports early-stage media entrepreneurs and mission-aligned media institutions building scalable ventures that make society more informed, inclusive, and empathetic.

Roxann works with individuals, organizations, companies, governments and communities on how to thrive in a state of reinvention and reimagination with a particular emphasis on the relationship between self agency and community agency. Roxann earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Product Design from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from Duke University, with concentrations in social entrepreneurship and strategy, and is a member of the Guild of Future Architects.

About Michelle Shevin:

Michelle Shevin is Senior Program Manager of the Public Interest Technology Catalyst Fund at the Ford Foundation. In the spirit of public interest law, the fund aims to build and sustain public-centered institutions, diverse career pathways, and robust networks of aligned organizations expanding the space for justice and accountability. She also teaches critical futures thinking methodologies at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

About Lyel Resner:

Lyel Resner is a technologist, entrepreneur, educator, and advisor. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer and Head of the Public Interest Technology Studio at Cornell Tech, Cofounder of the Startups & Society Initiative, an Adjunct Professor at NYU, and a Fellow at the MIT Civic Data Lab,

Previously, he co-founded Swayable (YC W18) — a public benefit corporation that uses data science to create more persuasive media for many of the worlds leading advocacy organizations, social + political campaigns, and brands.

He advises a number of tech companies, funders, investors, and NGOs, on responsible tech practices. Through this work, he helps clients build organizations and products that maximize business and public benefit objectives.

Lyel’s work has been featured in Fast Company, Wired, Techcrunch, The Financial Times, LA Times, Techonomy, Edweek, Bloomberg, and others. He sits on the boards The Centre for Social Innovation, Sourcemap, Elis, Kibo School, and The Bronx Academy for Software Engineering. He has degrees in Physics and Political Science at MIT, where he was a Burchard Scholar.

Hosted by Yaël Eisenstat:

Yaël is a Future of Democracy Fellow at Berggruen Institute and a Researcher-in-Residence at Betalab, working at the intersection of tech, democracy, and policy. She focuses on what the public square and open, democratic debate look like in the digital world and how we can change the current incentives to reconcile social media’s dominance of these public spaces with democratic principles. She strives to bridge the divide between government and tech, to help foster a healthier information ecosystem.

She has spent 20 years working around the globe on democracy and security issues as a CIA officer, a White House advisor, the Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations for political advertising at Facebook, a diplomat, and the head of a global risk firm. As a Visiting Fellow at Cornell Tech’s Digital Life Initiative, she focused on technology’s effects on discourse and democracy and taught a multi-university course on Tech, Media and Democracy.

NOTE: Betaworks Studios requires all in-person visitors to be vaccinated, and therefore mask use at Betaworks Studios is optional. To attend this event you will be required to show proof of full vaccination to enter the Club.‍

Two ways that you can show proof:

  1. Show us your official vaccine card (photo of card NOT accepted) with at least 2 weeks having passed since the date of the last required dose (1 dose for J&J/AstraZeneca, 2 for Pfizer/Moderna)
  2. Present your NY State Excelsior Pass with an active Vaccination pass


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About the Organizers

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