Recently I had the chance to see how smart technology, applied to vexing social problems, can help provide solutions and build a better world. Working with the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation (ABA), we’re deeply engaged in an effort to create a better path for those who believe they’ve been victimized by a hate crime to find out whether a crime has been committed, what rights they have, and where to get help.
One of the reasons that after 20 years at Cisco I’m still excited to jump out of bed and start work every day is because we have a community and culture that is inclusive and protects and defends those who elsewhere in society may be marginalized or victimized. We’ve always emphasized the importance of celebrating difference and zero tolerance toward those who would undermine that culture. Those aspirations, while largely fulfilled in my company, are often more challenging in the society at large. Some subcultures even encourage words and actions that are designed to intimidate and spread fear, so that others are denied to chance to live in peace and freedom in our society.
For historical reasons, our legal community has built up a set of rules and practices that make it too hard for ordinary folks to vindicate their legal rights. Organizations as diverse as the FBI and UC Berkeley have done a great job at providing online information resources to help hate crimes victims learn what to do. The information tends to be specialized, however,or not directly actionable.
The ABA has seen that victims are frequently discouraged from taking action because of the multiple steps required. People are used to using clean, highly designed apps in their daily lives and the Center for Innovation’s working group sought to develop a clearly organized and user-friendly website application to determine if a hate crime had been committed, what resources are available and what next steps a victim could take with law enforcement and within the judicial system.
The ABA’s “design sprint” convened lawyers, scholars, designers, and coders for a daylong working session at Suffolk University in Boston, whose Dean, Andrew Perlman, leads the ABA Center for Innovation. The challenge was to develop a website application that gives those who think they have been victims of hate crimes the information and resources they need.
Cisco was a sponsor of the event and I was proud be there and witness first-hand the incredible challenges we can tackle by working together. At Cisco we’ve always believed in the power of the networking technology we invent and build to break down barriers to information. We strive to deploy that technology to empower the disempowered to build bridges.
We applaud the foresight of the ABA for establishing its Center for Innovation and tackling tough issues like this one.