Chicago’s West Side Tech Scene Gets a Google Boost – Next City

Chicago’s West Side Tech Scene Gets a Google Boost

A student in Blue1647's Paige & Paxton program (Credit: Blue1647, via Facebook)

A key hub for the city of Chicago’s Tech Plan is getting a huge boost at a crucial moment for the organization.

Blue1647 was established in 2013 to provide opportunities for individuals from marginalized and underserved communities to participate in innovation and tech development. The nonprofit recently received a $500,000 grant from Google.org, the Internet giant’s philanthropy arm, reports ChicagoInno.

The grant comes just as the tech hub and co-working space moves into a new 250,000-square-foot location at Pilsen’s Lacuna Artist Lofts.

The money and the new space will go toward boosting Blue1647’s STEM and computer science offerings, including Code Chicago web development workshops, tech organization Latina Girls Code, and Paige & Paxton, which provides an introduction to STEM for kids under age 8. Blue1647 also hosts Minecraft coding boot camps targeted at youth.

The Chicago Tech Plan identifies correcting sparse exposure to technology and technology education and a lack of role models and proactive local mentorship as two top priorities for making sure Chicago’s tech scene “reflects the diversity and vitality of the city itself.”

Chicago is 32 percent white, 31 percent black, 6 percent Asian and 29 percent Hispanic. That’s a far cry from the tech industry, which is notoriously white and male-dominated. A report last summer from the Institute for a Competitive Inner City highlighted some examples of incubators that are trying to crack the “Silicon ceiling” in the tech industry.

Blue1647 appeared in that report as an example of a place-based incubator, one of several across the U.S. Pilsen, where Blue1647 is located, is a historically Mexican-American community on the west side of Chicago. A little more than half of the households in the neighborhood are Mexican-American, and street art in the neighborhood continues to reflect that heritage.

Oscar is a Next City 2015-2016 equitable cities fellow. A New York City-based journalist with a background in global development and social enterprise, he has written about impact investing, microfinance, fair trade, entrepreneurship and more for publications such as Fast Company and NextBillion.net. He has a B.A. in Economics from Villanova University.

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