‘Activate and do something’ for Pittsburgh at this social justice workshop

“It’s an opportunity for people to activate and do something.”

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
MJ Slaby

Updated, 1:08 p.m. Monday. Doors open at 6 tonight for the event, and the program now starts at 6:30 p.m.

It started as an idea to promote faith-based innovation. But then the November 2016 election happened.

“Right now, you see so many rallies and vigils and people organizing,” said Zack Block, executive director of Repair the World Pittsburgh, a Jewish organization that focuses on food and education issues, as well as recruiting volunteers for partner organizations.

So he expanded an idea for an innovation event to welcome anyone who is looking around at the country and the city and thinking that “they want to do something.”

Cue the Social Justice Innovation Weekend that runs Friday to Sunday with pitch presentations Monday. The event focuses on social justice ideas in three areas — art, technology and faith.

Repair the World partnered with other organizations to make it happen: The Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Fygment, AlphaLab Gear, Ascender, Work Hard Pgh, Innovation Works, AlphaLab, Muslim Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Community Relations Council.

“It’s an opportunity for people to activate and do something,” Block said.

He added that he doesn’t care if attendees are liberal or conservative, as long as they work together and toward equity and access in various sectors.

“Pittsburgh is a city for all,” Block said.

How to get involved

First, you have to sign up here by Friday morning.

  • The event is free, but the Eventbrite offers a “pay what makes you happy” option that will go toward the event, Block said.
  • You’re committing to the entire weekend, so don’t make other plans.
  • Don’t forget your laptop, power cord, business cards or camera.

Weekend plans

The weekend starts with a kickoff dinner at 6 p.m. Friday night, and Mayor Bill Peduto and City Councilman Dan Gilman will be there. That will also be the time to pitch ideas.

Block said ideas can be anything from apps to community programs to just about any idea people have been thinking about in the areas of art, faith and technology.

Block said about 100 people signed up by Wednesday. Attendees don’t have to come as a team, but they can, as long as the team is willing to add new members and present a fresh idea. “In other words, if you’re incorporated, have a prototype, or even have a website up, you’re probably too far along to compete with that idea,” according to organizers.

Plan to workshop all day Saturday and Sunday. (Bonus! Meals and coffee are provided.)

Teams will form and work on pitches with mentors. Expect there to be networking opportunities with organizers and sponsors like the Forbes Fund, Block said.

The kickoff dinner and workshops happen in the building where Repair the World and AlphaLab are based, 6022-6024 Broad St. (East Liberty).

Monday presentations

After working on pitches all weekend, each team will present to a panel of community judges from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave. (East Liberty).

Judges will select a winner in each category. And Block said that, yes, there will be some money to help the winners make their ideas happen.

P.S. Can’t make it but want to hear the ideas? 

Block said he would “absolutely love” for the general public to come to the Monday night pitch event.