Tech and Society

Two New Grants Take SCE into the Digital Age

Partnerships with Center for Humane Technology and University of Wisconsin launch SCE’s exploration into well-being

In some ways, the convergence of Digital Learning and Social and Emotional Learning was inevitable: In this highly connected era, success requires the application of foundational skills (social and emotional) in new environments (digital). But 2018 grants with Chicago Ideas, Common Sense Media, and, as well as a three month research effort, also taught us that it’s not just about digital environments. It’s about digital life.

Indeed, the Digital Age requires us to re-examine fundamental aspects of human connection and behavior. Our relationships, our rights, our responsibilities, and ultimately – our individual and collective well-being – are being influenced by a world with ubiquitous technology.

SCE is pleased to announce two new grants that will usher in a new period of grantmaking focused on well-being in the Digital Age. Center for Humane Technology and University of Wisconsin’s Social Media & Adolescent Health Research Team are leading organizations who are making immediate contributions to the field. Both organizations are first-time grantees for SCE.

Center for Humane Technology (CHT)

CHT advocates for the ethical design of technology, arguing that today’s products are often motivated by business interests rather than human interests. Led by former Google Design Ethicist, Tristan Harris, CHT is comprised of former tech industry insiders and investors and a global thought leader for this cause.

To achieve its mission, the organization focuses on public awareness, public policy, and training and consultation for technologists. Increasingly, CHT is focused on youth engagement, and SCE awarded a one-year Learning Grant to support its outreach program that educates young people about the ethics and impact of the technologies they use. CHT also provides them with recommendations for a healthier digital balance and maximizing their digital experience. Specifically, the Learning Grant will enable CHT’s newly created initiative to:

  • Create and share high quality, evidence-informed resources with adolescents, parents, and educators at high schools across the U.S.
  • Launch a dissemination strategy to make the resources freely and widely available
  • Gather on-the-ground insights from adolescents, parents, and educators about the challenges they face and potential solutions

Why We Funded – Like SCE, CHT believes that mobilizing young people is a critical lever in this work. CHT’s resources also fill a gap in the field, as most traditional digital citizenship curriculums do not address the topic of “humane technology.”

University of Wisconsin, Social Media & Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT)

Dr. Megan Moreno, a practicing pediatrician and Principal Investigator of SMAHRT, is a leading voice in the field of adolescent mental health. Her team recently launched the Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness program (TAM). As part of TAM, six research teams from across the country will investigate adolescent behavior with regard to technology. One primary objective of the effort is to understand the world through the lens of the adolescent, not the technology, and to define, test, and disseminate pro-social or pro-wellness technology use.

The SCE Learning Grant will facilitate youth engagement throughout the project. Through a “TAM Youth Advisory Council,” a cohort of young people will attend regular meetings, collaborate with the TAM advisory committee, advise research teams, and contribute to key decisions. The youth council will also be involved in the planning and preparation for TAM’s 2019 Colloquium and help disseminate findings and deliverables.

Why We Funded – Dr. Moreno fundamentally believes that youth voice is needed if research is to result in meaningful, timely, and lasting change. This one-year grant provides her team with the necessary funding to thoughtfully engage young people and elevate their voices.

Ultimately, these two grants represent the beginning of a multi-year effort by SCE to ensure that well-being is a reality for all adolescents in the digital age. We’ll be announcing more initiatives in the coming months, and we are seeking partners and collaborators for this effort. Come and join us.