By Julia Guest
Campus News Reporter

Students in UC Santa Cruz’s Global Information Internship Program are using technology as a means to help solve social justice issues around the world and issues in organizations on campus.

The Global Information Internship Program (GIIP) tackles social issues by partnering with nonprofit organizations that seek the technological skills to keep their organizations sustainable. Fellows — UCSC students who organize and work on GIIP projects — show nonprofit organizations how to use technology like databases, online project management sites, Excel spreadsheets and web design programs. With the help of these programs, organizations such as the Center for Multicultural Cooperation and the Riecken Foundation, can reach their goals faster and more efficiently.

Students begin their training through the Sociology 30 and 80 classes on campus, which cover the ways in which technology can help fix social injustices.

Adam Thompson, associate director of GIIP, co-teaches a GIIP class with a fellow this quarter on databases. Now a graduate of UCSC, Thompson has been teaching for GIIP since spring quarter of his sophomore year.

“When I taught the database class, people used what I taught them to build a database for a women weaving project in Chiapas to keep track of inventory and sales,” he said. “So one thing that we taught had this great effect and people actually used it.”

Thompson said one of GIIP’s main projects right now is working on how technology can help the Oakland Rising Coalition — a social justice group concerned with voter registration — to keep track of their coalition’s members and people they have gotten to vote. Fellows will go to Oakland in May and run a daylong training session with the Oakland Rising Coalition on databases and other helpful computer organizing tools.

“Instead of digging through a bunch of file cabinets for member names and voter names, a database can quickly find people who are registered to vote,” Thompson said.

Last Saturday, GIIP fellows Suzi Grishpul and Natasha Collins coordinated the first of many “Power Up Your Org” workshops for student organizations at UCSC. The goal of the workshop was to get an idea of what student leaders find difficult in managing their organizations, and finally teaching them about computer and online resources like Google Documents and BaseCamp which could help fix these difficulties. These online tools allow club members to post and edit club presentations online.

“The sites allow student leaders to delegate tasks online so that everyone can see what everyone else is working on,” Grishpul said. “Student leaders get more feedback online, so they don’t have to have physical meetings all the time.”

Members from the Student Environmental Center, Kinetic Poetics Project and the Service Learning Center attended the event.

“We talk about internal project management,” Collins said. “We talk about how to use technology as a tool to get past some problems and dilemmas [in student-run organizations].”

GIIP currently receives no funding from UCSC. Gail Chadwin, a GIIP fellow, campaigned to get GIIP on the UCSC referendum. GIIP needs 25 percent of student votes on May 14, when students will cast their votes on a variety of measures that will affect student fees. The $1.33 fee per student that GIIP seeks will help provide funding for student internships with nonprofit organizations, among other things.

“We know students here are interested in social justice issues,” Chadwin said, “so we hope people will identify with GIIP’s causes.”