Tech developer talks civic good

After making a name for himself in the private sector, Jason Kunesh wondered how he could take his computing skills and use them to make a positive impact on the world.

The Co-Founder and CEO of Public Good and Co-Founder of Groupon, Kunesh believes he may have come up with the answer to this question. Kunesh spoke on the topic of civic engagement on Wednesday at an event hosted by the Institute for Leadership and Service.

Kunesh began the night by explaining his background as a model of the “story of me, story of us, story of now” model of civic engagement created by Marshall Ganz, the creator of the grassroots organizing model that helped President Obama win the 2008 and 2012 elections. Kunesh himself worked for 18 months on the Obama campaign in 2012 as one of many technical experts hoping to digitize and revolutionize the campaign to garner a re-election for Obama.

Kunesh initially spoke about two key points: valuing everyone’s work and simplifying the process, both lessons he learned while working on the Obama campaign. If his work hadn’t been valued, Kunesh said, he never would have ended up working with Obama for America.

“I never thought going to school as an English major that I would end up working on a presidential campaign,” he said.

After President Obama’s re-election, Kunesh felt the need for a collection of those same technical designers to unite in order to bring technology to the social sector in order to promote public good.

Kunesh’s corporation began in Chicago’s Harold Washington Library as a resource for those looking to start their own businesses or nonprofits. Since its humble beginning, Public Good has worked with hundreds of news and media outlets to connect users with nonprofit organizations having to do with their interests and passions.

The Institute for Leadership and Service reached out to Kunesh after alumna Anna DeLuna visited campus last year and suggested him. Overall, Kunesh drew a wide and diverse crowd, something Director of the Institute for Leadership and Service Elizabeth Lynn couldn’t be happier with.

“I expect each person will take something different away because I suspect each person is at a different starting place,” Lynn said. “I would hope that each person took away a great deal of encouragement for their own future pathway to purpose, that they can trust that if they engage in some of the really interesting and difficult problems of this world and they bring their skills to bear on them, they can try with other wonderful people and make a real difference for good.”

Student Kellie McAllister found particular encouragement in the opportunity to unite technology and internet with the nonprofit sector.

“I can see how the metric and the measurements for these things work,” McAllister said. “Combining the internet and making volunteer work more efficient in the nonprofit sector is super beneficial.”

Kunesh’s talk came as a part of the Pathways to Purpose speaker series. The next speaker in the series is Kurt Senske, CEO of Upbring, speaking on “Faith, Character and Calling.” Senske will speak on Oct. 5 beginning at 5:30 p.m in the Helge Center.

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