Transforming lives through digital literacy.

learners at Defy Ventures

CTN recently partnered with Defy Ventures to host a Tech Teach-in for their program participants, whom it calls entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs). Defy provides rigorous employment readiness, character development, and entrepreneurship training inside prisons, a welcome back to society that eases the reentry process, and robust post-release services, including job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation, and pitch competitions.

CTN board member Joyce Shanahan, who volunteers for Defy, introduced CTN’s executive director to their ED, Carrie Simon. While they were learning about each other’s organizations, Carrie shared that 20 of their current clients were expecting to receive a laptop but that a grant had run out, and they weren’t able to provide enough for everyone. CTN happened to have 20 Chromebooks sitting in the office closet that had been recently cleaned after being used for another project — so we suggested the teach-in, which would engage volunteers and raise awareness about their clients’ need for devices and training.

The event was hosted by Smart Recruiters, and there were seven EITs and four volunteers, along with Carrie and me. Two of the volunteers were Defy program graduates. During the event, every EIT received a Chromebook, and event volunteers and entrepreneurs worked together to set up Gmail accounts, Google Drive, Chrome extensions, and apps (including Spotify). The EITs had a diverse set of skills and backgrounds using technology. While most had used Microsoft Word or a Windows machine in the past, few had past experience with online documents and Chrome OS. The individual support provided by volunteers was very helpful in answering everyone’s questions.

Carrie was pleased with outcomes from the teach-in:

“The teach-in was invaluable to the entrepreneurs-in-training, many of whom were incarcerated before the advent of the smartphone and when laptops were still 10 pounds. Technical skills are a huge obstacle to obtaining employment, housing, and other basic necessities. CTN’s two-hour crash course not only improved their skills but, perhaps more importantly, gave them a sense of empowerment so they feel more comfortable with any challenges that lay ahead.”

For Tech Teach-in information in the Bay Area, contact Eric Babb at For information in the Austin area, contact Jessica Looney at

Teach-in at Defy Ventures

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Eric Babb