Sandy Jiang, College Eight (Rachel Carson College) 2016

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second most densely populated neighborhood besides the New York Chinatown in the United States. Chinatown is made up of 60% of Single Room Occupancies (SRO). A normal size of a SRO is eight feet by ten feet, which is very small. Such a small room is almost full with a bed, a closet and a desk but is housing up to three generations: grandparents, parents and the children. SRO’s demographic populations are mostly Chinese immigrant families who have very limited English language skills and digital skills. Parents of these immigrant households often are forced to work in low-wage positions due to their inability to speak English and their unfamiliarity with the Internet.

Ever since the 1990s, the importance of the Internet has been continuously growing especially in today’s highly digitized world. In global cities like San Francisco, the ability to maneuver the Internet also becomes an essential job skill. Since these immigrant workers are lacking such essential job skill, they end up in extremely disadvantaged positions where they have little knowledge on labor rights and job information. To bridge the digital gap and language barriers between SRO immigrant workers and the English speaking digital world and to help them to become more self-empowered, I began the SRO Worker’s Empowerment Project, facilitating workshops on tablets and conducting English lessons for participants.

I was able to implement my project with the generous contribution of the Everett Program who lent 10 tablets and funded $100 to my project. Additionally, my partner organization, Chinatown Community Development Center provided space and gave advice about outreaching to the SRO community. As a result, in the summer of 2015, I successfully engaged immigrant workers to be active participants in this project.

This report is dedicated to potential project implementers who have an interest in conducting a similar socially innovative project in Asian American communities, and serves as a guidebook for those who are passionate about making social changes along with the assistance of digital technology in disadvantaged communities. I hope to unfold the complex process of project implementation that I experienced and to seek solutions for obstacles and challenges that I encountered as a project implementer.
This report is purposely structured as a narrative of my experience as a socially innovative project implementer. Through reflections on the process, successes, and failures of the SRO Worker’s Empowerment Project, I start by discussing issues in the community, sharing my story with community involvement. Later, I explain my process with social entrepreneurship and project planning. I continue to talk about the actual project implementation, followed by project evaluation and lessons I learned for project implementation and social innovation.

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