Chris Bolman, Founder of Brightest
“I want to build technology that has heart – tech that’s inclusive, has empathy, and can serve as a canvas or catalyst for others to build movements or pursue what inspires them.”
Meet Chris Bolman. Chris is the founder of Brightest, which “builds smarter software for people, organizers, and companies who care.” He began his tech career as a climate justice advocate, working in solar energy, and continues to center this work at Brightest — advising such orgs as Extinction Rebellion. Chris is a volunteer for Bedford Stuyvesant-based Children of Promise, NYC, which mentors children of incarcerated parents. You can follow him via Twitter or Instagram.
What Does He Do?
“The mission of Brightest is to democratize startup-caliber tech to organizations and changemakers creating a positive impact in their community.”
Apart from growing Brightest, Chris is involved with the “occasional” climate action with Sunshine, XR NYC, or NY Renews. He respectfully nudges us to support the Climate & Community Protection Act.
How Did He Get Into This Work?
Chris was born in Brookline, Massachusetts to two school teachers who moved the family to Kansas City. In high school, he had a glancing relationship to civic engagement – as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
“I’d been in tech for about ten years and always aspired to make tools that have a positive impact on people’s lives. Circa 2015 I started feeling like I’d gotten away from that a bit, and was also digging more into political organizing (personally) based on where I saw the world heading.
Chris recalls two pivotal moments which caused him to recalibrate his focus and purpose:
- ”My frustration with the organizing tech I had to use in the 2016 election (coupled with one of my teammates’ experience building tech for the Sanders campaign) was when the proverbial ‘light went on’ upstairs: Movements are about message, mass, and momentum, and we can accelerate social progress by giving positive social movements better ways to reach and mobilize people and achieve that.”
- At one point Chris sought out a youth mentorship opportunity. He found the process daunting. “It was easier to get a driver’s license from the DMV. There were innumerable steps including paying for a background check.” They never even returned his calls. He ultimately discovered “Children of Promise” (cpnyc.org/) and saw that the organization was a perfect fit – and a mere two blocks from his office! He resolved to take the friction out of the volunteering process. Currently, he mentors Devon – offering him homework help, pickup games of basketball — whatever is needed.
“Last year we launched our initial beta for March For Our Lives. I went down to D.C. – as part of the Town Hall campaign — and I noticed that it was super hard to find out, coordinate and get people out to Town Hall’s. Which was something I could help solve.”
How Did He Come To Civic Hall?
“These are exactly the type of innovators and changemakers we want to be working in solidarity with.”
Chris was at a party last year describing Brightest to a new friend and they tipped him off that Civic Hall would be a supportive environment for his efforts. While he immediately joined our email list, the day-to-day demands of being a founder postponed his entrance into our space. It was when he spied the listing for the “Data-Driven Marketing Strategy for Non-Profits” course in his inbox, that he finally resolved to joining the community. Last fall he attended a Pluto Power Shift event at Civic Hall, and this January Brightest formally became a member.
What is He Reading/Watching/Listening To?
Chris recommends Andrea Komlosy’s Work: The Last 1,000 Years.
“As a culture, we have a massive purposeful work problem. Purposeful work — art, education, public service, volunteering — is such an important aspect of personal happiness and meaning, yet we increasingly live in an economy and society where most of us hate our jobs and we’re denied that opportunity. Komlosy’s book is a really good historical survey of work, how we arrived where we are today, and a hint at where we might be going (and how to think about solving this problem).”
What Is His Ask of Civic Hall?
Ask: “Your feedback. I/we started Brightest, but it’s up to leaders and doers like you to decide where it goes. If we’re not designing and delivering helpful solutions to (your) big problems, we’re not meeting our mission.”
Offer: Chris is interested in demoing Brightest at an upcoming spring Lunch and Learn.