Design + Civic Engagement: Katherine Namacher

MICA's multidisciplinary helped Katherine Nammacher to use her passion for technology as a means for civic engagement. She is co-founder and CEO of the start-up, RideAlong, which supplies a software that gives patrol officers at scene key information about people with mental illness.

Since graduating from MICA in 2010 with a printmaking focus, Katherine Nammacher's trajectory has been nothing short of unconventional, by art world norms. After interning with Lesley Dill and working at a New York gallery, the 29-year-old has held roles in a variety of non-art organizations. They ranged from project management at AmeriCorps NCCC, managing a gallery at the Presidio Trust, to user researcher at San Francisco's Exploratorium and Oakland Museum, as well as Civic Innovation Fellow at Microsoft.

My art education did not confine me to one path," said Nammacher, who was also a consultant to museums around San Francisco. "In fact, MICA's multidisciplinary approach helped me to develop a critical analysis and healthy questioning of things around me. That has guided my thinking and how I approach the world, including my professional development,"

she added.

Nammacher eventually moved into the technology space, excited by the experimentation it affords. "Technologists are just like artists, with no fear of failure. Instead, they see failure as experiments to learn from," she explained.

Nammacher has had her fingers in various technology initiatives. Through a fellowship at Code for America, she collaborated with the Seattle Police to use technology to support people with mental health issues. "I was especially interested in technology's potential as a means for civic engagement," she emphasized.

Her latest endeavor, RideAlong, is a software tool that enables patrol officers at the scene to better handle people with mental illness. "By providing them with everything from biographical data, medical history, to tailored de-escalation techniques and personalized service referral options, RideAlong bridges the information gap between police officers and service providers for people with mental problems," Nammacher elaborated.

RideAlong won a national government technology award at South by Southwest and has since been deployed in one major U.S. city. Nammacher aims to expand the service to other communities and jurisdictions.