Second Charity-IT Hackathon delivers for Wellington NPO’s

Explore Assurity 26 May 2014 Mel Bourke

From the outset, our vision was to bring Non-profit Organisations (NPO’s) and IT professionals together over a weekend to help these NPO’s solve small IT problems that could make a big difference to their day-to-day running.

For this second event, we wanted to expand the organiser team and so we extended the opportunity for volunteers gaining us another five volunteers. After a summer break, we started planning in early January with the creation of the Charity-IT website.

Organisers of the first event – Althea Carbon and myself – joined forces with the 2013 volunteers-come-organisers – Henry Jenkins, Barry Burke, Gordon McBride and Piyush Misra. We got off to a good start, using our’s and our volunteers’ experience, and with four months to plan.

The participating charities

First challenge – to find NPO’s who needed IT solutions that could realistically be achieved in a weekend.

We could leverage the credibility of the last event as the charities who benefited from the first event were willing to act as referrals and draw on their experience. Barry, Nav and Mel worked hard to engage and scope out the charities to come forward – quite a feat since charities are often under resourced with little technology or knowledge to work with.

The four charities that took part in the latest event were:

  • Wellington Night Shelter provides shelter for men who would otherwise sleep on the streets. They needed a system to help manage their accommodation offerings and availability.
  • Community Connections is a community-based disability service that helps adults with disabilities to live independently. They needed help to create a dynamic online Incident Reporting form for use by their distributed workforce.
  • UN Youth's aim is to educate NZ youth about international issues and the role of the United Nations. They needed help to implement an online voting system for their members.
  • Film for Change is a new charity that helps other charities spread the word through short films. They needed a new and engaging website to establish their credibility and Internet presence. 

The volunteers

Second challenge– to attract IT professionals as volunteers.

To reach the masses, we started up Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and produced our own website. Even Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown retweeted one of our messages – the power of social media!

March was a big month for IT meet-ups in Wellington. We pitched Charity-IT Hackathon as a ’48-hour Film Festival crossed with a Startup Weekend Conference’. We noticed a huge spike in visits to our Eventbrite page (registrations) after each meet-up.

Our sponsor

Lastly, we needed sponsorship to fund the event and a venue.

Assurity Consulting, as sponsors of the first event, were happy to get involved again.  Their centrally located Wellington office was the perfect space to facilitate our numbers and our budget also meant we could provide a good variety of food and drinks for our hardworking volunteers.

With a week to go, we focused on tying the event together – setting the agenda, communicating to the volunteers, setting expectations with the charities and even finding another charity to participate due to a last-minute cancellation.

The weekend

Finally, the big day arrived!

On the Friday evening, the NPO representatives presented to the volunteers, outlining who they are and why they needed help with their IT systems. Teams then paired up.

Saturday started with freshly brewed coffee as energetic teams regrouped and got to work on the task ahead.

Our goal throughout the day was to keep it realistic and think small in an Agile way through self-managing teams, working with the customer, pairing on everything, short iterations and delivering working software.

Sunday went quickly as teams wrapped up their projects and worked on ensuring their NPO’s had the appropriate handover material.

The final presentations on Sunday demonstrated the weekend’s results showing that the volunteers were able to produce useful outputs for all four NPO’s.

A massive thanks to all the IT professionals who tirelessly and generously volunteered their weekend and skills to solve NPO’s IT problems, as well as to the NPO representatives who also gave up their weekend and inspired us with the work they are doing.            

And, of course, a big thank you to Assurity for their generous contribution, especially to Tina and Sophie for their support and input. We couldn’t have done this event without Assurity!

Watch out for further Charity-IT hackathons in Christchurch and Auckland later this year.