This post was authored by Vanessa Rhinesmith and originally appeared on the NetSquared blog.

Hackathons, coding sprints, app challenges, oh my! While these types of events can focus on the creation of many things, we are seeing an increase in app-for-good related events. There is no question that such events with an app focus can offer a great deal of collective momentum to address social issues. They are a great, and fun, mechanism for bringing together people who are passionate about a cause and connecting them to opportunities to enhance civil society, create social change, and have a real-world impact. 

Here are some tips to consider and great examples of how to create a successful event:  

1. Give Your Participants Ample Time to Construct an App

Be sure to provide your participants with a well defined time period for creation and clear expectations about the submission time frame. Make sure that your time is reflective of the expected finished product.

On Veterans Day, 11/11/11, LinkedIn and the White House are joining forces to kick off the first ever Veterans Hackday. We are looking for hackers to put together projects that can improve any aspect of a veteran's life.

Veterans Hackday 2011, kicked off a couple of weeks ago, and alotted their participants four days to create something that will benefits our veterans. They are also noting the time with a stop clock on their website. A longer hackathon may expect a more polished finished product whereas a code sprint or hackathon anticipates more of a prototype. Regardless, it is important that your expectations and time allotment align.

2. Make It Tight. Define Specific Parameters for Your Event Program

It’s important to focus on and define the challenge you’re looking to address. This helps you to plan a the event, and to ensure success. Narrowing the scope of your programs means people can contribute better.

Hacking Autism was launched in June 2011 to seek new ideas for technology applications beneficial to people with autism. The Hacking Autism”initiative sought technology-based ideas to open up learning, communication and social possibilities.

This is a great example of a clearly defined cause that is consistently communicated through all channels. They are looking for "a touch-enabled software application for the autism community". This very specifically addresses this community's special needs. By establishing a clear goal participants are better able to engage with the issue and participate the event.

3. Better Together. Select a Team of Organizers to Aid in Creation and Execution

A great team can make or break any event. Make sure the core planning team, members’ roles, and responsibility expectations are clearly defined right from the start of the event planning process. This will help everyone to work efficiently up to and through the execution of the event. Also, remember to give credit publicly to the hard work of the event team and any others who are supporting the event.

Startup Weekend (Paris) is an intense 54-hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application which could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skillsets to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.

I love how Startup Weekend Paris spotlights their event team on the event homepage (see the left hand column). It’s a great way to show recognition up front for their work as well as foster additional excitement. It’s also great how each member is a cheerleader for the events and sharing info through their networks.

4. Bigger Is Better. Bring to the Table a Diverse Audience and Participants with a Shared Passion

More and more coding events are welcoming a greater range of people, not just technically minded folks. Be mindful of the benefits of bringing in a variety of experts and skills of those who are equally as invested in the challenges of a particular cause being addressed through the event. A diverse audience can help to generate even more innovation and depth of ideas or solutions.

Over the past several years, a growing movement of technologists, government officials, and activists has emerged, working to leverage technology to fundamentally change the way government works — to make government more open and more efficient. Over two days in October, the Code for America Summit [brought] this community together for a candid conversation about where we are, where we want to go, and how we’ll get there.

This is an awesome example of how one event brought together very different stakeholders with the desire to help address the same issue. The result, high-value conversation and next steps to change.

5. Sharing is Caring. Share the Story of the Winner As Well As the Other Participants

Even with the conclusion of the challenge there is still much to share. Collect participant stories along the length of the event and share them in conjunction with the announced winner and completed projects.

Apps Against Abuse Contest [A] challenge that encourages the development of applications that provide college students and young adults with the tools to help prevent dating violence and sexual assault. The application envisioned will offer individuals a way to connect with trusted friends in real-time to prevent abuse or violence from occurring. While the application will serve a social function of helping people stay in touch with their friends, it will also allow friends to keep track of each other’s whereabouts and check in frequently to avoid being isolated in vulnerable circumstances. / This application is a step in enabling young women and men to take an active role in the prevention of dating violence and sexual assault.

The winner of the Apps Against Abuse Contest, Circle of 6 from ISIS, was showcased prominently with a great video piece piece that paired a technological explanation of the app with a compelling story. This is a nice way to add context to the event, the cause, and the end products as well as extend the life of the event and help to foster community for a longer duration of time and achieve greater reach.

What tips do you have for others looking to kick off their hackathon or code sprint event? What hackathon events have you attended that you think did one of the above well or offer other great best practices?

by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Director, Content, TechSoup