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When you hear the term "hackathon," you might imagine a
group of coders getting together to break into a protected website or engaging
in some other shady activity. In actuality, hackathons are events where ideas
are hatched and technology needs are met — making them excellent opportunities
for nonprofits, charities, and libraries!
A hackathon is an event where programmers, developers, designers,
and leaders come together to collaborate on an app, website, or software
projects. There are many different types of hackathons: from company hackathons
(such as Facebook's All-Night
Hackathon) to government improvement hackathons (like #HackWeTrust
or Code for Oakland).
The hackathon model is ideal for nonprofits and libraries because
it brings together motivated volunteers to expedite a project on a limited
budget. But more than anything,
hackathons are fun events to network and meet allies interested in supporting your
Last year, TechSoup held a Saturday Hackathon
4 Good where nonprofits and techies could join forces to create solutions
for social good. One of the projects, GoodGym,
is a group fitness app where participants get fit by doing physical tasks that
benefit their communities. Another project at the Saturday Hackathon 4 Good was Qeyno, which is described as Khan Academy
meets LinkedIn for students.
Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is a global-wide community of hackers and social leaders
with the common goal of building open technology for a better world. One cool
project that came out of a RHoK event is InfoPlace
Kenya, an Android application for information and directions of essential
places in Kenya like hospitals, tourists attractions, restaurants, educational
facilities, and more.
While many hackathons for good are run by nonprofits, there are some
corporate-sponsored events as well. Microsoft's International
Women's Hackathon challenged female developers to combat issues like human
trafficking through new mobile apps and web programs.
AT&T is very active in the hackthon space, holding weekend events
for mobile app creation. The hackathons are themed around a certain issue, such
as education or mHealth (mobile health). A number of exciting projects have
come out of these events including apps made by aspiring young app developers.
For example, Victoria Walker, an 11-year-old from California, designed Rode Dog, a clever app designed to stop texting and driving
Libraries have also been getting in on the hacking fun. The Digital
Public Library of America held a hackathon to test the prototype DPLA
platform and build apps for it. The District of Columbia Public Library has
held as series of Accessibility
Hackathons. The events bring together young adults with disabilities and
companies that develop accessibility solutions.
Computer Library Center (OCLC) has also held a few hackathons with the New
York Public Library. The events
challenged participants to brainstorm and code mash-ups of WorldCat, the
world's largest bibliographic database, with other web services. For example, one of the projects presented was
called "Netflix at My Library."
Here are even more hackathon resources from TechSoup and beyond:
Image credit: Hackathon, hackNY
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.