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Hacking for good | Charity Hackathon with impactNPO

Hacking for good might not be a term that is familiar to everyone, but impactNPO hope it soon will be. The kiwi born organisation runs charity hackathons that combine the experience and skills of kiwi developers, content producers, coders, designers and business operations folk, with charities in need. This September, impactNPO held its first hackathon at GridAKL which helped produce solutions for charities as diverse as Child Poverty Action Group and Sustainable Coastlines. We talked to one of the organisers Richard Scott Will Harknett about impactNPO its mandate and how you can get involved. 

How did ImpactNPO start? 

The original idea came from Jonathan Scher, he and I discussed it last year when he emigrated from New Zealand to France. It was Jonathan who decided to found a not for profit to further the idea, Lynn joined him and the three of us officially founded impactNPO in revel cafe on K Road.

Now that we have one event under our belt we are keen to keen to keep building on the momentum and get the second event going soon. But we also want the concept to spread rapidly across NZ and internationally. We are setting up the website, tools and processes to allow anybody, anywhere to run an impactNPO event, regardless of whether they are in Invercargill, Inverness or Indianapolis

You just held your first hackathon at GridAKL recently – what happened?

Coming in I expected that we would make some positive changes to the systems of the charities who had requested help. I wasn’t prepared for the real scale of change for good that was actually achieved.

We had 5 impactNPO organisers, 1 or 2 people from each of the charities and 20 volunteers

Our charities were Heart Kids NZ who needed a way forward with their current website, Child Poverty Action Group had several challenges including IT infrastructure and lack of automation/collaboration and Sustainable Coastlines, who wanted to progress some work on their website. We also had some work on our website that needed to be done, so we were in the mix as well.

Run us through the process, what happens at an impactNPO hackathon? 

The format for the hackathon is borrowed from Startup Weekend, which I also help organise. On Friday, the volunteers and charities arrive and are greeted – everyone has time to mingle and chat. Then the charities each have 5 – 10 minutes to make a pitch.

The Charity pitches tell everyone who the charity is, what they do and the sort of help they are looking for, which let our volunteers self organise into teams around each of the charities.

On Friday evening we encouraged the teams to discuss the problems with the charity rep and then select something small and simple to start with. We also asked them to make agreements around working routines for the weekend. We wrapped at a bit after 8pm on Friday and then people were back around 9am on Saturday. During the rest of the weekend the teams worked on the problems.

Throughout this time the impactNPO organisers sorted out refreshments – morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, snacks, etc and generally tried to keep the energy up. We ran check ins and demos during the day on Saturday and Sunday to show progress. The final review and demo of what was achieved was helped at a bit after 5pm on Sunday.

When we ask Richard about the outcomes he is excited, elated even. The reason for this is clear. In the case of Heart Kids the proposed solution saves them NZD $8500 a year and gives them control over their own content. Whilst the solutions for Child Poverty Action Group gave them ‘at least an extra day a week where we can be in the community working’. For a full list of the successes from the hackathon visit the impactnpo page here.

Will you be doing this again? And how can people get involved?

Yes, without a doubt we’ll repeat the event. We are also keen to hear from others who would like to get involved and run an event. The easiest way to get get involved as a volunteer for our next event is to follow us on Twitter: @impactnpo – the feed will go quiet for a few weeks but will pick up as soon as we settle on dates for the next event. We also have a Facebook page

If you would like to run an event or get more involved than be a volunteer at the event then please feel free to email me and let me know your thoughts on how you want to get involved or reach out to the co-founders or 

Finally I’d be missing an opportunity if I didn’t say we can’t do this without the generosity of sponsors. Xero enabled our first event, I’m already looking for sponsors for our next event. And I have to say thanks to GridAKL and its awesome crew for supporting us too and Red Bull for coming to the party with fridges and refreshments! 

Do you have a community minded or charity event you think will get GridAKL excited? Email our curator or head over to our events page