Why Experimental Civics Ran A Partner Challenge at Tech Together

Experimental Civics
Apr 9 · 6 min read

The Find

I was down the rabbit hole of finding amazing events to donate time and energy towards and I ran into Tech Together Boston. At TechTogether Boston, they shared their story of looking to shape the way women and non-binary people were getting involved with tech. I was sold.

The main reason for collaborating with Tech Together Boston was giving the gift of a unique safe space for those learning or who were just curious about what these events were all about.

I can’t think of many/or any spaces which allow women to freely, boldly explore without any boundaries, without any fears, without any repercussions, and with a complete limitless blank canvas. —Moi

Credit: Tech Together

I was intrigued about their history and I absolutely LOVED their mission:

We aim create an inclusive environment to encourage more underrepresented people to either get introduced to the world of technology or harness their skills to create projects of their own.

With the support of the technology community, industry, and individuals we can chip away at the gender gap and empower anyone from someone with a non-technical major with an interest in tech to seasoned hackathon veterans looking to build out a complicated, groundbreaking product with a little extra support.

The Challenge

Our challenge was the Come As You Are Challenge hosted by Experimental Civics.

Environments can be the most important barrier to success. We don't have to look far for an example, take seeds, we all know if they have great environments there is higher chance for success. Our challenge is focused on building healthy, inclusive, thriving environments whether it's for your campus to the entire City of Boston, we want you to hack these environments forward.

Our scope was purposely broad to encourage creativity. I refuse to tell artists what to paint, I would much prefer to supply a white canvas and let the magic take them where it may.

The Response

I was only able to attend Friday night and Saturday since I had client engagements before and after, but it was so much fun to assist various hackers with their questions on design thinking and shared ideation tools.

I was a little bit nervous as a challenge host since I had only spoken to a few groups which had been hacking our challenge. I had very few responses over the Slack channel and I was concerned with what judging would look like over Sunday.

I had asked two wonderful women I knew in the Boston area to support our project judging. Shout-outs to:

Bobbie Carlton, Founder of Innovation Nights, Innovation Women, and Carlton PR & Marketing (she’s a rockstar!)

Deniz A. Johnson, a FinTech executive, strategist, Founder of Pera-Partners, LLC.

I left Boston with my fingers crossed. But I got an amazing text on Sunday morning from Deniz…we had 27 entries! I was shocked and so thrilled that folks out there were hacking social good projects around our challenge. As any organizer will share with you, this is what I live for!

Deniz + I on Saturday Photo Credit: Deniz Johnson

The Submissions

Here are all the submissions for our challenge!

Who were our top projects and overall winner?

Our overall winner was OmiCloud and they were focused on improving present-day senior care.

As our older population grows, more attention is being drawn to senior independence and senior health. People are living longer than ever before, which also means health conditions that previously only affected a small portion of the population are becoming increasingly common. The leading cause of injury for senior citizens is falling. Tens of thousands of senior citizens die every year from fall-caused injuries, and 3 million are hospitalized. Existing technology like security cameras and LifeAlert proves inefficient, and motion-detecting wearable technology proves expensive. These facts became the basis for our project: the OmiCloud.

Logo: OmiCloud

But we had projects across the board from addressing gun violence with DeepCheck…

to projects like Hand Hand Revolution, a project focused on building a platform to promote diversity and inclusion in AI tools that interpret ASL signs. As someone who has briefly attempted to learn sign language after supporting the Perkins Hacks in 2017…I found this project fascinating to read about and well aware of the challenges they faced.

Other Takeaways

I absolutely loved how the organizers created a safe space and I learnt how to phrase asks in a new way.

In my time working in the mentor booth, I could hear the organizers discussing how male colleagues could support the event and the phrase Kala Campbell, Mentor Coordinator, would share about how the space is about giving to women, so they could participate in the capacity of giving and nothing more.

Should You Submit A Challenge for 2020?

Yes. I loved everything about this hackathon and I can’t wait to continue to work with these amazing folks as we go into Fall 2019 and beyond. There is just so much potential for what we can achieve in our future and I’m grateful they were open to the challenge idea.

As a budding social entrepreneur, I knew I couldn’t offer a lavish cash prize this year (it’ll happen one day very soon), but the team loved the idea of doing a social good challenge and looking for creative solutions from their team. So thanks to the organizing team at Tech Together Boston (especially Isabelle Verhulst + Ramsha Arshad)

I would encourage anyone and everyone to look for ways to participate in this event, we need all your support, skills, resources, and that special magic to make this event shine even more in the coming years.

Photo Credit: Tech Together Boston
Photo Credit: Tech Together Boston

What’s Next?

Get involved, applications are open and they are looking for organizers/mentors/supporters.

Experimental Civics

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We design spaces for people to experiment with their ideas. experimentalcivics.io

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