Fusing nonprofits with tech talent

Throw together four of the UK’s most innovative charities (aka our debut Fusiliers), 16 mega-brains in the form of Founders & Coders’ latest cohort, delicious veggie food (courtesy of Carla at TeasMe) and put them in the Machines Room in Bethnal Green’s maker mile for two days, you might be disappointed to hear that we haven’t finally nailed the blueprint for a working double-decker sofa.

Instead, we enjoyed some fantastic days of mutual learning as we had the space (physically, temporally and mentally) to explore a small part of the challenges each of our charities is looking at, whilst experiencing in a microcosm the process of working with digital agencies, and learning hands-on best practice and pitfalls to avoid.

We kicked things off with a briefing session — defining requirements and expectations from both sides, and then going through user journeys and user stories, based on user research we’d done before the hack.

Post-it notes galore for some intensive prototyping

We then got on with building a prototype — deciding which tech and frameworks should be used and getting into the coding (or copywriting). It’s great seeing things being built so quickly, enabling them to be tested with users, which is why at 4pm on the first day, we ensured all our teams had a call (or some people even visited in person) with users to verify their thinking and to iron out any kinks. Our teams found this really useful to verify and finalise the user journeys for the prototypes.

As always, the end of Day two involved some fantastic pitches (and a humorous award or two!) of the tech that had been built. Agreed as a mutual success all round, the four prototypes that were built will both enable us to test behaviours and attitudes with more people, as well as understand how much effort is needed to solve a technical problem, ensuring that as we embark on building a minimum viable product over the coming months, our teams are more aware of the needs of their developer teams, and have stronger skills to communicate with them to surface these as quickly as possible.

Hafsah FitzGibbon presents the rationale behind Centrepoint’s prototype

Massive thanks to Founders and Coders for working with us, and to Machines Room for hosting.

If you’re hoping to build digital skills in your organisation and rapidly explore ideas, we highly recommend planning a hack. Set within a framework of preparation and plans to develop the ideas further, it’s a useful exposure to new ways of working and exploring ideas. Find a local tech partner and see what you can set up! Watch this space for some hack-planning best practice coming soon…