I started out being excited that Women Who Code was hosting it’s first hackathon. It’s an idea we had talked about for a while, but just hadn’t quite figured out yet. When I found out who we were partnering with for the event, Twitter and Chime For Change, I got even more excited. I had never heard of a hackathon focused on non goverment organizations (NGOs), and I knew we could not only provide innovative solutions, but also learn, educate, and connect with these organizations that do so much at scale.
I could go on about the fantastic people I met, the hacks that were made, and the general awesomeness that ensued, but instead I’ll summarize my takeaways with a few key points.
1. If you thought non-profits were boring, think again
One of the NGOs that participated in #CHIMEHACK uses motorcycles to deliver vaccines and other healthcare supplies to remote regions of Africa. They also collect data on these remote regions, because there’s no other way to get it. If you don’t think that’s awesome, well you need to work on that. Because it is.
Each one of the NGOs that participated ultimately wanted to increase efficiency and engagement. These are problems that technologists work on every day. But there are two big differences. Firstly, these NGOs have some of the toughest technical constraints out there (ex: rural Africa doesn’t have reliable internet). Secondly, these NGOs are actively changing the world. There are plenty of companies who want to change the world, but these organizations do it every day. We have a lot to be envious of.
2. There are so many more challenges
Changing the world, or even just a part of it, is not an easy thing. It requires big ideas, massive amounts of communication, and many, many resources. One of the things that struck me the most when talking with the NGO representatives, is that they are dealing with similar problems that we do every day. Strategy, big data, engagement, analytics, resourcing, and building great things are just some of the things we have in common.
These NGOs might look really different than a lot of tech companies, but at their heart they are working towards the same goal. Solve problems, engage users. Their constraints lead to different solutions, yes, but goals remain the same. They are working to make this world a better place, you can’t find a harder problem than that.
3. Hey Tech, we need to do more
I’m so excited to see these world-changing organizations connecting with the brilliance of the tech industry. We have so much to offer, and #CHIMEHACK is just a start. I’ve been incredibly inspired by the teams, organizations, and participants involved in #CHIMEHACK. I now see that our industry has huge potential to disrupt these organizations, in the best possible way. So here’s a challenge for you, industry.
I challenge you to use your skills and expertise to solve global issues. I challenge you to make a difference in 2014.