The Progressive Coders Network grew from Rapi Castillo’s idea to create a community of technologists whose main goal would be empowering the grassroots through open source, low-to-no cost tech tools. Rapi believed this progressive concept would effectively remove the influence of money in politics — not through legislation, but by providing the tools to empower the grassroots to influence local, state and federal governments — thereby alleviating the necessity of big money donors. Six months after the formation of ProgCode, the network has grown to a community of 750+ techies and non-techies whose shared vision is already being realized in a big way.
With the addition of each new member, the creative culture of the ProgCode Network is enriched. Community members are empowered with full ownership of their ideas. Those ideas become projects which are nurtured by the community until the original vision begins to take shape. As owners of the idea, project managers operate autonomously in the Network and volunteer members offer whatever assistance is requested to bring the visionary’s idea to life. One of the most beautiful things about Progressive Coders Network is the collaborative spirit in which tech and activists organizations are combining forces to do good in communities.
One timely idea ProgCode members were quick to embrace is the HacktheBan hackathon taking place this Saturday, February 25, 2017, at 2 Metrotech Center Brooklyn, New York. HacktheBan is the brainchild of NYU alumnae Leslie Martinez, Sriya Sarkar and Helen Carey. The women’s goal is to harness the collective ideas of multidisciplinary creatives and organizations fighting for vulnerable communities of immigrants, and empower those ideas. The HacktheBan team felt an especially urgent need to respond following highly criticized executive orders recently signed which prohibit the entry of refugees and limit the travel of people coming into the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. Nobody realized how quickly the idea would catch hold. Just days prior to launch, Leslie joined Progressive Coders Network and HacktheBan’s first event had already reached capacity.
When asked to describe her whirlwind introduction to the Network, Leslie responded, “I literally joined 5 days ago and am amazed at how helpful you have all been!” While participating at the Debug Politics NYC Hackathon, Leslie overheard someone speak about Progressive Coders Network from another room. She says she jotted down what she thought was the URL then laughs, saying “…of course I remembered it wrong.” While cross-posting from HacktheBan to the Debug Politics Slack, a ProgCode member who was also a member of that Slack sent Leslie the correct URL. “Soon enough the universe would bring me back to ProgCode. I signed up and patiently waited for 2 weeks… but it was worth the wait!”
I’d already heard the social media buzz about HacktheBan from a ProgCode community member and was excited to reach out to them as a member of the Partnership Outreach team. I sent the HacktheBan twitter account a direct message to see if we could do anything to help. Unbeknownst to me, Leslie had joined ProgCode just a few hours earlier that day. I think the synchronicity caught us both off guard.
“Pamela was just reaching out because ProgCode heard about the event and wanted to support us in our initiative…. It was the sweetest message. I totally felt a desire to help and that feeling of support has not stopped. From day one this community has reached out and found some way to help. Coders and non-coders alike.”
When the ProgCode community learned that HackTheBan was a part of the Network, members sprang into action to find out how best to contribute to the success of the first event. In five short days, ProgCode member Tad Hosford helped set up a welcome bot, resolved DNS issues and worked with Slack support to troubleshoot the group’s invitation limits. Preston Long-Lamoureux and Hector Sigala helped fine-tune the group’s Press Release, and Ann Lewis shared a valuable presentation on cyber security for activists.
We at ProgCode are humbled and honored that Leslie calls our community her “new family”. The New York contingent of the ProgCode family is also very eager to attend and participate in the group’s inaugural Hackathon. Perhaps most exciting of all is the wealth of new ideas which we all expect will be lifted from ideation and nurtured to fruition at HackTheBan’s first event.
HacktheBan is organized in conjunction with CUNY CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility), a project based out of the City University of New York School of Law. CLEAR, which is also a participating organization at HacktheBan, addresses the unmet legal needs of Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and other communities in the New York City area that are particularly affected by national security and counterterrorism policies and practices.
Other organizations participating in the hackathon include International Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP), MPower Change, and DRUM — South Asian Organizing Center (formerly Desis Rising Up and Moving).