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Think Global. Hack Local: A Community-Focused Hackathon

Mar 22, 2013 By Crissy Campbell

This past weekend, 35 people came out to UBC to participate in Think Global. Hack Local. a community-based hackathon that connects non-profit organizations with student developers.

Non-profit organizations that needed software solutions to various problems pitched their projects to student developers. These students selected the projects they wanted to work on and spent the weekend building a solution for the organizations. 

Kim Voll, CDM faculty and co-organizer of Think Global. Hack Local. sat down to talk about the event.

What is Think Global. Hack Local?

It’s a hackathon that pairs students, professionals and hobbyists in software development, design and art with local non-profits in need. Non-profits are given a chance to pitch their projects, and the ones that are selected have a team assigned to them for the weekend to create a solution for them. The event was created by Dr. Kurt Eiselt from UBC and myself, and launched with the help of some terrific volunteers and the UBC Community Learning Initiative, who put us in contact with enough non-profits to make our pilot run a success!

What is the goal of the event?

Our goals are manyfold. First and foremost we are interested in making a difference in our community. Students, in particular, are always looking for portfolio projects and opportunities to practice their new skills, while non-profits often do not have the technical resources to solve software problems—it seems a natural connection. We are also interested increasing the awareness of how computer science and digital media can be used to change the world.

Participants at Think Global Hack Local

Photo by Ligia Brosch.

How did the event turnout?

The event was a huge success. We anticipated running the event in the fall, but UBC's Community Learning Initiative asked if we might be able to hold one in March—in bascially a month we pulled together the event, the resources, and found students and projects.  Perhaps most impressive was that most of the participants were students who were only a couple weeks away from final exams, and yet were still willing to donate an entire weekend to help their community.

We had about 35 participants, and 7 community projects.  Each project had an extremely successful outcome—everything from a patient appointment tracking system to an app for autistic children who are struggling to learn to vocalize, to a responsive web site plus a ticketing system for a youth orchestra. Very exciting!  Many of the projects had further reaching applications beyond the non-profit that came to us with the initial problem, and there was a great deal of excitement about how these projects might be extended to help even more non-profits.

What are you working on next?

Think Global. Hack Local. is a movement, and we're just getting started. We're already planning the next hackathon, hopefully for this fall.  We want others to adopt this model and join the movement, and we're willing to do whatever we can to help others make this happen in their community. Everything we're doing is open and available, including our logo. We just want to help make as big a difference as we can!

To stay updated about future events, follow Think Global. Hack Local. on Twitter and Facebook.