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A Look at National Day of Civic Hacking 2018 – Part II

Our 2018 National Day of Civic Hacking event was remarkable in many ways, as much for the commitment of the nonprofit organizations who brought us event day challenges, as for the fantastic team of developers and civic technologist who turned out for our August 11 event and continue working on the projects today.  This is part II of our National Day of Civic Hacking recap.  You can find Part I here.

Our 2018 NDCH Projects

We accepted projects from five nonprofits, and three were able to come through with administrative support, data and feedback.  The three organizations that participated in our 2018 National Day of Civic Hacking event, and which we continue working with now, a month after NDCH, are:

  • Winners Resource Center whose  is to impact the lives of others by helping them overcome their current needs and matching them with solutions to help win in life.
  • Metropolitan Ministries which serves thousands of poor and homeless families in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties
  • Pasco County Agents for Change a new, grassroots effort focused on fostering diversity and inclusion in Pasco County schools and community.

Jaina Washington, of Winners Resource Center, shared her thoughts about the event.

“This was our first year of being involved in an event like the National Day of Civic Hacking. It was very well organized from start to finish. It was a great opportunity to sit down and work through some of the issues that we experience in our daily work in the Non profit sector,” she said.

“There was some great collaboration on the day. There were people with a range of different experiences, from students to seasoned professionals, working together on the projects. We were able to connect and share the work that our organization does. From this, we have found some people who would like to offer their skills as volunteers, this is an added bonus and great outcome for us!

“We are looking forward to seeing the work that was started at the NDCH completed, and are looking forward to being able to use the final products”.”

The Winners Resource Center team got approved for an initial grant with Twilio to cover SMS costs, as a principal tool for the organization.

Galina Tishchenko, Director of Digital Strategy for Metropolitan Ministries, said, “Metropolitan Ministries’ vision is to become America’s most effective caregiver for poor and homeless families. In order to achieve this, we believe innovation is key. We do our best to offer innovative programs and use the use the latest technology in the most efficient ways possible. A chat bot would allow us to answer frequently asked questions and provide vital information to those in need. Unfortunately, this can be costly, and we operate on a tight budget as a nonprofit.

“Our participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking made it possible for us to get the technology we need and the tech expertise we would require to implement a chat bot for FREE! The solutions for our chat bot found at the NDCH were both short-term and long-term. We also received hands-on training necessary to implement and maintain it. We think we will be ready to install and run the new bot in our new website when we are ready to roll it out at the end of September.

“Getting connected to the local tech-innovation community was really heartwarming because people were very supportive and enthusiastic about our project. The connections we have made there will absolutely lead to future productive partnerships. The event was well-organized, the location was well-equipped and beautiful. All in all, we would like to thank Code for Tampa Bay for inviting us and for putting this together. We hope to be a part of this community for years to come.”

The MetMin team has been exploring Twilio, with its full suite of tools to do FB, SMS and web .

Sharon Tender, who was on the Pasco County Agents for Change team, explained their challenge.

“Pasco County Agents for Change needed a website that provides information to parents, teachers, and students on how they can voice their concerns if they or their children have been marginalized, bullied or negatively impacted in their academic environment.”

So the their NDCH team went to work to create a website that met three criteria:

  • Provides easy accessibility and functionality for organizing, volunteering, and sharing information with the community,
  • Provides avenues of support to encourage the School District of Pasco County to require all staff to complete mandatory diversity and inclusion training
  • Have a stronger online presence and a designated place for members of the community to find information related to the nonprofit’s initiatives.

“The team decided on using a static React front end with WordPress as the backend for editing and updating content, and is currently working on coding out the beautiful template provided so we can get a static site up ASAP while we continue work on building out the dynamic elements.

Participant Feedback

A team of developers from ZeniSoftware joined in NDCH as a volunteer opportunity for their company. They were among our most enthusiastic participants and shared some warm feedback.

“Zeni Sofware just finished the National Day of Civic Hacking event with Code for Tampa Bay Brigade!. We were able to use our skills for good and contribute to real projects in the local community! We developed a cross-platform mobile app for Winners Resource with Xamarin Forms for displaying calendar events from Google, and embedded a web form into the app for sending event information.

Project 1: Ian Schoenrock developed a cross-platform mobile app with Xamarin Forms for displaying calendar events from Google, and embedded a web form into the app for sending event information.

Project 2: Jeff Longo created an AI powered chat bot in Azure that is capable of answering basic questions and we’re hoping to integrate with LUIS (https://www.luis.ai/home) for language processing soon.

“We had a great time and look forward to attending more events like this in the future!”

Next Steps

In addition to our monthly meetups, we now have weekly hack nights (Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center) where folks can drop by to continue working on the NDCH projects. Team members are also utilizing Slack and other communications tools to coordinate their work. We also received an additional donation, from SOFWERX, that will help support continuing efforts to finish these projects.

In all, it was great work that matters – fun, heartwarming, and productive, and we hope continues to be all three of those things as our volunteers complete their projects for our three NDCH organizations.

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