Hack For Change – A Weekend about Doing Good

One thing is for sure: the developer and hacker community cares about sparking positive change. After spending a weekend as a hacker at the Hack for Change event (superbly hosted by Change.org), I saw over a dozen great ideas to hear about problems, find solutions and get people involved in those solutions. I wanted to highlight some of my favorites:

  • GoodNeighbor: Help get small tasks done like changing a lightbulb or taking out the trash for an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood.
  • FindMeAPet.org: Save an animal from being put down by subscribing to data on incoming animals from local shelters.
  • IGotUGot: Backyard gardening exchange that helps you connect with the community and barter using whatever you grow at home (or have extra laying around).
  • PDB: Personal Daily Breifing the way Obama gets on his desk every morning, stay in touch with issues that you care about.
  • PicketLine.us: Voice your protest against a corporation and the practices you dislike. Profile the company and what people think about their choices.
  • SafeHood: Take your neighborhood watch digital via SMS notifications, simple and anonymous.
  • AnonyMouse: Connecting LBGT youth with mentors that can safely and anonymously answer difficult questions for someone who needs a conversation to help them get through a challenge.
  • AnonyMissing: Report lost friends without compromising yourself by keeping it anonymous
  • ShoppingAdvisor: Using data from GoodGuide to give you an aggregate view of your Amazon shopping history based on impact on the environment, carbon footprint, and other social awareness metrics.
  • What’s About My City: Spread the word about problems in your town and vote on those you agree should be fixed.
  • GreatDebate: Embed widgets on your own sites to connect with a cause and get decision maker feedback on that cause right away.
  • Alerter: Better emergency response is one tap away. Uses your medical profile, your select contacts (incl. Facebook), and your selected messages to get the word out when you need help.
  • GoChip.in: Event management for volunteer coordinators
  • Corrupt: report acts of corruption around you and hold those people accountable publicly (I worked on this one)
  • GovContrib: a bookmarklet that gives you a quick reference on how much certain companies have contributed to certain parties (uses Sunlight API)
  • Piece of Mind: An online and offline way for veterans to connect and voice stories through art. Kickstarter donation funded mosaic to be built.

Congratulations to GoodNeighbor (first prize), AnonyMouse (runner up), FindMeAPet (second runner up), Alerter (honorable mention) and all the teams that hacked though the wee hours on their projects. These ideas weren’t about building the next Fortune 500 company and retiring early, they were about making a difference in people’s lives. Seeing people staying up all night for that, truly is admirable.

There were a few themes that we saw in common with projects and teams at Hack for Change, but one particularly interesting one for us at Tokbox is using the web for real-time applications. Just look at all the winners, real-time communication enabled their product to deliver a value. We see OpenTok as another one of the great technologies that enables the real-time web, helping people make connections and working on their current problem or task.

Lastly, want to shout out some amazing people that made the event possible: Change.org for hosting, and Sunlight Foundation, GoodGuide, Code for America, SimpleGeo, Twilio, github, and Heroku for sponsoring.