If You Hack, Hack for Change

Thank you to Lauren Houser from SPECTRUM for the following blog post: 

118 events. 97 cities. And the numbers are still growing. May 31-June 1, 2014 marks the Second Annual National Civic Day of Hacking – 24 fast-paced hours that bring together dedicated technology enthusiasts of all backgrounds to improve communities around the country.  Spectrum is a proud sponsor of the hackathon hosted by Code for NoVA at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA, which will rally Washington, DC and northern Virginia locals behind important community challenges.

What exactly is a hackathon?

It’s not nearly as sinister as it sounds. Federal agencies and local governments provide event participants access to their collected data. With this information in hand, participants will work to create innovative solutions to the challenges that face communities and governments.

Anyone, regardless of technological expertise, can participate in the hackathon: the only requisite is that you care about your community and want to lend a hand in solving unanswered needs. People with government, nonprofit, marketing, communications, design and other areas of expertise will add invaluable insights to the thought process behind the solutions, even without any coding knowledge. In addition to making a tangible change in the community, there are some awesome prizes to boot: lunch with Dr. France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation; a meeting with Vinton Cerf, one of the “fathers of the internet”; and an array of techie tools.

Hacking for Change

In the spirit of the day, one community challenge will draw help from – who else? – the community. Families will play an integral role by gathering data for a new app that will map local playgrounds in the City of Alexandria and flag helpful information for families (i.e. whether or not the park is shady, has swings, is dog-friendly, has a baseball diamond, etc.).

The challenges on the national-level give a sneak peak to other efforts the day of. Keep an eye on the key challenges below:

 The Census Reporter: A free tool that enables journalists to easily explore and analyze census data through visual features on the site.

 Innovative Access to Education Data: A national brainstorm aimed at a helpful, user-friendly way for students and their families to navigate the wealth of information on higher education.

  Networking Distributed Project Teams: Increasing collaboration amongst freelance workers, who make up more than 20 percent of the American workforce.

 Check out the full list of national challenges here.

We want YOU!


There’s still plenty of time to be part of the day, so if you’d like more information, visit the event website (where you can also register for the hackathon) and follow along on Twitter: @Code4NoVaBrigade.

How do you think local hackathons could benefit communities long-term?


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