palm trees on Aitutaki

Impact the World with impactNPO

May 14th, 2017

I like doing charitable work. I feel that most of us live privileged lives, whether through circumstance or hard work. It’s always made sense to me that we have a moral imperative to help those who are less fortunate. I finally found a non-profit where I can apply my IT experience to help charitable organisations do just that and positively impact the world.

I was involved in different charities over the years and most of them need boots on the ground – the actual people to carry out the good work. While that is useful, I believe I can do 10x the good if I contribute to their IT systems. Helping the helper, if you will. So, I was extremely chuffed to come across impactNPO who organizes weekend hackathons that bring together IT professionals and deserving non-profits. I finally joined my first impactNPO hackathon last month and want to summarize my experience.

Here’s how the hackathon works – it starts at 6pm on a Friday for charity introductions and networking. Everyone there is a volunteer and most of them meet as strangers. We sign in and get a name tag. We write some acronyms to indicate our area our expertise, such as developer, graphic design, content writer, or project manager. After a quick introduction, we do a ‘speed dating’ session where we spend 10 minutes with each charity understanding their IT needs. We then decide which charity we would like to work with over the weekend, and self-organise into teams. The evening finishes sharp at 8pm because we have early starts for the next two days.

Saturday and Sunday are the main hackathon days, where we work in our teams to build something that will give value to the non-profit we represent. It is essentially a two-day sprint, with a quick review at the start and end of each day, plus a final presentation at 4pm Sunday. I admit that it was both exhausting and exhilarating to try and achieve tangible outcomes for the organisation in just two days with a bunch of strangers I’ve never worked with. I’ve never experienced all five stages of team formation in less than 20 hours – forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning!

We had a great product owner in the form of Ina Michaels from The oneCOOPERATIVE. He and the rest of the family of CIDANZ are working hard to create positive outcomes for the Cook Islands community in New Zealand. Through our discovery session on Friday and Saturday morning we pinpointed e-commerce as a main gap in their ability to showcase their craft-makers to the public. We produced a basic but functional oneCOOP online shopping site on VendHQ by Sunday evening.

As for myself, I went in hoping to contribute my development skills but naturally steered myself into a project lead position. I started off with a decomposition and discovery session and the team members had confidence to keep me in that role for the weekend. I had a super time guiding the team towards self-management with Kanban swimlanes, making sure everyone had a chance to contribute, adjudicating conflicts, and clearing out roadblocks. I really felt I made an impact to the world and will not hesitate to participate next time.

impactNPO started right here in Auckland but they are gearing for expansion to other cities in New Zealand, and eventually the world. Check out impactNPO’s Facebook page for all the photos from the weekend and news of upcoming hackathons.

The onecoop team showing off their work at the impactNPO showcase (photo from impactNPO)

Top photo credit: Palm trees on Aitutaki by chris1h1 via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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