VanHacks’ sold-out ‘hackathon for social good’ happens this week from March 4 to 6. The event brings together coders working on software for organizations like the Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank and more, creating solutions in the Hootsuite office space. The list of sponsors reads like a who’s who of the local tech community, including organizations like Microsoft, Lighthouse Labs, Vancouver Economic Commission, Wavefront, BCTIA, Mobify and Two Tall Totems.
“Those who have talent, skills and a bit of free time are asking how they can help.”
– Chris Hobbs
Organizer Chris Hobbs, President of Two Tall Totems, says he’s been blown away by the excitement and energy around the event, which is relying on talent and innovation rather than donations. “You look at millennials and while they’re not donating money directly anymore, that isn’t to say they don’t want to help in their own way. Those who have talent, skills and a bit of free time are asking how they can help.”
That goodwill seems to be a lot more common than Hobbs may have anticipated. “I didn’t think this was going to be as big as it was and was shocked people even knew about it, to be honest,” Hobbs said. “But tech with a non-profit hook really rang with people who are excited to help out and volunteer.”
While he anticipates participating non-profits will get a lot of immediate value out of the weekend event, he also sees greater potential. “One metric of success I have is if the solutions developed here can help with problems that go across and beyond the needs of this community. For instance, if we did this for the food bank here, can we have this work in a place like Seattle? If people are taking this up after the hackathon, I’d call that a success.”
In contrast with similar kinds of hackathons, participants in VanHacks are being encouraged to make their submission open-sourced, letting future contributors “polish the final versions for the real world.”