Charity Hackathons: 2018 Mid-year Report

At the end of 2017 we reported on how the recently introduced do_action charity hackathon event series had been going — by the end of the year, we had worked with four local communities to help them run their own do_action events, which was a great start to the program and one that we were looking to build on for 2018.

Participants at the Bristol do_action event 

And build on it we did! With word getting out about the events and more people in the WordPress community finding out about them, we have already worked seven different communities who ran their own local do_action events — starting with Bristol in February, followed by Pune, Zurich, McAllen, Lagos, Cape Town, and finishing with Harare at the end of July. On top of that, a further three events are scheduled for the rest of the year — Port Harcourt, Stuttgart and Montreal — with another three in pre-planning that are not yet scheduled.

The do_action event in Zurich, Switzerland

At the seven events that have already taken place, there were a total of 220 participants from the local communities, and they built websites for 32 different non-profit organizations in their cities.

Some of the websites built at these events include:

All the participants at the McAllen, TX do_action event

Aside from these fantastic new websites, each organization also received enhanced social media profiles, newsletter integrations and easy to use donation platforms.

In order to make sure the organizations are able to work with their new websites, each event runs training sessions for the non-profits coaching them on how to use WordPress to manage their content and get the most our of their sites.

Cape Town do_action teams hard at work

On the surface these events provide an improved online presence for each of the non-profit organizations, but they really do so much more than that. A website is essentially just code on a server, but what these organizations are getting is so much more than that — what they’re really getting is a platform that allows them to get on with the great work that they do without having to worry about the technical side of things.

With these new websites working for them, each of the non-profits can receive donations, attract volunteers, help more people, and further their work. It is a great gift that goes beyond a bit of programming and really touches the heart of what the founders of organizations like these set out to do in the first place.

Participants at the Lagos event

As we look ahead to the rest of 2018 and beyond, we’re excited to see what our communities do for even more non-profit organizations and where the do_action program will grow from here.

Charity Hackathons in 2017

When we were looking forward to 2017, one of our goals was to work with local WordPress communities to organize charity hackathons in order to help non-profits benefit from open source tools. We made sure to achieve this goal by bringing the do_action event series into our program.

do_action is a charity hackathon that uses WordPress to uplift local communities by having volunteers come together to build websites for non-profit organizations.

Over the course of the year, we supported four local communities in running do_action events – Johannesburg, Beirut, Cape Town and Montreal. Each event was very successful, resulting in a total of 122 volunteers building WordPress sites for 17 different non-profits organizations — with the financial and logistical support from the WordPress Foundation to make it all possible.

Here is a small selection of the sites that were created at these hackathons:

Along with their websites, the non-profits also received invaluable WordPress training, making these events educational as well as charitable.

Looking back

We chatted to the organizers of the four events this year to get an idea of why they chose to do them, and how they feel about it all – they had some interesting insight into their events and the impact that the do_action events can have worldwide.

Beirut

The Beirut event was held on July 8 — they had 30 volunteers attending and helped 3 organizations get online with WordPress.

The primary organizer for the Beirut event, Marina Pape, had a great team working with her to make it happen. She said that “do_action seemed a good fit as the tech scene in Beirut is pretty alive and there are a lot of NGOs doing great stuff, but needing websites.”

Group of participants from do_action BeirutThe event “went smoothly, with a great group of people. It met the goal of rallying the WordPress community, creating connections between WordPress developers, designers, and marketing people.”

Marina and the Beirut community are interested in organizing another event in the do_action series for 2018.

Cape Town

This was Cape Town’s fourth annual do_action event — this year they held the event on July 15 and had 70 volunteers working to build new WordPress websites for 9 organizations.

I was the lead organizer for the Cape Town event and we put the event together because we wanted to open our local WordPress community to the broader community of Cape Town and using our web-building skills for this just made sense — we, as a WordPress community, have all the skills needed to build a great online presence for anyone. Couple that with the fact that there is a lot of need amongst Cape Town non-profits for this kind of thing, and an event like this becomes the logical next step.

Cape Town do_action participants working on the non-profits websites
Photo by Basil Parker: Instagram @basilparker

While it’s difficult to gauge the impact of a do_action event in its entirety, we’re confident that we met the goals for the day. The non-profits all left with great new websites along with training on how to use them effectively in order to grow their own causes — that’s the goal of this event.

Aside from the broader impact of the non-profits being more empowered to continue their good work, our WordPress community worked together in a way that we never have before — the impact of this on each of us as individuals and our community as a whole has been fantastic. We now have a greater awareness for organizations outside of our usual circle, and we have shown that we can use WordPress as a powerful tool to provide a dynamic platform for any non-profit organization.

Johannesburg

Johannesburg held their event on February 4; 10 volunteers attended and they helped 1 charity with a new WordPress website.

Seagyn Davis, who was the lead organizer for the Johannesburg event, said that they “always love giving towards good causes and do_action is a great initiative that allows them to use the great skills found in the WordPress community to do something really great for someone who really needs it.”

When we asked about the possibility of doing do_action again in 2018, he said that “the people that were involved really loved it and would do it again” — they are in the process of recruiting an organizing team for the next event already.

Montreal

Montreal hosted their event on October 14 — they had 28 volunteers coming together to build WordPress websites for 4 organizations.

The motivation behind the Sasha Endoh’s plans in leading the Montreal event, was that though her “business is focused on working with non-profit clients, there are many times when smaller organizations who do important work can’t quite afford to hire a professional team for their project.” She wanted to give back to the community “by giving support to these organizations and helping them have a greater impact.”

Montreal do_action participants working on the non-profits websites
Photo by Jer Clarke: jerclarke.org

When asked after the event about what impact she felt the hackathon had on the broader community of Montreal, Sasha commented that, by assisting the organizations that took part, “we hope to have helped to bring more cultural events, create a community space, connect and support folks who’ve been through the foster (care) and adoption system, and put a dent in the abandoned animal problem in our city.”

“It was amazing to see so many different folks come together for a good cause — the organizing team is eager to go to work on the next event!”

Looking ahead

The plan for 2018 is to continue promoting the do_action hackathons and supporting more communities that wish to organize them, around the world. There are already four events on the schedule for next year – three of which are in cities that have never hosted one before (Bristol, Pune and Zurich) along with one returning city (Cape Town) – and we fully expect at least another five communities to be organizing their own events over the course of the year too.

If you’d like to become an organizer for a local do_action event, you can find out more in the organizer’s handbook.

To help support this program, and the WordPress Foundation’s other efforts to educate people about open source and WordPress, you can donate here!