5 tips for organizing a successful online do_action charity hackathon

In 2020, unfazed by the COVID-19 pandemic, community organizers rallied together and worked hard to give a WordPress-powered web presence for charities through online charity hackathons. Our passionate and resilient community members are pulling out all stops this year to continue the good work. We already have two applications for do_action events in the queue, with more in the pipeline! This post aims to encourage all our zealous organizers with tips on how best to organize successful online do_action charity hackathons.

  1. Recruit a core team and prepare an event plan
    Enlist a team of 5-10 members to wrangle the event. Much like a WordCamp, organizers need to plan do_action events down to the last detail. Make sure you have a plan for the entire event lifecycle – including selecting nonprofits, finding volunteers, finding sponsors, task management, and execution. For inspiration, check out how the do_action Japan team came up with a plan for the event beforehand! Having a solid communication strategy and setting deadlines is equally important. Finding answers to questions like: “When do volunteer teams meet?”,  “How often should there be check-ins?”,  “How do we track tasks?”,  “How do we measure progress?” and “ What deadlines do we need to meet?” for instance, will help in devising a strategy.
  2. Finding non-profits and volunteers 
    Finding eligible non-profits for your event could be a challenge. When your event publishes the call for non-profits, share it widely on social media. Since this is a charitable event, we have noticed that getting PR from local news media outlets is a lot easier. You might also want to reach out to Non-profit organizations and offer assistance proactively. You can follow the same approach for volunteer recruitment too.
  3. Fix your collaboration tools and communication strategy
    Since this will be an online event, you will need the right collaboration tools to make the event successful. Please note: A doaction.org G Suite/Google Workspace account will be provided to all do_action event organizers in 2021 and beyond! Feel free to use that account for all your needs. Check out the handbook page for more information. Here are some tools that you can use for your event:
    • doaction.org website (call for nonprofits & hackathon participants)
    • Slack (overall event prep, communication on the event days) – A free plan will be sufficient.
    • Zoom (event organizer & inter-team meetings, opening/closing remarks) – WordPress Community zoom accounts can be used. 
    • Google Workspace tools (provided to all 2021 organizers in the location@doaction.org format) – Gmail (inquiries & sponsor communication), Google Forms (call for organizers & sponsors, post-event survey), Google Sheets (task & data management), Google Docs (collaborative editing of documents, Google Drive (for storage needs),  and Google Slides (opening/closing remarks presentation)
    • WordPress.com P2 – for task management
    • Trello – for task management.
    • Figma (design)
  4. Finding sponsors
    For online do_action events, organizers need not worry about venue or catering expenses. Hence, sponsorship benefits for these events can be passed along directly to non-profits. Most WordPress companies are passionate about supporting non-profits, and providing product/service licenses is a cost-effective way for them to support the community. Consider reaching out to specific companies as per your needs. Sponsorship benefits that do_action events in 2020 had availed include:
    • Free domain and web hosting for non-profits
    • Sponsored premium plugins and themes (Only 100% GPL Compliant themes and plugins are allowed)
    • Sponsored website services (backups, caching, security, optimization, etc.)
  5. Find a way to offer post-event support for non-profit websites
    Make sure that once the event is over, each non-profit is trained on how to use and update the site. Perhaps a few volunteers could provide post-event support for a short while (while ensuring that the right expectations are set on both sides). Offering post-event support as a sponsorship benefit could also be a solution to that problem.

Does all of this sound exciting? Would you like to support your local community by organizing a do_action event? Send in your application right away! You can read more about do_action in the event handbook. Thank you for all that you do to support the global community through WordPress.

The Basic principles of Open-source Software

The WordPress Foundation aims to educate the public about WordPress and related open-source software (OSS). Towards that end, the WordPress Foundation created the Introduction to Open-source workshops, which shed more light on the potential of open-source software, particularly in countries where there is less participation in OSS projects. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these workshops have moved online. The WordPress Foundation hopes to see more open-source workshops held online this year to help spread awareness about the importance of open-source software.

What are open-source software and Free Software?

Open-source software is software whose source code is available for anyone to view, modify and enhance. Free software refers to software that complies with “four essential freedoms” – to use, study, modify and distribute software for any purpose without legal restraint. Open-source software is characterized by the public accessibility of its code, while free software focuses on the capabilities for using and sharing the software.

Advantages of Free and Open-source Software over Proprietary software

Proprietary software is distributed in executable files where the source code is encrypted and not available. Free and Open-source software enables users to read and modify the code, thus allowing a host of advantages such as little (or no) cost, faster distribution, greater customization, and easy availability of bugs and security patches, to name a few. 

The Introduction to Open-source workshops cover the difference between different software types, the history of open-source software, its advantages over proprietary software, and how this applies to WordPress. The workshop also explains the differences between free and Open-source software and highlights the different types of software licenses. 

Want to learn more about Free and Open-source software? Participate in an Introduction to Open-source workshop!

There are four ways you can participate in an Introduction to Open-source workshop! 

  1. You can attend the Introduction to WordPress workshop from the comfort of your home! Learn WordPress now features an Introduction to Open-source video workshop that you can watch at your convenience. 
  2. Community members can also now host or participate in Introduction to Open-source workshop discussion groups in the Learn WordPress meetup group for a global audience. Sign-ups are now open for the following two discussion groups:

If you would like to host an Introduction to Open-source discussion group for a global audience, please apply to become a discussion group facilitator. 

  1. WordPress Meetup groups worldwide are also encouraged to organize an Introduction to WordPress watch party + discussion group (based on the Learn WordPress workshop on Introduction to Open-source) as part of their meetup (it does not need any prior approval). 
  2. Lesson plans for the Introduction to Open-source workshops are available! Meetup group organizers can plan their live open-source workshop based on the lesson plans. 

The WordPress Foundation invites community members across the world to join these open-source workshops and to organize workshops and discussion groups in their communities to help spread our mission of serving the public good with the help of Open-source software.

Meetup groups organizing Introduction to Open-source workshops will be featured on this website. All you need to do is to reach out to us with a brief write-up about your workshop along with pictures, and we’ll publish them here!

do_action hackathons and open-source workshops in 2021

In 2020, we saw do_action events and open-source workshops move online. Around the world, community members organized 5 do_action hackathons (4 of which were online) and a handful of open-source workshops last year. In moving these events online, community organizers not only brought their WordPress community closer together, but they were also able to make a positive impact on their local or regional community in an exceptionally-difficult year.  

Seeing this impact, we would like to help more organizers host even more of these online charity hackathons (do_action events) and Introduction to Open Source workshops in 2021. This post shares more information for community organizers who would like to organize do_action events in 2021.

do_action charity hackathons

Based on feedback from the community members, do_action events so far have been quite impactful in how they bring participants together to help non-profits establish an online presence, something all the more significant in 2021. Here is how we plan to support do_action events in 2021:

  • Improving the online do_action event documentation: The community team is currently working on revamping the documentation for online do_action events to include tips on remote collaboration, using collaboration tools, remote project management etc. Additionally, we will be reaching out to past do_action organizers to share recaps and help share task lists to help organizers get used to the online event format. 
  • Sponsored accounts: Organizers can reserve and use Community-sponsored Zoom Pro accounts for their events. 
  • Countrywide do_action events: There were a few countrywide do_action events in 2020. More regional/countrywide events are encouraged. 
  • Linking do_action events with WordCamps and mentoring: Since WordCamps are also online, organizers can organize do_action events in tandem with their online WordCamps, for more impact. Similarly, new do_action organizers will get mentoring from past organizers/mentors/community deputies.
  • Technology changes: The following changes will be implemented on the doaction.org website in 2021 to support our organizers in a better way: 
    • doaction.org to Google Workspace / G Suite (so that organizers can use custom emails – get access to a branded Google Workspace account) – Due March 2021
    • Doaction.org will be modified to support multiple event dates. – Due June 2021
    • The do_action application will be moved to doaction.org.- Due June 2021

Does all of this sound exciting? If you would like to organize a do_action event in your locality, please send in your application through this form! Community deputies will get back to you shortly to take it forward.

Introduction to Open-source workshops

Introduction to Open Source workshops help spread knowledge and understanding of the open web and open source. They have also been instrumental in onboarding new contributors to WordPress. With the Learn WordPress workshops on Introduction to Open-source, meetup groups could host a watch party of the recorded workshop or organize a discussion group. Here’s how community members can organize open-source workshops in 2021. 

Organizers can feature these workshops and discussion groups in the WordPress Foundation blogs by reaching out to the community team. Since open-source workshops are online, there is no cost involved in organizing them, but organizers can always request paid zoom accounts for their event

The WordPress community has the power to uplift and empower people across the world by organizing these events. Our community organizers have already done stellar work in 2020, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we step into 2021, we look forward to supporting and seeing what organizers do with these online events to help their communities!

Open Source Workshops: November 2020 report

The WordPress Foundation has been organizing Introduction to Open Source workshops, as part of our continuing efforts to educate the public about WordPress and related open-source software (OSS). In 2019, as part of our goal of organizing workshops in parts of the world with less participation in open source, we held four successful workshops in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Thimphu. 

By March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had engulfed the world, forcing community organizers to cancel all in-person events. Unfazed by these challenges, our community organizers pivoted to online events by organizing four successful online charity hackathons in Japan, South Africa, India, and Nigeria, so far. The Introduction to Open Source workshops have also moved online. The workshop is now available online as part of Learn WordPress, which is a brand new initiative from WordPress contributor teams to help people learn how to use, build for, and contribute to WordPress. Community members across the world can now learn about Open-Source safely from the comfort of their homes and test their knowledge using the embedded quiz. The workshops are also followed by discussion groups, where participants can discuss their learnings in real-time and find answers to their questions.  

As of November 2020, the Introduction to Open-source workshop video has been viewed 757 times. Three online discussion group events with over 152 RSVPs were also held successfully. Sign-ups are open for two more discussion groups that are listed below:

You can watch the workshop video and participate in these discussion groups to learn about open-source software and find answers to your questions on open-source.

In addition to these scheduled discussion groups, community organizers can organize their own online discussion groups (based on the lesson plan)or hold online watch parties for the Introduction to Open-Source workshop

Given the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, WordPress Foundation events are likely to be held online in 2021. We will be announcing our plans for 2021 events later this year.

Charity Hackathons: August 2020 Report

In September 2019, we shared about the progress of do_action charity hackathons for the year. We went on to work with 15 local communities to organize charity hackathons in 2019, which is a remarkable improvement over the 12 events from 2018.

2020 brought in some unexpected challenges for community organizers across the world due to COVID-19. By March 2020, the pandemic had spread out to most parts of the world, and hence many organizers were forced to make the difficult decision to cancel their planned in-person events. Despite these challenges, community organizers worldwide joined hands with a firm resolve to help charities by organizing online do_action events. As a result, we have seen three online do_action events in 2020 so far, with more events in the pipeline. 

Volunteers of do_action Japan doing a virtual wave.

In pre-COVID-19 times, do_action events were local – with volunteers and NGOs belonging to the respective cities. However, since online events are location-agnostic, organizers decided to experiment with larger do_action events that elicited participants spanning an entire country! The first of such events – do_action Japan – was a success! The event was followed by do_action South Africa in June and do_action India in August. Community organizers have embraced the online event format and are excited about the process.

As geographical restrictions had eased, community organizers went a step ahead and used the opportunity to help out charities located in far-flung areas. Instead of a single day event, local communities experimented with spreading out the event over multiple days or weeks. Organizers, volunteers, and charities also used tools such as Slack and Zoom to collaborate during the event.

A screenshot from a do_action India launch event.

The three events that have already taken place in 2020 saw 359 participants helping out 23 non-profits build their brand new websites. Volunteers also trained these Non-profits on how to use their websites after each event.

Here are some of the websites built at these do_action events:

More than strengthening these charities’ web presence, the websites help these charities in furthering their mission by assisting them to attract volunteers, teach courses, receive donations, and help more people. Our community members’ excellent work goes the extra mile in taking forward the mission and vision of these organizations.

Volunteers of do_action South Africa are helping non-profits learn how to use the WordPress block editor.

We live in challenging times, where the actions of a global community have the power to uplift others’ lives. Unfazed by the challenges of COVID-19, our communities have done stellar work to support charities that contribute to the greater good. As we move forward to the rest of 2020, we are excited to see what our communities do for even more non-profit organizations, and how the do_action program will grow and adapt to an online format!

Charity Hackathons in 2018

A few months ago we reported on the progress of the do_action charity hackathon event series so far in 2018 — at that stage of the year, we had supported eight local communities to help them run their own do_action events. By the time the year came to a close, we had worked with a further four communities, making twelve total do_action events for 2018.

As the program grew through the second half of the year, the additional communities that had organised do_action events were Stuttgart, Beirut, Montreal, and Port Harcourt. Montreal and Beirut were both returning communities who held their do_action event for the second year in a row.

Continue reading Charity Hackathons in 2018

Successful Open Source Workshops in Mombasa and Kanpur

In 2017, we set a goal of supporting the organizing of two “Introduction to Open Source” workshops in parts of the world with less participation in open source: Latin and South America, Africa, Oceania, and Asia*. This was accomplished with events in Mombasa, Kenya and Kanpur, India.

Mombasa

The Introduction to Open Source workshop in Mombasa was held on September 23, 2017 at Swahili Pot Hub. Though only 10 people signed up online, 38 people attended.

Daniel Joakim, lead organizer of the event, commented that this kind of workshop was a good fit for the Mombasa community because:

Currently, in Kenya and more specifically in Mombasa, the rate of unemployment is extremely high. Thousands of high school graduates normally don’t make it to the university or any higher learning institutions every passing year, so where do they end up? It is so sad, the majority get wasted on the beach and in the local clubs, this is a negative growth to the community.

Introducing open source software to these generations might be the solution to unemployment. The main agenda in mind for that event was to open up minds of the youths to seek other alternatives to tools that are readily available, and build amazing technology on top of these.

The WordPress Mombasa group was founded a little over a year ago, and currently has 168 members. Daniel said that organizing the workshop helped spread the word about the monthly user group, as well as educating the community about open source. Regarding the response of attendees to the information about open source shared in the workshop, Daniel said, “some of the attendees liked the fact of ease of use without the technical background of coding. Others found it to be handy in terms (of) speed in web design compared to other conventional methods we know.”

Kanpur

The WordPress Kanpur user group held its Introduction to Open Source workshop on November 11, 2017 at Allenhouse Institute of Technology. Online sign-ups were counted at 44, but event attendance was estimated at 150-200. Hardeep Asrani, one of the organizers of the event along with Himanshu Awasthi, said that the Kanpur community was interested in organizing this workshop because:

We love open-source and wanted to spread more knowledge about what open-source is, and why it’s important. We’ve been trying to take our workshops to colleges and schools to bring more awareness, and the [Introduction to] Open Source workshop allowed us to do this exactly.

In addition to presenting the material outlined in the lesson plans on WordPress.org, the Kanpur organizers included an open mic session. Hardeep commented that this allowed attendees to talk about anything they had coded and published open-source. “There was a guy who coded a pretty cool application using C++, and he was unsure how to release it, and open-source wasn’t his first choice, but we sat with him and explained him how it can benefit him and the community, and he decided to release it under GPL once it’s finished,” said Hardeep.

When asked about what part of the workshop particularly interested attendees, Hardeep responded, “When we talked about the freedom that open-source and Free Software gives you, a lot of people were interested, as well as when it came to privacy.”

Looking forward to more workshops in 2018

Based on the success of these two workshops, we hope to expand this program in the future, with a plan to sponsor at least four events in 2018. If you’re interested in organizing an event of this kind in your community, please keep an eye out for the next call for organizers, which will be posted early next year!

If you’re interested in helping the WordPress Foundation support open source education all over the world, please donate today!

*According to a recent study, the majority of Github participation in OSS projects is centered in North America and Western and Northern Europe.

Introducing WordPress Community Support, A Public Benefit Subsidiary

Since January, we’ve been working on switching all operations related to official WordCamp and Meetup organizing to the new subsidiary of the WordPress Foundation, which is a public benefit corporation called WordPress Community Support, PBC (WPCS).

One of the main advantages to the change from the WordPress Foundation (a non-profit) to the WPCS (a public benefit corporation) is that the rules around sponsoring official WordPress events are much simpler. The WordPress Community team has updated sponsor rules to eliminate the barriers to value-add details on promotional items, while keeping rules that helped us form a trustworthy, community-focused sponsor program.

This also means that, by and large, the WordPress Foundation is no longer the financial entity for WordCamps and Meetups. Donations to the WordPress Foundation will still be accepted, and will support the Foundation’s charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.

One of the few disadvantages to this switch is that WordCamps and meetup/user groups are no longer eligible for non-profit discounts. While this does present a problem for some groups, we think that the benefits we can provide outweigh the loss of the discounts for non-profit status.

WordPress Foundation currently holds a blanket insurance policy that covers all WordCamps in the US and Canada. WordPress Community Support, PBC is being added to that policy as a subsidiary, and we’ll be able to issue certificates with WPCS as the insured party, just like we did with the Foundation last year. All events using the WordPress Foundation name and info on their contract in 2016 will be covered by the blanket policy.

Large portions of this are excerpted from the post here, by Andrea Middleton.

WordCamps and Such

Howdy! This blog has been quiet but the Foundation has been busy and I want to catch you up on what’s been going on.

WordCamps: world-wide

Since spring 2012, WordCamps have been held everywhere from Seoul to Seattle, Bucharest to Boston, and Vegas to Vancouver. (Vancouver also hosted BuddyCamp, the first event to be focused entirely on BuddyPress). If you’re interested and passionate about WordPress — whether you’re a blogging newbie or a professional developer — you could certainly trek the globe from camp to camp.

Something we’ve been doing experimentally is to remove the financial burden for WordCamp organizers and provide logistical support so they could focus more on their content and the community. WordCamp organizers can opt for the Foundation to manage their funds which allows WordCamp to use the Foundation as their financial and legal backer and:

  • removes the financial barrier to entry for organizers,
  • protects organizers from being sued,
  • protects organizers from having to answer any awkward questions from the IRS about why, for example, they ran a $15,000 conference through their web design business, and
  • protects WordCamps from embezzlement and fraud.

To date, people around the world have attended 207 WordCamps in 116 cities, 38 countries, and 6 continents. In October 2012 alone, 15 WordCamps were scheduled.

As we approach 2013, the events keep on coming.

Sessions available on WordPress.tv

Back in 2010, we bought the first video kits for use at WordCamps. In 2012, we provide camera kits not only to WordCamps in the US, but to events in Europe and Canada as well. It’s a wonderful program that ensures all sessions, including non-English language content, are published to WordPress.tv.

We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of WordCamp videos posted to WordPress.tv since 2007:

  • 7 in 2007.
  • 75 in 2008.
  • 337 in 2009.
  • 180 in 2010.
  • 271 in 2011.
  • 325 (ytd) in 2012.

Meetups: the WordPress world where you live

I love when people in a community who are interested in WordPress — from bloggers and business users to developers and consultants — get together to educate each other about WordPress at lectures, presentations, hacking meetups, and social gatherings. It shouldn’t cost anything beyond time for someone to run a WordPress meetup.

To help out now we have an official Meetup.com account and the Foundation covers the costs of Meetup.com organizer dues for groups who are part of the WordPress account. We’re reaching out to organizers to figure out how else we can offer financial support to local meetup groups.

In addition, we’re working on other community initiatives to support and expand local WordPress meetups by incorporating feeds from meetups in WordPress.org, expanding the video equipment program, helping meetup groups offer WordPress classes in their community, mentoring WordPress clubs at schools, and developing guides and support forums for new organizers.

Simply put, we’re very excited about the projects we’re working on and look forward to what’s next.