How This Toronto Hackathon Helped Bridge the Technology Gap for Non-Profits
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How This Toronto Hackathon Helped Bridge the Technology Gap for Non-Profits

All photos by Ryan Emberley.

All photos by Ryan Emberley.

What happens when you bring together 141 developers, designers, and UX artists with six non-profits over a 40-hour weekend hackathon? You get a bunch of innovative ideas and digital creations that helps to bridge the technology gap that many non-profits face.

At BrainStation in downtown Toronto, attendees of the Capital One Canada “Gift the Code” hackathon learned about the needs of various charities, and brainstormed solutions that they completed over a weekend’s worth of work (with a bit of coffee). Breaking up into 24 teams, they developed chatbots, overhauled websites, and redesigned online donation forms.

Tech journalist Marc Saltzman speaks to attendees at the Capital One Canada #GiftTheCode hackathon.

Tech journalist Marc Saltzman speaks to attendees at the Capital One Canada #GiftTheCode hackathon.

Hosted by tech journalist Marc Saltzman, Capital One Canada’s first-ever hackathon matched up digital and design skills with the needs of charities to help bridge the technology gap that exists at many charities, where they often don’t have the resources to develop enterprise solutions.

Nathalie Clark, Managing Vice President of Capital One Canada, was impressed with how the teams came together so quickly to develop targeted solutions: “Some of the tools and solutions can be put to use immediately, solving several long-standing needs at Toronto non-profits, and we’re exploring how we can help expand on others so that they can put all of the good work to use in the future.”

The solutions for charities include:

  • Blake Boultbee, an outreach service that provides counselling and life skills training to youth and families in low-income areas of Toronto received a redesign of its website. It also received new chatbot capabilities for its social media pages.
  • For children’s rehabilitation hospital Holland Bloorview, teams digitized the patient feedback and review process, which will make it easier for patients to give feedback to doctors and researchers.
  • Prosper Canada develops programs and policies to expand opportunities for Canadians living in poverty. One team developed a way to help its clients track expenditures by using an online messenger.
  • Second Harvest is a Toronto-based food rescue program. Gift the Code developers digitized its annual raffle competition, which should improve the customer experience.
  • Toronto PFLAG provides support and resources to friends, families, and allies of LGBTQ individuals. Teams created an anonymous chat system so that first-time clients can easily reach out for resources in confidence.
  • Similarly, for Women’s Habitat, an organization that provides shelter and support services to women at risk of or experiencing abuse, teams developed a chatbot that hides its digital footprint. The service connects women with volunteers and support in a way that’s designed to reduce the fear of being discovered by their abuser.

Capital One-50

The respective charities were enthusiastic about the solutions for their organizations.

“The impact these solutions will have on our organization are huge, and drives home that it’s not always about the money but about thinking outside the box to achieve a common goal,” said Lina Almanzan, the resource systems manager for Women’s Habitat.

While the participating charities got a lot out of the Capital One Canada hackathon, so too did the participants.

“The entire experience of meeting new people, working on something meaningful and being able to give back to the community while learning new skills was an out of this world experience,” said participant Naina Sethi, who’s currently learning front-end and back-end code.

That’s what happens when you align values, skills, and needs. You develop new ideas, connect in ways that you couldn’t before, and build a better community.


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