From November 15-18, 2019 Hackworks and Capital One came together once again to put on its Digital For Good Tech Jam and Summit in Toronto.
In its fourth straight year, the annual event provides a way for charities to bridge the technology gap they’re facing.
In preparation for the event that is a Hackathon (a sprint-like event, where developers, user experience and user interface artists, and other industry professionals collaborate intensively on software projects) Capital One rallied hundreds of tech experts to come together with the goal of developing software and technology solutions for deserving charities.
According to Erika Pedersen-Lorenzen, program manager at Hackworks, the Tech Jam event is necessary for the charities selected (14 were chosen for the 2019 event) because, without the support of big teams and budgets, charities don’t have access to the same technology solutions and advances other companies do.
This year, the event took place at Toronto’s Arcadian Loft and kicked off with the first part called the Tech Jam.
“For the Tech Jam, we had fourteen charities and fourteen technology teams paired together,” Pedersen-Lorenzen explained. “Basically, the tech teams’ mission is to solve a problem their charity was facing with a technology solution. At Hackworks, we made sure to take the time to matchmake these teams and charities, and from there, they got to work.”
At the Tech Jam itself, tech teams volunteered their time and skillset and worked with their charity representative to make sure problems were being solved over the weekend.
“There is no competition at this event,” Pedersen-Lorenzen said. “It’s just talented tech experts donating their skills to deserving charities over the weekend to help them reach their goals.”
The Tech Jam kicked off on Friday with a dinner and networking event so teams could meet their assigned charity. On Saturday, the focus was on problem-solving; charity reps could explain the exact problems they were facing, and tech experts got to work on designing and developing a solution.
For the rest of the Tech Jam, tech teams worked around the clock on solutions for their charities, along with a number of perks.
“Throughout the event, we made sure that the tech experts felt like they were being taken care of in every way,” Stephanie Forest, senior design manager at Capital One said. “Because they were donating their time, it was important they felt at home and felt like they were being treated for their generosity.”
Forest said the event had things like massage stations so developers and coders could take a much-needed break throughout the weekend. They also had things like a giant video wall with animations to keep the experts informed and entertained.
“With a Hackathon, these tech experts are really putting in the hours,” Pedersen-Lorenzen said. “So how we treat food and drink is different from a conference-style event, where you have three square meals and a snack. For these events, coffees and snacks at all hours are so important. And to make this event special, and to ensure coders would actually take a break, we worked with a catering company to make sure interesting food was served.”
There was liquid nitrogen ice cream, a candy bar, and other food options throughout the weekend that the tech experts could enjoy at their leisure.
“We made sure there was a consistent supply of food and drink because we know everyone works at their own pace,” she added.
By Sunday, the tech teams would have completed their solution and presented it to their assigned charity.
“The final aspect of the Tech Jam is the demo presentation,” Pedersen-Lorenzen said. “Each tech team demonstrated the solution, and then as a surprise feature each charity was given $5000 as a grant from Capital One to further support the implementation of the technology.”
After the Tech Jam weekend, the Digital for Good Summit begins. Last year, the event was held on November 18. In a more conference-type program, the event encourages charities and non-profits to embrace technology.
The event featured informative talks, breakout sessions, and inspiring keynote speakers throughout the day.
There was also a tech bar that was open to attendees looking to learn about specific technologies they are curious about.
Overall, the event is one that both charities and technology experts look forward to attending every year, organizers said.
“It’s so important to us with this event to give participants as much as they give to this event,” Pedersen-Lorenzen said. “We really try and go out of our way to encourage their experience and elevate things during this event. So not just serving all-day snacks and coffee, but serving out of the box food and drink. And all that compounded with the fact that these coders are helping real charities come up with real solutions, we really see the positive impact this event has. Tech teams have a willingness to come back to this event year after year – often citing it’s their favourite event of the year. And some coders even go on to work with these charities long after the event is over.”
“For the charities – they are not used to getting treated this way,” she added. “They’re not used to having events that consider their experience. We get a lot of positive responses saying it’s one of their favourite events of the year because it’s doing such amazing work for them.”
Planning by: Hackworks and Capital One
Submitted by: Erika Pedersen-Lorenzen, Hackworks
Event: Capital One’s Digital For Good Tech Jam and Summit
Venue: Arcadian Loft
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