Benetech’s Code Alliance Connects Nonprofits and Volunteers at CHI4GOOD’s Day of Service

Members of Benetech’s Code Alliance team recently organized the first ever Day of Service at the annual CHI4GOOD conference hosted by the Human-Computer Interaction Special Interest Group of the Association for Computing Machinery in San Jose, California. Code Alliance is a Benetech initiative that connects technology professionals to volunteer opportunities with open source software projects for social good. On May 7, The Day of Service, we lined up forty projects to participate in a “hack4good” event at the San Jose Convention Center with over one hundred developers, UX designers, and Logo for Code Alliance, a Benetech initiativeresearchers who came together to help our nonprofit cohort with their technological needs. If you’ve ever organized a large event, you’ll appreciate some of the challenges around communicating to hundreds of people when, how, what, and why they should be there. I’m pleased to report that the Day of Service was a success! The nonprofits benefitted from expert technical development work, and the volunteers were gracious, talented, and excited to leverage their professional skills to give back.

One of the projects that Benetech brought to the Day of Service was from our Human Rights Program. Amaya Webster, Communities Associate at Benetech, explained that we needed help creating an authentication method for Martus, our open source software application that allows users anywhere in the world to securely gather and organize information about human rights violations. Says Amaya:
Up until CHI4GOOD, Authenticon was simply an idea about how to make the process for disseminating that information secure. The thinking was to come up with a way to make it less cumbersome to validate the identity of the person or persons sending information and to confirm that the sender and receiver are who they should be. The problem was, we weren’t sure how to construct it, nor how to design it in a user-friendly way. During CHI4GOOD, a team of six volunteers consisting of developers, UX designers, and researchers took Authenticon from an abstract idea to a mapped-out concept. They created a working prototype that the Human Rights Program team at Benetech can now begin digesting and building into a full-fledged tool.

Benetech’s Authenticon was not the only project that benefited from the event. Many organizations experienced meaningful and effective collaborations with their volunteer teams. Jess Kutch from Coworker.org had this to say:
2016 CHI4GOOD logoWe had a great experience with CHI4GOOD. We needed a new template for Coworker.org — one that could display different elements from our campaigns platform, user database, and external sources. The CHI4GOOD volunteers built front-end code that was very clean and well done. The template was mobile-friendly and responsive, and it was easy to port that over to our stack and hosting situation. Having all that code written ended up saving us a lot of time. We’ll now be able to display campaigns and related content for a specific employer or workplace. We’d definitely do it again!
Other highlights of the event included development work for BitGive, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, and Root & Rebound.

BitGive told us that they had a wonderful experience. They had a few challenges at the start getting people up to speed on their project, but they soon found that they came out of their brainstorming session with excellent insights, questions, and ideas for the ultimate layout, flow, and design of their Donation Transparency Platform. The team’s interaction with the volunteers was effective and yielded high-quality work.

Another organization, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, also made significant progress. Most of the work included scoping out the project with wireframes and creating specific design notes to help the organization move forward. The volunteer team created high-fidelity mockups of the design and started working on the HTML code on the donation page. They also discussed adding some AngularJS to the back end of a new page.

Root & Rebound also said that they were grateful for the development help they received. Through their work with developers, they were able to advance their online presence to continue meeting the needs of the 50,000 Californians who leave prisons and jails each year looking for a second chance for themselves and their families. Says Aiasha Khalid, Director of Outreach & Communications:
The day couldn’t have come at a better time for us. We built a Roadmap to Reentry online hub to showcase the Roadmap to Reentry guide and encourage people to learn more about reentry barriers through an online training platform. Thanks to our CHI4GOOD tech team, we were able to develop an online searchable guide as well as develop a draft of payment and registration features. We are incredibly excited to be connected to Code Alliance, CHI4GOOD, and all the volunteers from tech companies like Google and others, as well as educational institutions across the globe that were so excited to take part. The Day of Service was a great opportunity for innovative nonprofits like ours hungry to make tech an integral part of our programs and services, but who face a huge technological learning gap in making their dreams a reality. Here’s to many more days like these!

Root & Rebound is one organization that was particularly interested in continuing the relationship with their volunteers and Code Alliance. Their goal is to become a technical nonprofit, and they asked whether there would be follow up opportunities to get more help and guidance. I recently visited their office to help them understand how to leverage more open source resources to advance their development, and Code Alliance will continue to work with them on growing their technological capabilities.
In all, there were over thirty nonprofits and forty projects that the volunteers contributed to. We’re extremely excited for next year’s event and would like to thank Kathy Baxter from Salesforce for her help organizing the Day of Service with us.
The Code Alliance Initiative at Benetech was created with events like this in mind. Our mission is to help nonprofits connect to opportunities such as CHI4GOOD’s Day of Service. We believe in building a community of technical professionals who want to help nonprofits scale impact. Learn more at www.codealliance.org.

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