Over the weekend of April 29 through May 1st, representatives of 28 non-profit organizations and 120 area technologists (developers, designers, project managers, social media experts, and others) gathered for a weekend hackathon at the Microsoft New England Research and Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge MA. About 40 of the participants even spent both nights at NERD, with several tents pitched right on the conference center floor!
Over the course of the event, small teams of volunteers worked on a variety of projects for the participating non-profit organizations: websites, databases, logo designs, and other tasks. This year we extended the scope of the event a bit, with Adam Weiss producing a video for one of the non-profit organizations as his contribution, and Alex Roberts donated her photographic talents by taking headshots of the non-profit representatives for use in on-line and print materials.
In addition to project works, key volunteers hosted presentations and discussions focused on challenges non-profits have in incorporating technology and new media in their efforts. Thanks specifically to the following for their well-received workshops:
- Margot Bloomstein (effective content strategy)
- Doug Vanderweide (using WordPress)
- Jay Sun (beta launch of The Goodness)
- Adam Weiss (getting started with video)
- JoAnn Lefebvre (leveraging social media)
The weekend wasn’t all work and no play by any means. Friday night, volunteer Michael de la Maza manned the popcorn machine, and on Saturday the evening snack was ‘make-your-own-sundaes.’ And of course it wouldn’t be ‘camp’ without crafts! Another highlight of the event is the “Free Stuff” table – through the generosity of O’Reilly Media there were over a hundred books and t-shirts for the taking, and still more books from O’Reilly, Manning, and Wrox served as a reference library throughout the weekend before they were claimed by the techies in attendance. Many participants also took advantage of the nice weather to explore the Kendall Square area in order to recharge their batteries and get the creative juices reflowing.
The contributions at New England GiveCamp didn’t stop with the project work though. Leftovers from the Saturday meal as well as several cartons of fruit and other snacks were brought to the Albany Street shelter of the Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Rehabilitation (CASPAR), and a last minute food drive (inspired by the Project Bread Walk for Hunger taking place on May 1st) netted over 100 items which were donated to the Acton Food Pantry.
By the end of the weekend, an estimated $170,000 of pro bono services were donated to the 28 non-profit organizations in attendance. Some of the comments left by the attendees on the event banner help convey the scope and impact of this event:
life changing experience
thank you from the bottom of my heart
brilliant, inspiring, and otherwise magnificent
best weekend ever
And for some more in-depth perspective from a few participants at New England GiveCamp, check out the following:
- Greetings from New England GiveCamp – Dave M. Davis
- Hacking for a Cause – Charles Baakel
- GiveCamp New England 2011 – Matt Sheppard
- New England GiveCamp 2011: What a Weekend! – Doug Vanderweide
- Coding for Charity – New England GiveCamp – Cambridge Community Television
Planning has already begun for New England GiveCamp 2012; many of the alumni have already come up with great suggestions for next year. And less than six hours after closing out New England GiveCamp 2011, a new non-profit organization contacted us for participation in next year’s event! Be sure to follow @NEGiveCamp on Twitter and “like’ us on Facebook to keep tabs on the 2012 edition!
Lastly, I must mention that this event wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support of the staff at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center and the financial and in-kind donations of the more than three-dozen organizations listed below, whom we hope will be long term supporters of this signature event in the New England technical community.
Bluefin Technical Services