Austin continues to re-imagine hackathons as a platform for civic and social innovation. While cities across the nation are participating in the National Civic Day of Hacking on June 6, the third annual ATXHack4Change June 5-7 is designed to expand how Austinites view “hacking” and transform how this community tackles civic challenges.
The City of Austin, Open Austin and community members are sponsoring 20-plus projects at St. Edward’s University this weekend ranging from helping infants and children to enhancing community engagement and improving the citizen experience. A list of projects is viewable at http://atxhackforchange.org/projects-2015/
‘Hacking it forward’
“In the spirit of what our Mayor calls ‘intentional improvisation,’ we are hacking the hackathon as one way to address important issues in our community in a more intentional way,” said City of Austin Chief Innovation Officer Kerry O’Connor, who elaborates on this in a recent blog.
The ATXHack4Change is unique from traditional hackathons in a few ways:
- Traditional hackathons focus on competition and prizes. This effort is heavily focused on collaboration and providing expert feedback and on how to take projects to the next level post-hackathon.
- A broad audience is invited that includes coders and non-coders.
- Free skills-sharing workshops will prep hackathon novices and veterans for individual, team and project success.
While most hackathons last a single day or weekend, preparations began several weeks in advance and in some cases, efforts will continue beyond the weekend. Project champions have been exposed to methodical innovation methods, such as framing the problem that needs solving, clarifying desired impact, and identifying skills and fresh perspectives needed to open up possibility.
"This year, we honor the fact that getting projects to a hack-ready state is hard work," O'Connor said. "And we frame our efforts as "hacking it forward." For project champions, the hackathon represents an opportunity to make intensive, forward progress with the help of non-traditional problem-solvers."
Who should attend?
The hackathon, open to anyone who cares about making a civic impact in Austin, is hosted by the City of Austin, Open Austin, St. Edward’s University and Texans for Economic Progress, a nonprofit advocating for greater access to technology for job creation, innovation and prosperity in Texas.
For some, the stereotype of a “hacker” brings to mind a 20-something behind a keyboard donning headphones and sipping a Jolt Cola. Working with the broadest definition of hacking – to use one’s skills to alter, cope with successfully, refine or rewrite, reuse or repurpose – a hacker today includes talented coders working alongside skilled linguists, parents, business process experts, researchers and other non-traditional problem-solvers needed to tackle complex community problems.
See a 30-second video clip on hacking and a growing list of skills, passions and perspectives needed this weekend.
"What you are seeing not just in Austin, but nationwide, is a new generation of civic participants seeking ways to interact with local government not through meetings at City Hall or other formal channels, but instead through their excitement about technology,” said Mateo Clarke, Director of Civic Hacking with Open Austin, a citizen volunteer group that promotes open government, open data, and civic application development in Austin. "The Code for America brigade network is all about creating these direct interactions and collaborations between government staff and the community members they serve."
Speakers will include Mayor Steve Adler; City of Austin Chief Innovation Officer Kerry O’Connor; Jess McMullin with the Centre for Citizen Experience; Chief Innovation Officer Dustin Haisler of e.Republic; and Chelsea McCullough, Executive Director of Texans for Economic Progress.
A unique performance will combine electronic music and data to present a sonic image of the city called “Resilience and Response to Stressors and Shocks.”
For the full ATXHack4Change schedule, visit http://atxhackforchange.org/
ATXHack4Change is possible because of dozens of community partners. Sponsors include AT&T, IBM, RideScout, Texas NIC, Socrata, Southside Flying Pizza, Clarify, context.io and Microsoft.