A small group of Capgemini volunteers took the lead in designing and running a virtual hackathon with Code Your Future, a non-profit organisation supporting refugees and disadvantaged individuals with the dream of becoming developers, to collaboratively create tangible solutions to address a set of operational challenges – with the goal of making lives easier for Code Your Future volunteers and students in a fun and engaging process.
It was run as part of Capgemini’s Digital Inclusion strategy “to help make the digital revolution an opportunity for all and to provide a bridge between technology and society.”
Sanyia Saidova, one of the organisers and a regular volunteer with Code Your Future, said: ”this is the first event of its kind at Capgemini and I am so proud to have been a part of it. The core team were eager to work together and get the information we needed to ensure a more successful event next time around. The solutions were all fantastic…We look forward to seeing these products thrive in the hands of Code Your Future!”
The challenges and the teams’ solutions
Last year we partnered with Code Your Future, launching our first Coding Academy, and have seen first-hand some of the challenges and opportunities facing an organisation like this. We wanted to ensure that as well as helping our first cohort of students, we used our skills to help Code Your Future overcome some of the barriers and deliver improved services for its students.
Rosie Carroll, one of the organisers, added: “I enjoyed being involved in this event and feel it did create a tangible product for Code Your Future.”
Capgemini volunteers and Code Your Future students formed remote teams to develop, design and project manage solutions to the challenges. All teams produced solutions by putting their best efforts into collaborative working; as a result, Code Your Future will be integrating the apps within their systems. Here are the challenges that we tackled….
1) Extra support
The challenge: Students require support and professional advice outside of coding in areas such as finance, health, housing, employment, education, mentoring and minority groups. How might we create a product or service that could connect them with the right professionals?
The solution: The Extra Support team have developed a tool where volunteers can list available help sessions, under different categories, to enable students to find help with professional bodies, such as social workers, mentors, lawyers or guidance in the community by browsing and booking sessions based on available times and dates, to give them the advice they need.
2) See the future
The challenge: Students lack work experience and can’t envision the day-to-day requirements of their future careers. How might we craft a system or tool to help them understand the day-to-day working life of a web developer?
The solution: The See the Future team built a web application where companies can provide information about themselves as well as work and experience opportunities they have to offer, for students to browse, search and apply for these opportunities.
3) Transparency for growth
The challenge: Stakeholders and community members want transparency on how Code Your Future spends its funds. How might we use digital technology to manage expenses and bring more transparency to Code Your Future?
The solution: The expense tool created by this team will save Code Your Future time and resource, and give the charity expense information in real time, which helps them plan better and gives the stakeholders the transparency they need. Code Your Future is currently finalising this project for launch.
Judging panel discussing the solutions
What did we learn?
Hackathons are usually on-site, day-long events with people communicating in person. Ours, however, was mainly a virtual experience via Skype calls, code submissions to GitHub, emails and a heavy reliance on Slack, for messaging. The idea was to give anyone in Capgemini the chance to get involved, but as many of us know, virtual working comes with its own set of challenges – it taught us a lot:
- Communication is key. From organisers to stakeholders to hackathon team members, good communication is crucial for all members to feel included, supported and valued, wherever they are.
- Face-to-face interactions, whether Skype or in person, are invaluable for developing connections between team members. Regular calls with teams and individuals by the organisers and facilitators help people feel involved.
- Time management is a big consideration, so establishing roles within the committee early on helps to share the workload and the responsibility; assigning tasks means everyone feels utilised.
- Value everyone, loudly(!). It is important to reward effort, as well as achievements, to ensure each member feels appreciated.
Front-end Developer, DX