May 2011

New England GiveGamp: Code it Forward Recap

This being my first post to the NERD blog, I wanted to provide a quick introduction.  I’m Jim O’Neil, one of the Developer Evangelists covering New England and Upstate New York.  My role is working with developer communities across the area in three primary ways:  presenting on various technology topics at Microsoft-sponsored and community events like Meetups and Bar Camps;  providing guidance and support for the over four dozen user groups in our district; and blogging on community and technology, with a particular emphasis on cloud computing.  A great deal of my time (evenings and weekends typically!) is of course spent at NERD, and one of the more ambitious and rewarding events that I’ve been privileged to be a part of is New England GiveCamp, the subject of this post.

During the weekend of April 29 to May 1st, representatives of 28 non-profit organizations (NPOs) and some 120 volunteers – from all six New England states as well as Virginia and Illinois – descended upon NERD for New England GiveCamp 2011. Organized by Kelley Muir, Director of Float Left Labs and myself, New England GiveCamp matches non-profit projects with volunteer designers, developers, social media experts, and other technologists for a weekend ‘hackathon’ to produce web sites, logos, videos, donor databases, and other custom projects for the NPOs, which this year included charities such as the Science Club for Girls, Children’s Charter Trauma Clinic, Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, and the Boston Women’s Fund.

Throughout the weekend, teams stretched out across the Conference Center to work on the various projects, with breaks for meals and workshops on topics such as social media, WordPress maintenance, video production, and content strategy.  The weekend was far from all-work-and-no-play, however.  True to the “camp” name, around 40 attendees stayed both nights – with at least three tents pitched on the conference center floor!  The Saturday night snack was “make your own sundaes,” and there were camp craft kits for all.

By the end of the event on Sunday evening, it’s estimated that volunteers provided over $175,000 in pro bono services for the organizations that participated. In addition to the on-site volunteer service donations, meal and snack leftovers were delivered to the CASPAR shelter in Cambridge, and a last-minute food-drive netted more than 100 non-perishable items for the Acton Food Pantry.

As has become a tradition, attendees signed the event banner upon departing, leaving comments such as life changing experience; thank you from the bottom of my heart; brilliant, inspiring, and otherwise magnificent; and totally fabulous.

Planning for the 2012 edition of New England GiveCamp is already in progress, and more information on the event and sponsorship opportunities can be found here.  You can keep tabs on next year’s event by following @NEGiveCamp on Twitter and Facebook.