CodeAcross Helps Solve Civic Problems

| Kristen Weber, Communications Lead, Code for Boston

Photo: Edwin Chalumeau

This past weekend, Code for Boston was proud to host CodeAcross, an annual weekend-long event focused on technology education and civic good. The event coincided with International Open Data Day. Partnering with Resilient Coders, a code education non-profit focused on underserved youth, and held at the Roxbury Innovation Center, CodeAcross 2016 took the form of a progression hackathon: a structured event where novice coders and students worked in teams with experienced software developers and designers on hackathon projects presented as problem statements by community stakeholders. Participants learned fundamental development skills like ideation and wireframing, Github, and source control through a series of fast-paced, educational workshops.

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Photo: Edwin Chalumeau

Problem statements that generated projects and pitches included, “How might we enable better communication between parolees and parole officers?” (from Resilient Coders), “How might we enable Boston Public School students show that they were late to school due to transit delays?” (from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative), and “How might we help students to show off courses and workshops they have taken from local non-profits to potential employers and each other?” (from the Boston Department of Youth Engagement and Employment).

This was the first hackathon of its kind hosted by Code for Boston and the event was a huge success with over 80 attendees. As a powerful way to involve the broader community – both physically in Roxbury and with new partnerships – the progression hackathon looks to be an important type of event to show participants what is possible through sharing knowledge, skills, and collaboration.

The event was made possible due to the generous contributions of Code for Boston’s organizational sponsor, Microsoft New England, as well as our event sponsors JobCase and Pivotal Labs, both of whom contributed data and development expertise throughout the weekend. CodeAcross 2016 was the second time that Code for Boston and JobCase have collaborated. In October, YouthHub, a Dorchester-based non-profit focused on youth employment and job readiness announced a civic technology partnership with JobCase following Code for Boston’s National Day of Civic Hacking event in which a team of hackers worked with YouthHub to tackle the problem of youth employment.

Our location sponsor, the non-profit Roxbury Innovation Center, provided a new and vibrant space for CodeAcross participants to work on community issues. “We’ve been wanting to expand outside of Cambridge for some time,” said Harlan Weber, Lead Organizer of Code for Boston. “We talk a lot about equity and we needed to take our own advice. Hosting our event in Roxbury and partnering with Resilient Coders was a great first step to expanding our mission and involving communities outside of the tech-centric areas of Boston.”

If you are interested in learning more about Code for Boston, it’s mission and ongoing projects, the group holds weekly hack nights on Tuesday evenings at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square. In the near future, we will continue to work on projects developed at CodeAcross as well as our other ongoing civic technology projects. Anyone interested in learning more or contributing is welcome to join us.

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