Beyond Hack for Good

17th August 2018

On Friday 10th of August Studio Republic ran our first charity hack day, Hack for Good.

Hacks for good can be polarising in how they’re perceived, and with good reason. People coming together to create something ‘for good’ is a concept to be applauded, but it’s easy to fall into traps like omitting to involve people working in the field, mistakenly believing that the hack is the solution as opposed to a step on the way to a solution, or trying to solve fundamental social issues. We sought to overcome these hack day pitfalls by involving charity workers, hacking with no strings attached, and working on specific problems faced by charities or their beneficiaries. The theme for the day was to create something to benefit or support homelessness services and briefs, in the form of problems or issues, had been provided by several charities and organisations. The day started with BySea coffee and pastries provided by Steadfast Collective who were both keen to show their support for the day. Briefs selected on the day came from Winchester City Council’s outreach team and regional youth homelessness charity Step by Step. Professional experience and input was delivered by local homelessness charity The Society of St James who sent Tony Keall, one of their operations directors, along to give some steer. A five-strong team from Hinge took on a somewhat ambitious challenge set by Winchester City Council. Homeless Link are a national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England. They do great work signposting people who are homeless towards the services they need. However, because this is a nationwide service, often the information they give can be vague and doesn’t include the local information that someone working in the area might be able to give. They can be slow to update service information and add new services. Is there a more tailored, regional and specific way of signposting people to the services they need?” Taking the theme of ‘local services for local people’, the team at Hinge delivered an app that could be updated by multiple member organisations and individuals at a service provision level. The app would provide current information for support workers in the field; covering accommodation, food, advice, health, housing, and outreach.  
  The Hinge team have shared more of their Hack for Good experience in their Medium post here. Rareloop brought along a team of three to Hack for Good. Inspired by briefs that mentioned measuring impact, but with a desire to develop a product that more directly supported people who’d experienced homelessness, the team set about building an app to support well-being in homeless people. Adam, lead developer at Rareloop shared,
“We looked at using technology to help the homeless learn the skills required for independent living by encouraging positive habits. Super proud of what we came up with, great work team.”
Following input from Tony from the Society of St James, the team repurposed some of their morning’s work in favour of focusing on the specific needs of individuals who are already engaging with support. They developed an app to support positive habit forming which would encourage app users towards independent living. Habits may include areas from the most fundamental, such as personal hygiene, to more complex items such as budgeting and meal planning.  

The team explored the possibility of data from the apps pulling into a database that could support the measurement of progress for each individual. Again, feedback based on experience in the field led them to modify this possibility. It was decided that data would be anonymised before it would enter a database, this would encourage a greater degree of honesty in the end user, but would still serve the purpose of analysing trends and demonstrating which interventions and support were having the desired effect overall.

The Rareloop team had further developments up their sleeve that would add gamification, such as streaks, to reward and encourage younger people to take steps towards independent living making their app adaptable to suit both adult and youth services.

Lunch was provided by the kind people at The Stable in Winchester. Their pizzas went down a treat, but teams didn’t spend long away from their laptops as they were mindful of the deadline.

Two Studio Republic developers and one designer teamed up with Syd from The Bot Platform to tackle a brief set by Step by Step. Their brief centred around generating a secure and reliable way for support workers to deliver notes into a database or CRM without returning to an office-based desktop computer.

“Our on the ground support workers that spend most of their time supporting young people, are based in mobile working environments. In order to monitor service outcomes we need them to input details of their visits and well-being of beneficiaries in our database. Despite support workers carrying smartphones, the current situation relies on everyone going to their nearest office and using a desktop computer to input data, which isn’t possible after every visit. We rely on people either taking good notes, or having good memories which can often lead to discrepancies or missed information.”

The team delivered a bot-based mobile solution that could run within Messenger to prompt the support worker to input data against relevant data fields. The data would then push into a CRM system such as Inform (Salesforce) removing the need for the support worker to be on a desktop device. A further development from the SR team relied on voice-recognition technology and would enable support workers to deliver notes into their app while on the move, if required. In both cases, data security risk is minimised through the removal of paper notes or notebooks.

As the 4:30 presentation deadline approached, we cracked open the beers, kindly provided by local brewery Red Cat, and the teams took it in turns to present what they’d been building during the day.

To say that we’re pleased with the outcomes of the day would be an understatement. Having Tony from Society of St James on hand to give experienced feedback as and when the teams needed it informed changes and led to developments that have potential to be picked up and run with.

We’d like to give one more thanks to our very kind sponsors, and to all the teams that took part in the day.

Hack for Good will be back in 2019! We will keep you updated.