Before the Hack-a-Thon Starts

For those of you who haven’t heard, Peace Corps has teamed up with Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) to help develop technology-based solutions to local community problems in developing countries. to the problems submitted during the Innovation Challenge. The Innovation Challenge was open to anyone to submit problems they have seen during their service. A few of the ideas were selected and have been submitted to RHoK, who will work to develop solutions this weekend. This weekend (December 1 & 2), 48-hour volunteer “hack-a-thons” are being held in locations all over the globe – including Lusaka! I will be attending the one here in Washington, DC, since the problem I submitted is one that will be tackled during the event.  

My idea was to create an interactive, searchable map that contains information on NGOs and other development/aid organizations that are working in a given area. (For my original submission, click here: http://innovationchallenge.peacecorps.gov/idea/57). By combining several submissions, the final problem looks like this: http://www.rhok.org/problems/living-directory-do-gooders-and-their-programs.

Those of you who know me, know that I am not a programmer, coder, or otherwise particularly tech-savvy. I am really good at using the internet – but I have no idea how it actually works. The idea of this “hack-a-thon” really intrigues me, and the more I learn about RHoK, the programs, and everything else – the more excited I get about being a part of it. Even though I might not be much help on the programming end, I am hoping to be able to contribute as a “subject matter expert (SME)” or by finding data on the internet. Another perk of the event is free food – enough to make any RPCV happy!

At this point, I really don’t know what to expect. The event in DC is being held at the OpenGov Hub – “an attempt to physically collocate historically distinct but like-minded communities of practice under a single shared physical workspace” (this is directly from their website; I have no idea what it actually means). My two competing images are either the situation room – lots of computers and TVs and everyone connected to each other with headsets and smart phones OR the basement of Friley Hall – lots of nerds on their computers in the dark chugging Mountain Dew. In reality, it will probably be somewhere in between.

So this is my “before” post – my idea is to keep a live blog with updates as the day goes along and the project progress. The first event is tonight, a reception at the World Bank that I am planning to attend with a few of my co-workers. This is something of an event-before-the-event, a chance to do a little schmoozing and meet some of the other people involved before things get serious tomorrow. So stay tuned as I navigate a whole new experience.

More info:

Peace Corps Innovation Challenge, http://innovationchallenge.peacecorps.gov/

Random Hacks of Kindness, http://www.rhok.org/     

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About Mary E. Fuller

Originally from Iowa, currently traveling in Italy and Greece. Proud Iowa State Cyclone, soon-to-be a Western Illinois Leatherneck. Served for three years as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Serenje, Zambia and worked for Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. for two years before coming down with a serious case of wanderlust. Catch up with my on Instagram: @mary.eliz.fuller or on Twitter: @maryinzambia
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