The participatory aid sector was early in adopting the now-ubiquitous hackathon as an event format that simultaneously recruited new talent to the space while building the bonds of community within it. Crisis-specific hackathons were early forums for creative solutions to crisis needs, and the inspiration for many of today’s V&TC groups. CrisisCommons, the early convener of crisis hackathons, has coordinated CrisisCamp response events since 2009, bringing together over 3,000 people in over 30 cities around the globe.
Random Hacks of Kindness runs two software hackathons a year and inventories the resulting projects on their website. One of the more technically equipped V&TC groups, Geeks Without Bounds, hosts humanitarian hackathons around the world and accelerates the most promising projects that emerge.
Not all of the code that emerges from a hackathon weekend is usable, and there can be a concerning lack of communication between those requesting projects and those building projects. This broken feedback loop has led to projects that don’t fulfill their lofty ambitions. Still, hackathons serve as a valuable model for convergence of talent, including many volunteers who would otherwise have little or no interaction with the aid sector. Given the relatively high commercial value of software development, the regular influxes of help developers donate immediately following crises is a significant subsidy of the aid sector’s tool development.