Doing Good in Open Source & the World

About a month ago, I mentored at the Ignite International Girls Hackathon in NYC and it was an incredible experience. It opened up my world to numerous opportunities to give back that hadn’t really crossed my radar previously.

The Ignite International Girls Hackathon was a 24 hour, multi-country event that happened in the US (New York City and Oakland, California), Taiwan, India, and Brazil. In NYC, the organizations coordinating the event were Girls Who Code, UN Women, and General Assembly. The hackathon was part of IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology, a project of Global Fund for Women that works to advance gender equality using science and technology and advocates for increased access and control of technologies for women. The event provided an opportunity for girl coders to use their talent and creativity to build a website or application that creates a safe space for women and girls.

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The group I helped mentor included both senior high school and first year college women. The goal of their product was to raise awareness of the barriers women face when trying to get to a health center for reproductive/sexual health concerns. Their application was a webpage with an embedded 3D maze game built with Blender that presented the player with various obstacles when traveling towards the heath center. The barriers were linked to actual case studies and contained information about the lack of standardization across states on women’s health rights. The beauty of the solution was that it could be adapted for different countries and topics to highlight any type of barrier-filled journey.

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It was an absolute privilege to work with these young women. They inspired me and filled my heart with awe and admiration. I know they will accomplish great things – they are already making their impact. They provided a fresh approach to identifying a problem and solving it, and taught me a number of facts about the barriers women face as well. The experience helped me grow in terms of leadership while providing another opportunity to think through a solution in a holistic manner.

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[attributed_blockquote author="" position=""]Most importantly, their teamwork and enthusiasm challenged me to ask myself some hard questions. How am I doing good? How am I working on issues that bother me and could benefit from some volunteering?[/attributed_blockquote]

These are questions that are important to me both personally and as a developer. I’m fortunate to have a position at Phase2 where I can have some positive societal impact in my work. Phase2 works hard to support efforts to give back in numerous ways, including code contributions, talks, and sponsorships of events like ChickTech's 2014 High School Workshop in Corvallis at Oregon State University.  I'm so happy to be surrounded by awesome people at Phase2 and the greater NYC community who do so much and more to give back. For example, various members of our local tech community participate in the monthly Drupal Playdays, an event organized and hosted by our very own Steven Merrill with Robbie Holmes.

Mentoring provides a wonderful opportunity no matter what part of the development cycle you participate in. I believe it’s important to make it a part of your life if you can spare the time. You are able to share your knowledge and experience, do a social good, and you will definitely benefit and be challenged more than you realize. To use another Phase2 example, Caitlin Loos participated in the St. Mary’s Academy Alumna Mentorship program last year and found it to be so rewarding that she continued to work with her mentee even after the program concluded.

Volunteering our time, even if it’s not mentoring, gives us the opportunity to have new experiences and change our perspective. It builds communities, and we can learn from one another and become more thoughtful about what it takes to work in concert for something that matters beyond the scope of our daily routine. This doesn’t necessarily have to take an extended chunk of our time or require us to take on responsibilities for which we don’t have capacity. It can be something small, just a few hours of our time every once in a while, a day of your weekend, or a holiday.

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Chris Bloom recently led a community event called Rocky Butte Cleanup to beautify a severely littered forest in NorthEast Portland, OR. There are plenty of opportunities to make it a family event too! Joey Groh took part in an event called Boxes of Love organized by the Inner City Ministry of Cru with his family. They packed boxes filled with goods for Thanksgiving meals that were passed out to churches and distributed to families in need.

[blockquote]Our impact can be meaningful and as a collective, add up to something larger than anything one can accomplish by oneself. It’s this exact result that the open source community produces.[/blockquote]

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My experience expanded my horizons and allowed me to meet new people and make a small difference. I’ve decided to start making time to do a little more volunteering. I hope to meet you as I continue along my journey, as I believe each of you will inspire and teach me to become a better person and a better developer. I hope I can have a similar impact on you as well.

How can you get involved?

Well, first of all, be sure to save the date for the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, 2015!

Also, save the date (and volunteer) for NYC Camp, a free conference in NYC that runs July 16 – 19, 2015 at the United Nations. The content and audience are Drupal-centric, but it will also encompass a broad range of related open source technologies and communities. If you're interested in volunteering, please reach out to info@nyccamp.org.

There are so many organizations, too numerous to name, so I'll just list a few you can reach out to:  Code for America, Girls Who Code, CoderDojoDoSomething.orgMozilla, ChickTechBetaNYC, ScriptEdNew York City Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC)New York Cares.

If you want to work on an issue outside of the Drupal issue queue, take a look at the civic hacking GitHub issues aggregated by Code for America.

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