Why I love running RHoK


We’ve received a lot of RHoK love this year, but last weekend’s Melbourne and Sydney hacks was probably the most productive with respect to getting prototypes & solutions across the line, and the most satisfying in terms of how well the hackers and change makers connected with each other, and with their causes. It’s clear we’re doing something right ☺️

Now we get to relax for a couple of months (“and breath”… 🧘🏼‍♀️) before we prepare for the Winter Hackathon and find our next batch of amazing change makers. A massive congratulations to Eddie for a successful first hack as our new Melbourne Community Manager. Handovers are not always easy, unless of course your new Community Manager has been involved in RHoK before; as a change maker, a hacker, and steering committee member. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to take up the reigns.

– A.B.


RHoK Melbourne Changemaker 101


Last night we held our biannual Changemaker 101 session for our Melbourne cohort of Summer Hackathon change makers. W’re working with a really diverse group of social warriors this year, with projects focussed on improving medical services for LGBQTI patients, enabling better access to legal services, connecting volunteers within communities, and creating safe urban spaces using anecdotal sexual assault data

Software Development for Social Impact

As most change makers non-profits and social enterprises don’t typically have strong tech backgrounds, Changemaker 101 is a chance to introduce them to software development processes – specifically those that work well for RHoK, and to prepare them for what will undoubtably be an overwhelming experience.

The goal of the evening was to start unpacking the problems they’re facing within their organisation and to guide them though the process of preparing the problems statements which they will pitch at the upcoming RHoK Info Night. Our Melbourne Community Manager, Eddie Chapman (@acd_eddie) gave everyone a brief introduction to the history of RHoK Global and RHoK Australia. Roberto Pietrobon (@MrRobertoPietro) from Care to Compare, talked about his experience with RHoK as a  two-time changemaker, and I gave a brief introduction to agile methodologies; the benefit of adopting a Lean framework for software development; the concepts of rapid prototyping & measurement; how to communicate effectively with development teams; and how to craft a focussed and compelling problem statement.


Introducing the RHoK Australia – 2018 Summer Changemakers


The RHoK Australia – Melbourne Summer Hackathon is just over a month away and we have six fantastic organisations/social enterprises that we’ll be collaborating with. We also welcome DocDir, which is only at the very start of its social impact journey. DocDir aims to train GPs and other health professionals to have an integrated LBGTQI practice.

“We are looking for ‘Goldilocks’ problems; they need to be small enough so that they can be progressed over a weekend, but large enough to make a real difference.”
— Eddie Chapman, RHoK Community Manager

Kensington Neighbourhood House


Providing adult education, personal development, community building and childcare programs to their local community.




Providing free legal advice to Australians in need who can’t otherwise access it.


Moral Fairground


Creating awareness and raising the profile of ethical living and ethical business throughout the Australian community.


RPH Radio Reading Network


Supporting the Radio Reading network and the voice of print media in Australia, with a vision that print disability is not a barrier to participation.


She’s a Crowd


Ending gender-based violence by sharing stories to help decision-makers understand and address the issue.




Enriching the lives of people with a disability.


Revamping the RHoK Australia website

I spent most of yesterday revamping the RHoK Australia website in preparation for the next round of applications. There is still a lot more work to do to make it work more effectively, but I think we're getting there.

Recent changemakers and projects are yet to be added, as well as photos from our most recent hackathons.

The majority of my time was spent overhauling the Become a Changemaker  and  Become a RHoK star  pages, and making our reach or impact more visible. 

Showcasing our impact hasn't really been a priority for us but it's becoming increasingly more important. It enables us to standing out from other hackathons, and it makes it easier for us to attract quality Changemakers and to retain sponsors. Over the next couple of months i'll be focussing more on impact.

Then later on this year we will look at rebranding RHoK. Our logos and marketing materials look dated (they are at least 10+ years old) and they don't reflect our ability to deliver cutting edge technology solutions. 

The next step is to make sure our values and mission statement come across more clearly.



RHoK Changemaker 101

Last night I met our newest batch of Social Superheros for our pre-hackathon Changemaker 101 session. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend this years hack. I'll be in Cape Town, South Africa attending the .Astronomy9 conference, running a tutorial session, and delivering an invited talk. But our RHoK lead-up events are fantastic and I wanted to stay involved at some level. Intrepid Travel very kindly hosted us for this event and it was great to have a few of their staff participate and see first hand how we RHoLL. 


I've talked about Changemaker 101 in previous posts, so I won't go into the details here. Essentially Mandi was her awesome business analyst self and walked our changemakers through the basics  of software development and introduced them to Agile and Lean methodologies. The goal of the evening was to help them identify their main roadblock and to prepare problems statements for the upcoming RHoK Info Night.

This year we have nine changemakers, including two return changemakers (Jen & Roberto);

While I won't be here to witness the RHoK Summer Hack magic – did I mention I'll be living it up in South Africa? ;) it was so great to meet Martina Clark from Carers Couch. This is such a great social enterprise I really want her to get the most out of RHoK. She also lost her best friend to cancer and because of our not-quite-shared experience we kind of hit it off.  You can read about her story here. Funnily enough we also happen to live in the same street! You gotta love Elwood folk :) 

Carers Couch provides advice, resources and attempts to build a supportive community around those who are caring for someone with cancer; be it a husband or wife, a mother or daughter, a father or son, the neighbour who cooks frozen dinners, the friend and fellow school mum who ferries the kids around, the close friend, the confidant, the not-so-close but still very important friend, to the local barista who brings morning coffee and cheer. 

Martina came to us with a really clear, albeit challenging problem:

According to the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, emotional burnout, depression, anxiety and chronic illness are common and impact the overall mortality of carers. Self-care is crucial in preventing this but due to high workload and lack of support, many carers just don’t get a break. This burnout can impact the person who is dependent on them and can last well beyond the life of the dependant. I have experienced this first hand and have had it shared with me countless times now through Carers Couch. While nothing can prepare you for being a carer the right supports can help. The solution is taking the plethora of ‘stuff’ and bringing it into a single location, enabling the carer to increase their capacity and resilience resulting in better mental & physical health outcomes, communication and linking them with the relevant support specific to their needs. Through acknowledgement, education and awareness Carers Couch continues to normalize and validate the carers experience and its impact on physical and mental health. Carers Couch is there to assist with the unique needs that can come with caring for a loved one diagnosed with cancer. 
— Martina Clark (taken from her RHoK application)

Carers Couch already exists, and has been up and running for well over a year. It sounds like she's done an amazing job so far with setting up a website, building up the community, giving talks, getting key stakeholders in place (e.g., Peter Mac), and participating in the Melbourne Health Accelerator Program. Martina's problem now is that she's reached a point where her business can't scale easily, which is where RHoK can really help. A little business analysis and development work, and tech mentors to assist in the move from manual and clunky to streamlined and automatic, can make a massive impact. So over the next few week RHoK will be helping Martina figure out how to deliver carer support in a really effective way. I'm super excited about this project and I'm hoping that we continue working with Martina post-RHoK to make sure she ends up with a whizz-bang tech solution with everything Carers Couch needs. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day (or two days...)

My fellow RHoKstar (and veteran) Shaun Wilde will be her RHoK Buddy and Tech Lead this year.

She's in such good hands.

Meet Free to Feed, one of our 2017 RHoK Winter Changemakers

Last night I met up with my fellow Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) organisers to go through the RHoK 2017 Winter Hack change maker applications. This is one of my favourite parts of the process; deciding who we can support and how we can put together a compelling case that will entice hackers.

Each year the application process opens in February or March. It's a mix of change makers approaching the organisation, and us going out and approaching suitable candidates. A lot of the magic happens by word of mouth, and more often than not referrals come from previous charities, non-profits, and social enterprises that have already worked with RHoK. 

It can be tricky finding the right fit. Ideally we look for small organisations that are fairly well established, but lack dedicated IT support, or are experiencing problems where technology or perhaps even just a review of business processes, can positively impact their work. Our application process is simple. We ask prospective change makers to give an overview of their work – their mission or vision statement, how they currently operate, and to describe the challenges they are trying to solve. Our Steering and Organising Committees meet to evaluate projects, and if successful we start engaging closely with the change makers. 

We've had a number of excellent applications for the Melbourne Winter Hackathon. Seven of them really stood out and I'm really looking forward to working with them as a RHoK buddy and tech lead.

I'm super excited to tell you we'll be working with Free to, a social enterprise that created the free to feed project. Free to feed is a pop-up cooking school with all classes run by refugees and asylum seekers. It's brilliant. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of participating in Hamed's cooking class – Persian vegetarian favourites – and I remember at the time thinking, RHoK could really help these guys with a few things. Aside from the  seriously good food, Free to Feed's core values really resonated with the RHoK organising committee. Most importantly, they are trying overcome some challenges that RHoK can actually help them with. They are a rapidly growing enterprise, managed by a very small team and they have a number of logistical issues that make it difficult to expand. At the end of the day (or rather the hack weekend), we want to be able to deliver useful solutions to our change makers, that either help their organisations to function better, or place them in a better position to secure funding, additional resources, or whatever else it is that they need. 

You can follow Free to Feed on Instagram and Facebook.  

This year we will also be working with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), specifically ASRC Cleaning, which provides much needed employment to people seeking asylum by providing professional, reliable cleaning services to ASRC's commercial and domestic clients. ASRC Cleaning began a little over three years ago and is the second social enterprise established by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). A lot of their business and IT processes are very manual, and hopefully RHoK can come up with a creative solution to help the business work more efficiently. 

You can also follow the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

We have several more change makers that we are working with, but I'll leave those for a later post :)


Creating user personas for web tools

I spent this morning putting together a few personas for my new tech tools website. These are commonly used in software development to get a sense of your target audience and to keep the focus of whatever it is you are building. Often you will hear the world "user-centered design" or "user-experience" (UX) in marketing and tech. Personas are a useful way to start thinking about user-experience before you even start. Personas are fictional characters created to represent the variety of different user types. They may be based on prior information, for example survey data from interviews about a similar product, or they may reflect the demographic of a specific group of people, for example, early to mid-career astronomers. They are widely considered a part of the interaction design (IxD) process, and often used in industrial design.

I find them helpful for keeping ideas focussed. Up until this week, my tech tools website had stalled a little, partly because I had a flurry of new ideas and because I decided I wanted to build something to benefit the entire community. Overnight the project suddenly become far grander and more intimidating than the original idea, which was to just get all the tool used at .Astronomy onto a website. 

So I went back and created three different user personas that better reflect my initial target audience while leaving some wiggle room for expansion. They are fictional to some extent, a mix of various people already in the community. There were at least 8 people that immediately sprung to mind when I put these together, but as I look at them now, it's clear that they represent many more people in the community. I deliberately reflected some of the current gender issues into my personas e.g. senior, confident male programmer vs. more junior tentative female researcher, because helping women in STEM to build confidence in the coding/hacking arena is something I'd like to achieve.