We are a community of highly-skilled technologists who solve problems for purpose-driven organisations. Twice a year we run social hackathons around the country that bring together tech-savvy do-gooders to work with charities, social enterprises, and entrepreneurs (change makers) tackling challenging social problems. Our goal is to develop open-source, deployable and sustainable tech solutions so that founders can focus on growth and affecting positive change.
Random Hacks of Kindness – Australia, is a part of a global community of technologists and change makers hacking for humanity. The Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) movement began in 2009 as a joint initiative between three tech companies – Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! – NASA's Open Government team and the World Bank's Disaster Risk Management Unit. The idea was to organise a hackathon where developers and data analysts could produce open source, technology solutions, useful in the event of (or to mitigate the impact of) major disasters around the world. The first event was held at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California, and christened "Random Hacks of Kindness".
Over the years, simultaneous satellite events have established local RHoK communities around the world. These tend to focus more on developing solutions locally rather than globally, working closely with grassroots organisations, non-profits, community groups and socially conscious individuals keen to make a difference. Australia has one of the most vibrant and engaged RHoK communities in the world with RHoK Chapters in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and in the regional centres of Ipswich, Western Sydney, and most recently Bendigo. In fact, RHoK Australia is the largest and longest running hackathon for social good in Australia. I've been on the Melbourne RHoK Organising Committee for the past two years.
Each year the hackathons each bring together roughly 70 people from a variety of backgrounds who want to contribute in some small way. Business analysts, software developers, web and application developers, designers, scientists and educators, writers and communicators, projects managers and UI/UX testers. Generally clever, interesting, and motivated people with fresh ideas. When I first began working with RHoK, events were directed by Angus Hervey (@angushervey), who has since moved on to co-found Future Crunch. The current the National Community Manager for RHoK is Cal Foulner (@CalFoulner), co-founder of Beanstalk and Forage. RHoK is supported by a dedicated National Steering Committee, and city-based Organising Committees. In mid-2015, I joined the Organising Committee for RHoK Melbourne. Helping shape this community is a real privilege, and it's been great to see RHoK Australia's portfolio of projects grow over the past year. To date Local Linguist, Changing Places (i.pee.freely), Right Click Community, and Free to Feed are my favourites.
Free to Feed is a Melbourne–based social enterprise run by Loretta and Daniel Bolotin, that recognises the entrepreneurial characteristics
and existing skills of refugees and new migrants, as well as the significant challenges that they face in gaining meaningful employment,
or pursuing new enterprises in Australia. The heart of Free to Feed is its pop-up cooking school, where all classes are run by
highly skilled refugees and asylum seekers.
My first experience with Free to Feed was in early February 2017 when my mum and I took Hamed's Persian Vegetarian cooking class. I thought this would be the perfect Christmas present for someone who has it all, and it was. While it was immediately obvious that Free to were experts in this sector and onto a really good thing, I couldn’t help but notice some issues around business processes and the technology they were using. Their booking system was clunky; choosing a class based on location, date, chef or cuisine was difficult, and in our case it required a few emails back and forth, and some manual intervention to successfully input my gift certificate. Booking by location wasn’t an option and since my mum lives an hour away from the city this something we had to consider. Since classes are held all over Melbourne it seemed like a really obvious and potentially simple thing to have.
I knew then that Free to Feed could really benefit from the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) treatment. Talking with co-Founder Daniel Bolotin, it quickly became apparent that their booking system and website were only a small part of the problem. One of the biggest roadblocks to growing the business was their inability to scale, and scale quickly. They had received quite a lot of press coverage, after all Melbourne is a foodie city, and there was no shortage of customers. Communications were also an issue. Many of their processes are manual and require one-on-interactions with a diverse range of stakeholders and clients.
In May 2017 Free to Feed began working closely with RHoK.
My role — alongside fellow RHoK organiser Tim Elliot – a strategic designer with a background in industrial design, was to guide super-duo Loretta and Daniel Bolotin, through the RHoK lifecycle and to prepare them for each stage of the RHoK journey. Unlike most hackathons, RHoK engages with change makers roughly 6-weeks prior to the hack weekend, and where possible supports ongoing development until change makers have a fully tested and deployed tech solution.
We began by guiding Free to Feed through the Agile software development and Cynefin Framework decision making processes, and helped her develop a set of problem statements, that would we would be narrowed down into a pre-hack pitch. We also introduced Free to Feed to user–centred design and facilitated a contextual inquiry (CI) session with user experience (UX) experts, facilitated team development on hack weekend, ensured they were resourced to deliver a solid tech solution, and facilitated further development (at RHoK we call this a RHoLL) roughly six weeks after the hack weekend.
THE PROBLEM: Free to feed has in inefficient booking system (in addition to a more general problem around communicating information) that is sucking or drawing energy from Loretta and Daniel, and distracting from their core mission and activities. — “Existing business systems are in efficient and ineffective for the current and future business”
WHO IT AFFECTS: This affects everyone; the customers (individuals wishing to join or host a class), Loretta and Daniel, the chefs, volunteer hosts, potential clients (corporates, schools, and cafe owners). — “Staff, clients, customers, suppliers
IMPACT: Not meeting customers expectations (ease of booking), makes it difficult to scale up, missing out of opportunities -- e.g. new cafe/venues to get involved. Ultimately limits each chef’s ability to earn a full time wage. More classes == more secure employment.
— “Free to Feed is unable to meet current needs, let alone meet growth potential”
Awarded Best Hack
Extensive UX Research & Design (user journeys & affinity mapping)
Optimized Free to Feed’s existing Checkfront booking system / Improved Gift Certificate purchasing & redemption
Improved the UX/UI of Free to Feed’s existing Wordpress website
Improved functionality and processes around communications / Embedded customised Typeforms for each stakeholder
Review of website Information Architecture / Greater focus placed on Free to Feed’s core activities
Complete set of wireframes for a new website
A prototype Wordpress website with a fresh, clean, modern look
Manual processes replaced to minimise the administrative burden and to enable Free to Feed to scale more efficiently.
Checkfront/Wordpress Integration | Janidu Wanigasuriya, Robert Li
Typeform Setup & Integration | Arna Karick
Stephanie Woollard began Seven Women 12 years ago, after meeting seven disabled women working in a tin shed in Kathmandu. These seven women were struggling to make a living in the face of harsh discrimination. With her last $200, Steph paid for trainers to teach the women how to produce products for sale locally and abroad – and Seven Women was born. Since then Seven Women has established numerous education and skills programs, as well as an ethical travel company called Hand on Development.
Seven Women came to Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) with an identity crisis. As an Australian-based charity they were struggling to separate their international fundraising and advocacy work, from the specific programs and projects they run in Nepal. They were struggling to communicate effectively with all their stakeholders and losing people along the customer journey.
Website content that better communicates Seven Women’s mission and core projects
A comprehensive web accessibility report & guidelines for future development – Simple Ideas to Improve Accessibility in our CMS
Blogging guidelines to enable a more effective digital strategy
Greater visibility around philanthropy & donations
Simpler, more streamlined business processes, with less dependency of multiple applications and integrations
Google Adwords setup.
Website Accessibility | Melissa Gattoni
Digital Strategy | Judith Baeta
Google Analytics & Adwords | Craig Franklin
The Kensington Neighbourhood House was established in Kensington in 1975 as a meeting place for the community and its various groups. Today it offers a range of adult education, art and hobby, social, children’s activities, childcare and health and wellbeing programs.
It’s a place to meet, share information, develop skills and break down isolation and other community barriers.
Each year the house welcomes over 1,000 locals through our door to connect, learn and create.
Kensington Neighbourhood House came to Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) with a very simple problem.
The House relies on volunteers to support many of their programs; each of which has a very clear position description requires quite specific skillsets. Many of their volunteers are international students, wishing to gain valuable work experience and meet people within their new community; or retirees, seeking a new purpose and meaningful work; and locals who just want to help build a better community. There is no shortage of volunteers, in fact the House regularly receives a steady stream of people dropping by who want to volunteer, but don't necessarily have the skills to match their current volunteer needs.
Rather than send away potential volunteers, Carolyn (KNH Manager) & Rebecca (KNH Education Coordinator), wanted to find a way to harness their enthusiasm by referring them to another Kensington organisation that might also need volunteer help. Kensington is an amazingly connected little suburb in terms of residents and community organisations, and like many “villages” interactions are mostly face-to-face. By acting as an intermediary, KNH could help foster meaningful relationships between volunteers and employers.
The idea for the online aspect was driven in part by a desire to digitally capture information about volunteer skills. Kensington Neighbourhood House’s current process are still very pen-and-paper, and it was felt that an online solution might (a) reduce the administrative burden, and (b) facilitate follow-up and tracking in the event that volunteers couldn’t be placed straight away.
Carolyn and Rebecca realised that there was an opportunity to create an online volunteer portal specifically for people wanting to volunteer in Kensington, and based on their interests and skills could matches them with a Kensington organisation that needed volunteer help. More than that, it had to give the prospective volunteer a sense that they could join a community of like-minded people that also cared about the community that they live in. It should be user friendly and more engaging than the typically impersonal job-seeker websites, and needed to be able to be used by KNH house itself, to help the tech–adverse who still preferred to drop in for a chat.
Managed by the Kensington Neighbourhood House, it would be a place where community organisations could advertise for volunteers as well as a place where potential volunteers could offer their services. As a co-convenor of the local Kensington Community Network – a network which meets bi-monthly and has over 20 members, Kensington Neighbourhood house is well placed to work with other not for profits to make this initiative a success.
Despite the relative simplicity of the problem (or opportunity), determining what should be designed or built over the weekend was still quite a challenge. The project would undoubtably benefitted from creating personas and mapping the various aspects of the volunteer journey. But then again, Carolyn and Rebecca already had a really good understanding of their volunteer demographics and the motivations for why people want to volunteer in their community.
In the first instance it was decided that developing an online form that could capture prospective volunteer information and skills would be an appropriate minimum viable product (MVP) – an achievable and usable solution that would certainly add value. At the same time, the idea was still very much early stages. While KNH engages with many local organisations and co-convenes the local Kensington Community Network, no partner organisations had been secured for this particular project. Wouldn’t a prototype website (or set of well designed wireframes) be more useful for demonstrating what such a volunteer portal would look like?
About half-way through our first day, we decided that we would create two MVPs:
a low-tech prototype website that could be built quickly, that would adequately communicate the projects purpose, could be used immediately to recruit partner organisations, and could be managed by the team with very little tech burden, as well as;
a simple website with a fully-customisable volunteer sign-up form, with a more interactive and engaging user interface, and would allow the implementation of volunteer skills and project matching (based on form-field keywords) later down the track.
The later would also enable two of our hackers to work on an end-to-end React prototype; to serve as a showcase project to complement their General Assembly 12–week immersive web development course.
A prototype Squarespace website ready to showcase to the Kensington Community Network and prospective partner organisations
A prototype React website and custom built forms that can be used for collecting information about prospective volunteers,
Custom built forms can be used to facilitate skills and project matching (via keywords) later down the track
UX Advice | Alexsar Pandashteh
Logo Ideation/Creation | Ben Dalley
React Project Manager/Mentor | Richard Weissel
RHoK Tech Mentor & Buddy | Arna Karick