On June 1st and 2nd, hackers will descend on over 90 locations across the U.S., including UMass Amherst. But don’t worry—these are civic hackers: volunteer technologists, designers, and citizens coming together to solve challenges relevant to their towns and state.
Civic hackers are hackers in the classic sense. They’re people who use a minimum of resources and a maximum of brainpower and ingenuity to create, enhance, or fix something. In the past few years, these hackers have created a movement of people who use technology for the common good. The movement has gained so much momentum that last January, President Obama called for a national day of civic hacking. Thus, Hack for Change was born.
Western Mass will join the fun. Our local event, Hack for Western Mass, is an official part of Hack for Change, but we’re designing a "hackathon" to fit our unique part of the country. On June 1st, we’ll gather at UMass’s Integrated Sciences building to hear challenge pitches from local organizations, and then we’ll form teams and get to work, regrouping throughout the weekend and presenting our solutions on Sunday afternoon, June 2nd.
So what are some of the challenges on the table?
- Mapping safety net needs (Community Action, Greenfield)
- Analyzing prison phone data (Prison Policy Initiative, Easthampton)
- Visualizing a better path for teen mothers (Care Center, Holyoke)
- Expanding Northampton’s tree canopy (Lilly Lombard, Northampton)
- Tracking wells and water quality (Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Greenfield)
The other goal of Hack for Western Mass is bringing together local organizations and the creative, technical, and academic communities strewn throughout Western Massachusetts. We hope that getting people in a room together for the weekend will be the start of longer-term collaborations.
You can get involved by joining us on June 1-2 (free registration required) or signing up for a volunteer shift. Our wonderful sponsors have made it possible to provide food so you can focus on the work at hand.
Not sure if you have something to contribute? See our handy Should I Attend Hack for Western Mass flowchart. And in case you’re wondering: no, you don’t have to be a programmer to Hack for Change.