Why you should hack for a cause

by Garrett Reim
July 11, 2014
Above: the Claris Health team, one of the non-profits participating in the hackathon
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the momentum of this thing,” said Zach Suchin, CEO and founding partner of Brand Knew. "Having dealt with these non-profits and having been a media agency we thought it was a good idea.”
Brand Knew, a creative agency and technology accelerator, is debuting a 24-hour hackathon called Causathon for non-profits in a few weeks (July 26 to 27). The hackathon provides the perfect place for non-profits to meet with developers, designers, marketers and product managers and discuss their technological needs and problems.
Causathon participants can come alone or join a team at the event of other like-minded individuals. There will be a casual mixer to kick-off the event, then teams will go through a “draft” style selection to pick the problems they’ll be addressing.
Teams will have 24 hours to identify, solve and present a solution for one social problem defined and submitted by a curated list of leading non-profits.
“Some non-profits they just aren’t thinking of technology needs,” said Eden Chen, co-founder of Fisherman Labs and one of the events co-sponsors. “A lot just don’t have time to think of technology needs.”
From the event, “they get publicity amongst the tech community and a free tech product,” said Chen. “We actually had way too many submissions, so obviously there’s a need for it.”
And non-profits agree. 
Talitha Phillips, CEO of Claris Health, an organization that educates and supports women an men facing unplanned pregnancy and other sexual health issues, and her counterpart Christie Myers Pierce, the director of Reality Check LA, a sexual health and relationship program, had long been thinking of a sexual educational app. They envisioned an app that could help inform many of the people they serve, as well as connect people to health services.  
“This is the first project I thought of, we had no idea who could bring it to light,” said Phillips.
“It would be awesome to have an app that kids could use,” said Pierce. “They get a feedback that is an encouragement, an education.”
“We see thousands of men and women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies and STDs,” said Phillips. “50,000 people a year are infected with HIV and almost 20% don’t know they have it.” 
A sexual education app would be really helpful. “But we often just don’t have the funds for that,” said Phillips. So, “in an organization where we don’t have a lot of funds for something like this it’s an opportunity.” 
Phillips and Pierce imagine an app that would be flexible, the framework of a quiz, so they could switch questions and answers in and out, to keep the content fresh and relevant.
In addition to the Claris Health, there are a number of other non-profits participating in the Causathon including: 100,000 Homes, Anonymous Good, Children Mending Hearts, Enough Project, Got Your 6, Parkinson’s Wellness Fund, Rock the Vote, Sundance Institute, Wendy Walk and Yala Academy.
Each one of these non-profits will present a problem that a team will have to solve within 24 hours. There will be a "draft" style format whereby teams will be on the clock for 30 seconds to pick the non-profit of their choice.
“We looked and didn’t find anything like this,” said Suchin of Brand Knew. “We think there is a wide-open vacuum in terms of opportunity.”

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