On March 5 we organized the third annual CodeAcross in San Francisco. The event, which was hosted at Microsoft Reactor, was part of a nationwide effort around the world to bring together people who want to collaborate to make their cities better. And collaborate we did! Nearly 100 people joined us to work on projects that benefit the community and San Francisco.
This year’s focus was on Open Data. Our goal was to bring together Bay Area residents and cater to different backgrounds, not only technologists. The participants could choose between three different tracks, and there was plenty to do for everybody. It was really inspiring to see so much passion for making a difference in one place!
Here is a brief overview of the participating projects.
One of the biggest groups at CodeAcross was the Data Science Working Group, a group that was recently formed at Code for SF. They worked on three projects: data visualization of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (SF Environment Benchmark project), mapping 311 data, and an interactive map of San Francisco parks. Sanat Moningi, who leads the SF Environment Benchmark project, shared some interesting findings that they discovered by using the City’s datasets. For example, did you know that residential buildings score well on energy efficiency but not hotels? Or that any facility that handles food is (somewhat expected) energy inefficient? Moningi is really excited about this because he’s seen other projects in New York and Philadelphia that used visualizations to convince the property managers to make better choices. “Nobody is willing to make changes but when they see what the building is doing and how they compare to others, they are more likely to do it,” said Moningi. There are some exciting potential uses for this project and the team will be meeting with the City to present their findings. Ultimately the Data Science Working Group is hoping to work together with building managers to see how they can help them become more energy efficient. Check out the interview with the team below.
BrigadeHub was building an alpha of the new Code for SF website that will consolidate the efforts of maintaining a brigade website into a single location and allow non-developer brigade leadership members to update content as needed. With the help of a few more people that joined their team at CodeAcross, they were able to make a lot of progress and get closer to where they want to be.
pdfhook is a new project that started at Civic Hack Night a few days before CodeAcross. Their goal is to build a Python web application for converting PDF forms into PDF-filling APIs. The idea for the project came from seeing that a lot of government agencies are still using paper forms, which can be time-consuming and inefficient. Check out their github for more info on the progress they’ve made so far and watch this video to learn about how the idea for the project came about.
CivicMakers, a knowledge-sharing platform for the civic innovation community, is a project that started at Code for San Francisco. Their mission is to accelerate the capacity of communities, organizations and institutions to rapidly deploy collaborative solutions by growing a network of people, resources and recipes for public good projects. At CodeAcross the team was able to make usability tweaks, fix their prototype and talk to project leads to get more info on how to develop their value proposition. Check out their knowledge-sharing prototype and find out how it can help your project: https://app.civicmakers.com.
While most projects originated at Code for SF hack nights, we were also very happy to see a couple of independent projects that liked our mission and decided to join us at CodeAcross. One such project was Gyver – a community based giving app that makes donating things to your neighbors easier while at the same time helping you decide who to donate to. The idea is simple – the more stuff you give to others, the higher you rank and the more likely you are to get an item from somebody. Jezmin and her team came to CodeAcross with the intention to build and test the Facebook sign-up feature and we were excited to see how much progress they were able to get done in just one day. We look forward to seeing this app launch!
One of San Francisco’s darker sides is its growing homeless population. In the city where a lot of people have been priced out of the housing market, the daily reality of many who lost their homes is in stark contrast with the prosperous tech-mecca reputation that the city has. Darcel Jackson, who many of you have met at hack night, led an inspiring conversation on changing the face of homelessness and plans to start a dialogue between homeless communities and the people that can help. Darcel, who has experienced homelessness himself, knows first-hand what a difference having access to trusted resources can make for somebody who is in that situation. He has an idea for an app that will help the homeless find resources and collect data that can be useful to the homeless community. To turn his idea into reality he founded Sheltertech, a nonprofit with a mission to bring tech to low-income and no-income individuals. They are currently working on two projects: bringing wi-fi to homeless shelters and developing AskDarcel, an app that is meant for both the homeless as well as those who want to help them with services they might need. The team is already talking with the City of San Francisco about helping them distribute the app. This is a great example of how tech, community and local government can work together to build products that can make a real difference. Watch Sheltertech team talk about their goals in this video.
As you can see a lot of teams came to CodeAcross to improve upon their existing projects but we are really excited about the fact that there are also four projects that actually got started at CodeAcross! Code for SF's new Research Group created an Open Impact Challenge that led to a new project team working to prevent violence against women. The group generated so much interest that by the end of the day they decided to split up and work on three different ideas:
● Violet. An app that enables victims to communicate their experience anonymously so they will know that they are not alone.
● You’ve got friends. The second idea focuses on people who will be there for the victims. The basic premise is to enable the enablers. They are working on an app that asks people if they have ever been a victim of violence. The app then reports to that person’s friends so they can learn how to be better supporters and pledge to listen and be there for the victim.
● Walk together. The third group will focus on prevention and the fact that a lot women report feeling unsafe around BART stations. They will work on a solution that will give women the opportunity to walk together in groups to discourage predators.
If you have experience working with victims of violence, the group would love to hear from you and get your input on their ideas.
Another project that was born at CodeAcross actually started as an unconference discussion. The group gathered together in a passionate debate about healthcare and decided to launch a project that will build tools to connect people with health care services. We’re excited about having this group at our future hack nights where they will continue working on this idea. If you are a subject expert in this field and want to get involved, let us know! Watch this video to find out more about their plans.
We’re really proud of the amazing progress that was made at this year’s CodeAcross SF and of all the awesome ideas and discussions. A special thank you goes to our sponsors who made this event possible: Microsoft, our main sponsor, for hosting the event and for their generous support; Braintree for sponsoring our yummy lunch; and Exygy for their donation that helped us organize the event.
Stay tuned for more posts about what Code for SF teams are up to next week! Like what you read and want to get involved? Come join us at our weekly hack night and talk to team leads about joining their projects!