By Tim Nations
One year after our first event in downtown San Francisco, Code for the Kingdom returned to the Bay area for its largest “hack” to date. It began Friday evening May 30 as more than 200 designers and coders descended on NestGSV in Redwood City, along with another 40-plus non-profit leaders, venture capitalists, mentors, and organizers, for this exciting weekend. Following the opening keynotes by Troy Carl, Vice President of Faith Comes by Hearing, and Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMWare, challenges and pitches were championed before all by sponsors, teams and individuals vying for the attention and efforts of the technologists. After questions, mingling, and team formation, potential projects were framed and the coding began.
More than 200 technologists gathered at NextGSV for the welcome dinner and Leadership Network’s hackathon kickoff.
Eight challenges were posted for this gathering. Some of these official challenges followed themes from previous events, including overcoming fatherlessness, engaging children in God’s Word, and combating human trafficking. New topics emerged as well, such as small group facilitation and the development of games to influence the worldviews of the emerging generation. A complete list of challenges can be found here.
Following the official challenges, more than 30 open microphone ideas were proposed. Topics for these pitches ranged from prayer to world hunger. Specific ideas included:
• Faith Comes by Phone – recognizing that, while mobile broadband currently reaches 93% of the world’s population, only around 50-60% of that population have access to smartphones and apps, Faith Comes by Phone would provide a text in and callback service for Scripture reading that would potentially allow all cell phone users access to God’s Word in their language for free.
• Accountability for Travelers – solo travelers face increased temptation when they are away from their accountability structures. The idea behind this project is to create an app that would allow travelers to create virtual accountability groups that would be notified of their travels (via geolocation) in order that they could call, text, or in other ways send messages of encouragement and support.
After coming together as a team, Code for the Kingdom hackathon participants begin framing a challenge and outlining their strategy.
One of the most fascinating elements of each Code for the Kingdom event is the collection of stories that emerge throughout the weekend. This was no less true for our second visit to San Francisco Bay area. While many stories will continue to surface in the weeks to come, I’ll mention a couple of quick highlights here:
• Passion out of Pain – one of the pitches by the participants came out of a personal story of pain and despair. Like so many around and among us, this participant struggled with depression and suicide due to a deep, lingering loneliness. That pain, however, was turned into a passion to help others in similar situations by creating technology that would identify those exhibiting signs of loneliness in order to provide encouragement and connection.
• Service to the Least of These – One of the most remarkable ministries involved in Code for the Kingdom is San Francisco City Impact. This ministry was started 30 years ago by the Huang family after Roger Huang witnessed some of the atrocities against the homeless young people in this broken and impoverished section of downtown San Francisco. God laid such a burden on Roger’s heart that he eventually moved his family to live among those he was serving. And thus a ministry was born. During the weekend, the Huangs shared their deep, abiding hope that God can and will redeem this dark district of the city. Some of the participants in this event volunteer in this ministry, bearing witness to life transformation of the greatest kind. Code for the Kingdom has given them another platform to use their gifts and skills to develop technology that can further the impact.
Involvement in the Code for the Kingdom events isn’t always easy. Often there is sacrifice involved. This event was no different. From costly travel to sleeping on couches and in cars, participants gave of themselves in many ways beyond their time to create technology for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
As the weekend came to a close on Sunday evening, 22 projects were demoed for the crowd and the judges. A list of all projects can be viewed in the Code for the Kingdom Google+ community. In addition, raw footage of all the demos can be viewed here.
A few notable demos included:
• Ceaseless – A prayer app to promote the sharing of prayer and its impact via social media. A social graph would be included that would show how many people are being prayed for in real time.
• Great Stories of the Bible – Their pitch began with two questions: 1) How many of you have seen a Scripture shared via social media? 2) How many have seen Bible stories shared via social media? This app is designed to make the social sharing of biblical stories easy so that more can be touched by their power.
• Generous – A mobile tool that would allow missionaries to share multimedia “micro updates” with supporters (rather than the quarterly 3-page long support letters), and for supporters to share these stories by making “micro donations” of $1 which would then be posted to their social channels.
• AidHomeless – A simple mobile tool to allow anyone to make an immediate gift toward food or clothing for homeless individuals they come into contact with through local providers. The app would use geolocation to help providers know areas of real-time need. While there are distinct gaps in the process, the idea of trying to make the extending of grace fast and frictionless in a culture that carries little cash and often questions the use of cash gifts is one worth exploring further.
While Code for the Kingdom hackathons are focused more on cause than cash, awards are given for top projects from the weekend. Taking home the prizes were:
- Best new code ($2,500) – Generous
- Runner-up new code ($1,500) – Faith Comes by Phone
- Best existing code ($2,500) – Ceaseless
- Runner-up existing code ($1,500) – Great Stories of the Bible
- People’s choice($1,000) – AidHomeless
- Best use of Faith Comes By Hearing API ($500) – Ceaseless
- Best use of American Bible Society API ($500) – +Bible
- Salem Web Network Special Prize – Transform
Moving to Impact
Some of these technologies hold tremendous potential for Kingdom impact. However, as is the case for each hackathon, the effectiveness of these projects will only be determined by what happens beyond the weekend. A few teams will continue on with their projects, either working a few hours a week on the side, or seeking the support and resources necessary to make larger commitments of time and effort. Some participants simply lack the margin to develop their projects further, and will depend on others to pick up where they left off, or watch the project die. Efforts are being made to develop an “ecosystem” by which the best ideas can be pushed forward to usable products that will produce impact. Until significant progress is made in this initiative, many of these ideas will move ahead slowly, if at all.
Many of the mentors and organizers gathered to discuss possible models for an ongoing ecosystem of engagement, mentorship, acceleration, and funding.
Thanks again to our sponsors who made it possible to pull these creative entrepreneurs together to dream and create together.
We also want to say a special thanks to those who serve as mentors for the week. Their valuable insight and advice was a tremendous blessing to all of the participants. You can view a list of them here.
More hackathons are in the pipeline, including a return to Austin, TX, early this fall. For those that would like to stay connected to Code for the Kingdom, here’s how: