by Hilda Allen, VerseOne Graphic Designer
I recently came across two great ideas through TED. The first one that grabbed my attention was the “Unhackathon”.
The Unhackathon was born after Bryan Stevenson’s inspirational talk sparked something in the TED community. Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Stevenson spoke of the power of identity and the basic challenges of living in a complex world. He believes once ideas are fueled by conviction they can change society, that technology and design have to marry with humanity, justice and compassion to make the world a better place.
After seeing Stevenson’s talk, Christopher Ireland, Mary Anne Masterson and Nathan Shedroff contacted TED with the idea of an “Unhackathon”. The Unhackathon involved 80 designers, technologists and business strategists giving up their Easter weekend to collaborate with strangers. The Unhackathon is where teams work together to better understand the problems of low-income communities and design potential solutions. The main focuses of the Unhackathon was to solve the challenges of economic opportunity and civic identity. (VerseOne participated in something similar for GiveCamp UK.)
A panelist of speakers were set up to speak about the lives, loves and longings of the 57 million Americans living just above the poverty level. After the panel, people formed teams and began to brainstorm ways that technology can help.
24 hours later, 8 teams presented their ideas. The ideas will be posted on http://thecity2.org/splash.php over the next few weeks. TED is offering $10,000 funding grant to the winner to encourage progressive ideas.
After hearing about this TED, I came across a website called Code for America. It was founded by Jennifer Pahlka and she describes it as the “Peace Corps for geeks, only instead of sending people to the third world, we send them to the wilds of City Hall.” Pahlka believes, with the right people, they can show the government what is possible via technology. An example of what they do is the hydrant project. One of her volunteers built an app to let people commit to digging out fire hydrants when it snows in Boston. Only a small project, yet it became viral. Someone in Honolulu adapted to the app to care for tsunami sirens, and in Seattle they are using it to clear storm drains. Pahlka claims that what took Code for America 2.5 months could have cost the government $2 million and would have taken 2 years.
Pahlka's is definitely an interesting TED to watch (and only 12 minutes long).