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National Day of Civic Hacking: Coding Tips for Change-makers

Whether you are an expert at full stack or just starting out, coding and software engineering are powerful tools to make a difference, one line at a time! 

Tomorrow, September 21, 2019, is the seventh annual National Day of Civic Hacking. This year, the National Day of Civic Hacking is focused on restoring rights to those impacted by the criminal justice system, particularly through expungement and other forms of legal help. It coincides with the first day of National Expungement Week. According to the Code for America website, fewer than 10% of those eligible for record clearance receive it — yet expungement is shown to boost wages and reduce recidivism (relapse into criminal behavior).

George Luc and GivePulse cofounder James McGirr at the ATX Startup Crawl holding the Dewey’s civic award.
George Luc and GivePulse cofounder James McGirr at the ATX Startup Crawl holding the Dewey’s civic award.

GivePulse cofounder George Luc was honored as a White House Champion of Change after developing GivePulse at the ATX Hackathon for Change 2013 with cofounder James McGirr. 

We asked George why he thinks it’s important to participate in National Day of Civic Hacking.

Here’s what he said: 

  1. Cultivate new friendships and perspectives, or even find your next business co-founder(s): On the National Day of Civic Hacking, you work alongside people with a variety of backgrounds. You may jump in with a team of people you’ve never met before! You get the chance to meet like-minded and similarly motivated people working in your field and in fields that you care about. These may become future colleagues, mentors, mentees, or close friends. Sometimes (or many times) it can be a great crash course to dating or determining your next cofounder for a business. 🙂 
  2. Step out of your comfort zone with new coding languages: In order to participate in the hacking challenges you are presented with, you may need to code in a language that you don’t find familiar or comfortable — or even a language that you have never worked with before. This is a great opportunity to increase the languages you know, improving your coding skill set (which you can add to your resume) and offering an exciting chance to branch into new knowledge.
  3. Gain more project management and collaborative experience: You’ll be working to solve problems that span disciplines, meaning you get to experience collaborating with and managing groups with diverse skill sets and knowledge bases to make change. You may be working alongside leaders in activism and nonprofits, as well as individuals whose coding experiences are in different languages and contexts than your own. As you plan together, you will learn to manage many facets of the project, even beyond your own knowledge base. 
  4. Immerse yourself in a fast paced environment with the goal of making quick decisions and delivering on work products: The National Day of Civic Hacking takes place over the course of a single day (or sometimes a weekend). Because you are trying to work toward a technological solution to a social justice or inefficiency problem in this brief span of time, you will learn to dive headfirst into problem, iterate and deliver products as effectively as possible. 
  5. Get a pulse of all the potential issues and challenges technology can help address: Everyone has a skill to contribute. If you’re thinking about participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking, you likely have a skill or a desire to help change the world for the better. Your participation will open you up to more ways where you can do just that. You’ll be inspired by the change-makers around you and will have the chance to expand your own view of what is possible. 

For further hacking inspiration, check out this list of amazing civic hacking work that’s already happening across the nation. Want to attend an event? Find your local event here. 

Learn more about expungement through the National Expungement Week website, and check out the Rights Restoration Project and other groups working to restore rights to millions of Americans. Whether or not you participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking, learning more about this issue will help you be an informed voter and engaged citizen.  

And of course, check out GivePulse — we are proud to support work that changes the world and look forward to seeing the future of civic hacking. If you have any collaborative ideas with GivePulse, please do reach out to api@givepulse.com.