Dev4good Brings Developers Together for Charity

Posted by · May 1, 2012 4:39 pm

In 2010, freelance software developer Craig Hogan saw a video of the first PayPal Charity Hack in London and thought the event seemed like something he’d like to participate in himself.  Not wanting to be forced to develop on just one platform at such an event, Hogan took matters into his own hand and created a hack weekend of his own. The following year, dev4good was born.

“Being from a Microsoft background and forced to follow structures, I thought it would be cool to not have dev4good linked to a particular API or platform,” Hogan says. “So, I threw away the idea of having a single sponsor and opened it up to anyone with any skilled background.  Whoever turns up can use their skills, knowledge and laptop to build solutions to solve problems.”

Those problems come from UK-based charities and community organizations who apply to be a part of dev4good.  These organizations have a need that can only be solved with an IT solution; and the folks who attend dev4good build websites, software or mobile applications that help the participating organizations operate better—at absolutely no cost to the charity or organization.  Last year, over 25 developers helped solve problems for multiple organizations including Hope and Play and The Ministry of Stories.

Hope and Play builds playgrounds in areas of the world like Gaza that need a fun, safe environment for children to play. The charity needed a system where people could tell them about available resources (like wood, nails, etc) in areas they would be building in, so the dev4good developers built a resource locator where people could upload photos and see where the supplies are.

“This project was actually rather large, so the developers created a prototype for Hope and Play and have been continuing to work on the project throughout the year and will continue to do so at this year’s dev4good,” Hogan says.

As for The Ministry of Stories, the charity wanted to create an online book club where the children publish their own stories. So, the developers at dev4good coded an online publishing platform for kids to upload content.  Once the children are finished writing their books, the system allows the children’s parents or guardians to send the book away to be published in hard-copy form.  In addition, the books are posted up to the Amazon marketplace and if sold online, a portion of the proceeds go to the child and a portion goes to the charity.

According to Hogan, between 50 to 70 people are expected to participate in this year’s dev4good, which will be held on July 7-8 at the UK Mozilla Foundation offices in London.  The more participants, the more charities needed, so Hogan and his team are currently accepting applications from charities need to solve a problem.

“I’d like to get a few big projects for participants to work on and a few small ones,” Hogan says.  “Each charity is invited to come and give a five minutes presentation to the participants at the beginning of the weekend and then we get to work.”

In addition to coding for a good cause, Hogan says the side benefit to participating in dev4good is the socializing and networking aspect.

“Most software developers are freelance and don’t get out much,” Hogan says. “We have a bad habit of working alone a lot of times and it’s easy to get lost working on your own, so it’s good to get together with different people and different backgrounds and see how others work and learn or teach others new stuff.”

Most importantly, however, dev4good provides UK-based developers with the opportunity to make a difference.

“I write software for people to make money, but when you come to dev4good, you’re not working to make money, you’re working to change lives,” Hogan says.  “You get to work on real world problems that if you can solve, you can change the way people live. It’s cool to know that your code is doing some good, rather than just making some money.”

If you’re in the UK and interested in participating in dev4good, contact Hogan and his team to learn more about the weekend. The event is free. Food and caffeinated beverages will be provided.  Sleep is optional.