Wrapping Up New England Give Camp
It’s getting to the end of New England Give Camp, the “coding for charity” event being held at the Microsoft NERD Center this weekend. Sunday morning was spent reviewing what we’d got done and wrapping up loose ends. After lunch (which was delicious mini-burgers made with locally raised beef), we finished up and started writing documentation. I actually fell asleep while I was doing this, so I didn’t finish before it was time for PRESENTATIONS.
Each team is given around 3 minutes to stand up and talk about what they worked on, which is a nice way to provide closure. I’m sitting in the audience right now, and it’s great to see the reaction of each non-profit who have started with little and ended up with a whole lot of organization-supporting website. In some cases, it’s needed basic functionality. In others, it’s content organization and branding. Seeing the breadth of the organizations and technical approaches is like a crash course in web development. It’s very interesting to see just how much a small team can do in a fixed period of time with complete access to the client, and to see what the shared problems were. From the NPO’s perspective:
- Simplifying the message!
- Serving both NPO partners and newcomers!
- Automating tedious organization functions!
- Getting the community to respond and take action!
- Changing content so it looks good and doesn’t hurt!
From the team’s perspective, I’ve noticed these issues:
- Level of familiarity with a platform (WordPress and Drupal were popular) to get started fast
- How to achieve the NPO’s needs with specific application of technology
- How to say things…writing and content strategy
- How to show things…visual design
- How to teach the client NPO how to use the site
- Finding out what the team members do
- Sharing good process
- Finding the synchronicity in every interaction
The greatest experience, however, which is just dawning on me, is really the gratitude and appreciation that the NPO organizers have for the whole experience. From my perspective, I felt I wasn’t really giving up much in exchange for the chance to hang out in Cambridge and get free food over the weekend, but I was reminded that the collective might of the 100+ volunteers was a tremendous force for positive change. I tend to think of skills in dispassionate terms, but to see them applied toward community causes that people really, really love and are driven to support…it’s very motivating. A lot of my personal grumblings about doing web development work has kind of evaporated, and I am kind of jazzed about establishing the best practices I’ve observed this weekend.
I have quite a bit more mental processing to do about the weekend, but for now I can definitely say this was one of the best work experiences / events I’ve ever attended. One remarkable thing about the GiveCamp event is that everyone here is generous and accepting in some way. This struck me on Saturday, because I suddenly became aware of the complete lack of drama. And maybe I am finally mature enough to appreciate how important that is.