random hacks of kindness
Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is an inventive global initiative “involving over 6,000 innovators in more than 35 countries who make the world a better place by developing practical, open source technology solutions to some of the most complex challenges facing humanity.”

The initiative was created in 2009 when representatives from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! convened at a panel in Washington, D.C. to discuss ways in which technology could be used in the midst of global crises. Each of these top technology companies recognized the immense impact they could have if they stepped into the world of crisis management.

However, they needed a way to circumvent their usual competitiveness, a way to bring their employees together around a common goal.

Random Hacks of Kindness was the solution. The project aims to bring together expert volunteer employees and humanitarian leaders to create solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems. The World Bank and NASA, along with the aforementioned Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, became founding partners, creating an altogether outstanding mix of expertise in many different fields.

From the beginning, RHoK has stressed how important their specific method is to their success, a process which requires a significant amount of teamwork between different sectors. “The RHoK process — engaging with experts to define strong problem statements, collaborative rapid prototyping through hackathons and creating clears paths for the sustainability of effective solutions — enables the volunteer community of thousands to create impact through their efforts.”

The first step is to collect extremely detailed and well-defined problem statements from people in the field. Users from all over the world can submit descriptions of problems in their local communities to the RHoK website, allowing anyone anywhere to benefit from the talent of RHoK volunteers. These reports are then scrutinized by field professionals and are revised to best fit the sector’s needs.

Developers are the stars of the second step: global hackathons at which prototypes of possible solutions are created during coding-intensive weekends.

Unlike other organizations of its kind, Random Hacks of Kindness volunteer technologists are able to tackle global issues with help from field specialists. “Having an expert on hand at a hackathon to work with the teams and provide real-world experiences and knowledge is [an] invaluable piece of the puzzle when working to build a solution with realistic impact potential.”

The third step involves RHoK’s Sustainability Project, which aims to take the most promising prototypes created at the hackathons and successfully execute them. Through the initiative’s efforts, the prototypes are able to receive the proper funding and support needed to make them a reality.

Random Hacks of Kindness has worked with noteworthy humanitarian organizations like OXFAM and Amnesty International as well as small local communities. It is led by an intensely motivated volunteer community trying to make the world a better place through technology and teamwork.

“Using existing, and freely available, documentation of best practices, and empowering the community to further develop and iterate on them through community-led, individual and organizational initiatives, RHoK continues to remain at the forefront of creating impact through hacking for social good.”

– Emily Jablonski 

Sources: Crisis Commons, Geeks Without Bounds, RHOK