The Tech Event That Could – Coders Combine Forces to Make Tech Magic


A while back, Capital One conducted a survey asking local charities, “what’s the greatest challenge your organization faces?” A whopping 74% said that being unable to keep up with technology is their biggest barrier to success, and it’s keeping them from reaching a wider community, faster and more effectively. As an organization with strong digital capabilities, we wanted to help charities close that technology gap.

In June of 2018, Capital One hosted our inaugural Digital for Good Summit, a day designed to empower charities and non-profit organizations to use technology as a force for good. We then continued to build on that initiative in November with Gift the Code, our annual hackathon. Since 2016, Gift the Code has had a simple purpose at its core – to help our community by leveraging our collective skills and using digital for good to help bridge the tech gap charities face, both locally and across Canada.

At the hackathon, coders, developers, designers, coaches, mentors and other keen participants came together for a weekend of creative problem solving and good times. We saw everyone from computer science students to repeat Gift the Coders pumped to put their skills to work for a good cause. There was even an all-female team of newly-graduated coders participating in their first hackathon together. When it was all done and dusted, the charities had solutions to their tech problems they could actually use – all the result of donated time and energy.

Our VP of Technology, Mark Cauwels, says the hackathon builds on our associates’ love for finding solutions every day for our customers. Associates show the same level of excitement for using their engineering and data science skills to give back to charities in their communities.

Charity partnerships make all the difference

At Gift the Code, charity partners are on the floor at the event working directly with the hackathon teams as they develop solutions. And it had a palpable effect. Hearing directly from the charities on the struggles they face helped participants see how their work could impact real people and the charities’ ability to reach them. That really stuck with the teams, and so did how much the charities were in need of support from the tech community to tackle their challenges. Leveraging voluntary resources in the tech community is a huge advantage for these organizations.

Here are some of the great solutions that came out of the weekend

Kids Help Phone has an online platform where kids can speak to counsellors through a chat window. But they often have long wait times and see a lot of kids drop off before they can talk to an available counsellor. The top-scoring Gift the Code team tried to eliminate some of that drop-off by creating an interface that collects pertinent information from kids in a fun and engaging way. That way, kids are invested and entertained while they wait, and the counsellor has a bit of background info to work from when they’re introduced. Plus, the team designed the interface to be friendly to younger users, not just teenagers and young adults.

Camp Quality hosts camp experiences for kids with cancer. They support each camper’s individual health needs so that campers can focus on having fun. In order to do that, Camp Quality needed a way to keep track of each camper’s medication schedule and any other important information, and make it accessible to both healthcare professionals and parents. It’s unimaginable what could happen if something were to go wrong with the campers’ medication, or if someone couldn’t receive time-sensitive communication that impacted their health. The top-scoring solution was an app that can be viewed and updated by parents and staff alike, so everyone has access to real-time information about the campers.

So what's next?

We’re not just stopping at the hackathon itself – we want to make sure that the solutions our teams created over the weekend are completed, fine-tuned and implemented so that the charities can take advantage of them as soon as possible. To help make that happen, Capital One announced at the end of the presentations on Sunday that it’ll be donating financial resources as well as tech support from Capital One associates to help with implementation. This means each charity will have little standing in the way of them putting into action the innovative code designed for them at the hackathon. Plus, like the code written at previous Gift the Code events, all the code will be open source and available for anyone to use.

Another Gift the Code has officially wrapped, and we can’t wait for next year to see what kind of challenges and solutions the hackathon will bring. Maybe we’ll be working on podcasts for puppies. If code can help our communities, all we can say is: bring it on.

Gift The Code 2018