NYC Famine Hackathon: Will Hack For Food -- Literally

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By Farrah Bostic (Founder, Near Future Media) Here’s the problem. There is a massive drought in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. People are starving. The crisis is so bad, people are fleeing their home countries to seek refuge in neighboring nations where conditions are not much better.

Corruption prevents some aid from reaching the people who need it most. Bottom line: they need water, and they need food.

Let me put this more simply -- this is the problem. It’s easy to feel defeated by this. After all, we’re talking about weather, and governments in lands far from our own, and people we’ve never met –- 12.4 million of them. The level of abstraction for those of us in the West is almost insurmountable. As children, we brought canned goods to school to send to wherever the world’s poorest needed it. It never seemed to be enough, and perhaps trained us poorly for taking real action as adults.

But there are people who have decided to set the abstraction aside and do something concrete. London digital service design agency Made by Many have partnered with social innovation lab Good for Nothing to develop a platform for raising money and aid for those affected by the crisis in East Africa. But they went much farther than just marketing for a fundraising initiative. They replaced the canned food drive, with an idea drive.

The result is 50/50: Make or Break, a platform to develop and deploy 50 fundraising projects in 50 days, and be well on the way to reaching the goal of raising at least £1 million to go directly to UNICEF’s efforts to alleviate the famine. The genius of this platform is that it leverages small bets -- matching micro-donations to micro-actions. No one has to bear the entire burden of raising this money; it doesn’t have to be a solemn event. You can be creative, have fun, and spread the word through your social networks, and do serious good at the same time.

To keep the momentum going, however, we’re going to need the insight, expertise and compassion of people throughout the developed world, which is why I’m hosting, along with my event sponsor AppFirst, and our hackspace donor Grind, the NYC Famine Hackathon from September 23 to 25. The start-up, innovation, design, and fundraising communities have been incredibly supportive -- people seem ready to roll up their sleeves to collaborate with strangers and build small fundraising projects that will contribute to UNICEF’s efforts to alleviate famine in East Africa.

While we call it a Hackathon, you don’t have to be a coder to participate. We need people who understand the non-profit, fundraising, philanthropy world. We need people who understand social networks. We need people who understand people. We need people who care enough to pitch in. So far, we’ve got about 20 people who’ve signed up. We hope to get at least 50 to join us on the 23rd.

It’s incredibly inspiring, and I hope you’ll join us if you can. If you can’t attend the NYC Famine Hackathon, there are still plenty of ways to get involved. Just check out the 50/50 site.

About the guest blogger: Farrah Bostic is a digital creative strategist with expertise in social media and mobile marketing. She is the proprietor of The Difference Engine, a responsive strategy and design consultancy. With 14 years in the digital and marketing industries, she has been a copywriter, strategist, and an innovations lead. She is an advocate of 'lean planning' -- applying Lean Startup and Agile development principles to strategic and creative development. Follow her on Twitter at @farrahbostic.