The Code-a-thon That Aims to Make the World Better - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Code-a-thon That Aims to Make the World Better

The Code-a-thon That Aims to Make the World Better

By daisy Carrington


Because sometimes a little change can make a big difference in someone’s life.

By daisy Carrington

OZY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative methods to help the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

Video produced by Kristin Kremers

As coding has become bigger and bigger business, hackathons — marathon events that see prospective coders compete to win a prize or get a shot at backing — have soared in popularity. One coding challenge, however, has sought to direct the intellectual capital of budding techies for social good.

Code for Good, a 24-hour event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co., brings together university students, nonprofits and seasoned technology employees to come up with innovations that charities can use to build out their infrastructure, solve social ills and reach a wider community of individuals who could benefit from their services.

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Source Courtesy JPMorgan Chase

“It’s really incredible to see how passionate our volunteers are about Code for Good, the students and the nonprofits,” said Julia Backon, a member of JPMorgan Chase’s Technology for Social Good team. Backon notes that JPMorgan Chase employees are eager to participate and donate their personal time on weekends to give back to charities. In 2016 alone, volunteers contributed over 11,000 hours towards these weekend events. 

During a recent Code for Good event, individuals separated into digital innovation teams to create mechanisms to address challenges met by the paralysis community. The code-a-thon — in partnership with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation — challenged coders to turn up innovations ranging from assistive travel apps to a technology platform that would allow those in the paralysis community to report areas with poor disability access.

It was something that was going to expand our team and expand our thinking around different challenging situations.

Rebecca Laming, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

“[JPMorgan Chase] recognized a problem: that nonprofits and charities don’t have these robust technological and innovation teams,” says Rebecca Laming, vice president of communications at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

“It was something that was going to expand our team and expand our thinking around different challenging situations,” Laming says.

Student Marios Dardas, a Code for Good participant, says he enjoyed building a product “with a need in mind.” He was assigned a mentor, a JPMorgan Chase employee, who encouraged his team to step back and consider how they were thinking about the problem, which he says is crucial in the technology and business worlds.

Shortly after Code for Good, Dardas received an offer to join JPMorgan Chase full time and he continues to volunteer his time and skills to make a difference. Dardas, along with thousands of other JPMorgan Chase technologists, volunteer over 40,000 hours of their personal time every year to give back to charities and bring prototypes created at Code for Good to life through an ongoing initiative called Force for Good. In the past, nonprofits presenting challenges to coders included the LeBron James Family Foundation (Columbus Code Challenge), AgeUK (London Code Challenge) and the Happy Hearts Fund (Mumbai Code Challenge).

Laming says that the challenge was a catalyst for thinking bigger, and coming up with solutions she hadn’t previously thought possible.

”We went from thinking in a bubble, like: ‘with five people this is what we can tackle,’ to thinking: ‘with an entire company, what can we think of?’” For nonprofits that have participated, Code for Good has been a game-changer. And if you’re going to change the game, what’s more exciting than doing it for the greater good? 

Learn more about Code For Good here.   

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