Transforming Lives Through Technology – Leadership Network Blog
I’ve written a few times before on what Leadership Network is doing through the Code for the Kingdom (#C4TK) hackathon series. Great Kingdom stuff going on there. This fall, we’ll be leading a global hackathon in 15 cities around the world. Here is my last post from the Leadership Network blog, written about the event this spring in Addison.
On Friday, March 22, 2015, nearly 100 Kingdom-minded technologists, entrepreneurs, mentors, supporters and volunteers gathered in Texas to kick off the 7th Leadership Network Code for the Kingdom hackathon. The event was hosted by the Addison Treehouse, an organization serving entrepreneurs in North Dallas, providing the benefits of a vibrant coworking space, community-building events, and programming built to equip startups with the tools to be successful.
The theme for the weekend was transforming lives through technology. Whether through engaging and releasing the best of the church to impact those around them, facilitating spiritual formation through the Word of God, inspiring a culture of generosity, or tackling key issues of social justice, participants were challenged to create technologies that would change the world.
Dallas: An Unlikely Venue?
During the opening Friday evening, local organizer and emcee Jason King commented that a hackathon wasn’t originally planned for Dallas. Dallas is often overlooked by organizers for similar events because it lacks the reputations of tech centers such as the San Francisco, Seattle, or even our neighbor to the south, Austin. However, Jason and the other organizers lobbied for this event, arguing that Dallas is the perfect place due to the vibrant entrepreneurial community and the large number of strong churches in the area.
The evening program was kicked off by a few of the key organizers and mentors issuing challenging and inspiring words to set the focus and tone for the weekend. Shawn Ring, Pastor of Spiritual Life Technology for Gateway Church, reminded participants how life is quickly becoming about moments rather than events. Technology, particularly mobile technology, is now about extending our humanness, facilitating deeper relationships with individuals rather than simply the cursory connections across the masses. If the church doesn’t make some key shifts when it comes to the use of technology, we will miss something. In Shawn’s words, “We must pastor differently.” Gateway is investing heavily in leading this shift through their digital platform, Table.
The evening crowd was also challenged by LouAnn Hunt, Emerging Technologies Manager for Faith Comes by Hearing. LouAnn spoke about God’s calling on the people in the room, claiming, God called you here on this very day—you have a God-purpose!” LouAnn went on to describe the ‘four revolutions’ that are taking place, revolutions that Christian technologists and entrepreneurs have an opportunity to disrupt for the Kingdom: mobile, social, the ‘always connected internet of things’ and data. She closed with this vision: “With 93% of the world’s population having access to cell phones, could we see the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our lifetime?”
Finally, Trey Bowles, CEO of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (of which the Addison Treehouse is a part) reminded participants that, by being present for this weekend, they were being entrepreneurial. They should leverage that quality to create something amazing for the Kingdom.
Video taken by participant Simon Seow at the Dallas Hackathon.
Now for the Challenges
In all, 13 challenges were put before the crowd of eager participants. Seven challenges came from Christian organizations and organizers:
- Organ Donor Challenge – Can you create technology to help every church challenge its members to be donor organs, saving tens of thousands of lives every year and greatly reducing the organ donation crisis?
- Human Trafficking Challenge – How can technology for good be used to disrupt the technologies used by the human traffickers to conduct their business?
- Scripture Engagement Challenge – Faith Comes By Hearing (Digital Bible Platform) – How can you increase scripture engagement, now?
- Online Missionaries and Ever-Changing Messaging Apps Challenge – How can technology connect people searching for God online regardless of what OTT messaging service they use?
- Games to Teach Generosity Challenge – How can games impart the need and benefits of being generous to the mobile first generation of children?
- Symbolic Bible Translation Challenge – How do you translate the Bible into a language that has no written word?
- Food Deserts (not ‘desserts’) Challenge – What if technology could help activate the neighborhood, the community, and the church to help bring affordable, healthy and nutritious food options to urban areas lacking them? What if you could create the AirBnB for food deserts?
Following the”official” challenges, participants were allowed to submit projects of their own. Six additional challenges were submitted by participants:
- Kingdom Promised Land Challenge – An existing app concept for memorizing Scripture, allowing users to select categories, specific verses, and music backgrounds with scripture, allowing users to hear, repeat and learn the Word of God.
- Godsync Challenge – A group desiring to synchronize the body of Christ to strengthen one another’s Christian walk.
- Mentorship Challenge – An online tool to match those who are motivated to mentor with those who need it, allowing for small scale and large scale involvement.
- Food Desert Idea Challenge – An idea to create an app to help people track how much food they buy, how long it lasts so that it does not expire, saving food.
- Cup of Water Challenge – How could we utilize technology to share the stories of what churches/Christians are doing to impact lives, as well as create opportunities for the community to collaborate with churches that are doing good?
- Mobile App Challenge – A game that will help kids learn the books of the Bible.
Let the Coding Begin!
Following the presentation of challenges, each challenge ‘champion’ was stationed around the room to allow participants to connect and ask questions. Concepts were discussed, needs were presented, and pitches were made. Soon, teams were formed, projects outlined, and the coding and creating began!
As with previous Code for the Kingdom events, teams of participants worked for almost 48 hours straight on their chosen projects, pausing for meals, snacks, an occasional nap, and some ‘healthy hacker’ activities. Organizers and volunteers also labored around the clock to keep the snack room stocked and the event space free of distractions and dangers. There was a great atmosphere of excitement, engagement, and collaboration. Some participants spent much of their time roaming from team to team, offering their skills and ideas to further multiple projects.
Stories that Matter
Each Code for the Kingdom event is marked by stories that matter. From the personal lives of the participants to the causes championed by sponsors, mentors, and other supports, compelling Kingdom stories emerge that are worth sharing.
One of the stories that surfaced at last month’s event was the story of Adrianna Rivera, a woman who could not write a line of code, but came to the event with a passion for others. As Shamichael Hallman tells it:
“Adrianna Rivera came to the Dallas Hackathon with no design or development experience, only a desire to use technology to connect people with the promises of God. Having gone through a series of personal challenges and knowing how promises had got her through, [Adrianna] wanted others to have access to those same promises. Over the last few months, prior to the hackathon, she began writing the various promises that she came across. When she heard about Code for the Kingdom, she felt this was her opportunity.
Adrianna was able to connect with a developer during the course of the weekend and she was finally able to see her dream come to life.”
The result: The Kingdom Promised Land App, and award recipient from the weekend.
Sunday: The Finale
One of the unique elements of every Code for the Kingdom event is Sunday morning worship. After so many hours of intense work, participants look forward to the opportunity to unplug and re-center their minds on the ‘why’ behind all of these projects. Code for the Kingdom veteran, Shamichael Hallman, who serves as Pastor of Innovation for New Direction Church in Memphis, TN, delivered a stirring message that moved many of the participants and spurred them on toward the final hours of their work.
Shamichael Hallman, Pastor of Innovation for New Direction Church in Memphis, TN, leads Sunday-morning worship for the Dallas hackathon participants.
By the end of the afternoon, 13 projects emerged to be shared and awarded. While most of the projects were presented in various stages of development, a few were ideation-only projects (no coding involved). Below is a summary of the projects:
- #ihaveaname – A bold digital marketing campaign that uses a twitter connected app to virally disrupt posts that advertise for the $97 billion human trafficking industry. Filters hashtags known to be used for sex trafficking purposes and encourages app users to ‘twitter bomb’ those messages. Also a web resource to connect those being trafficked with resources.
- MultiplyMe – Crowdfunding platform for nonprofits, churches, and missionaries using elements from the Ice Bucket Challenge (http://multiplyme.in) to leverage personal networks to raise money. It starts with a pledge, but that money does not go through until three friends are recruited to donate. The platform encourages monthly donations to provide more consistent, sustainable income. A mobile app shows personal and network donations to highlight how a small donation can have big impact.
- Truefood (ideation only) – A for profit economic development company that utilizes technology to empower communities. The concept involves a grocery delivery service that serves and employs “food desert” communities by sourcing drivers from within the community, and creating a pathway that would allow them to become a co-owner in a business over time.
- HeartSpeak – Empowering oral cultures to translate scripture into their heart-languages. Bilingual Christians can use the app to create an oral translation into a minority language through audio recordings, images, etc.
- Give Life – Creates awareness that you can register as an organ donor without a trip to the DMV, and brings the opportunity to register to be ever present through a church’s online channels. (https://givelife.herokuapp.com/ad)
- Walk Thru Bible – Based on the Digital Bible API, this project allows users to listen to the Bible as they walk. The app tracks how far you walk as well as how far you listen to the Bible story. During each successive workout, users pick up listening where they left off. The idea is that passive, repetitive listening breeds memorization.
- Godsync (http://www.GodSync.com) – a technology platform of resources designed to equip Christians for ministry. It includes Prayersync, a feature that provides reminders and notifications for a personal prayer book of people you’re praying for, includes a prayer feed of all your friends, and an option for public prayers to allow the wider community to join in prayer. Another feature, Scripture Now, helps with Scripture memorization. Communication is facilitated through groups in a Facebook-like interface.
- Yada – A creative mobile app helping connect people from larger churches for after church lunch.
- Know the Book – An app that provides a fun way for kids to learn and know the books of the Bible. Know the Book was presented by our youngest developer, Adi (6 years old).
- Cup of Water – An app that helps people connect to churches and ministries that fit their interests and passions.
- MentorMe (ideation only) – An engagement app that would match potential mentors and mentees through interests, passions, life experiences, struggles, etc. Then MentorMe provides tools to guide them toward deeper mentor/mentee relationships.
- Kingdom Promised Land App – Bible memory verse app, birthed from a need to memorize the promises of God from Scripture by categories that relate to a person’s need. The app speaks the verse to you, pauses, allowing you to meditate on the verse, before moving to the next.
- Mentor Match – An app that quickly connects mentors to partner organizations and helps develop their effectiveness as mentors.
A distinction of the Dallas Code for the Kingdom event was the choice to offer non-cash Recognition Awards. The emphasis was on providing opportunities to further the projects that began over the weekend. Our experience has been that many of the cash winners from previous events ended up giving the money away. Regardless, the investment of long hours in these projects with the knowledge that no cash would be awarded spoke volumes about the character and commitment of the men and women who participated.
Judges for the event were evaluating each team’s work based on four primary criteria:
- Kingdom Impact – What capacity does this idea have to change lives for God’s Kingdom?
- Viability – Is there a market for this project and can it be successful in that market?
- Innovation – How much creativity and originality is seen in the project?
- Completeness – How market-ready is the project by the end of the event?
The award categories were:
- New Code – projects that were started over the weekend.
- Existing Code – projects that were started prior to the weekend.
- Kingdom Concept – ‘ideation only’ projects that involved no coding.
- People’s Choice – voted on by the participants during the event.
- Best Use of Sponsors’ Platform – projects that integrated Faith Comes by Hearing’s Digital Bible API.
The panel of judges selected a “Best Overall” and Runner Up” for each of the first three categories. Only an overall winner was announced for the People’s Choice Award. The four overall winners received a seat at a shared coworking space for three months to gain access to mentorship, resources, and potential collaboration partners. Runners up will be invited to a ‘development sprint’ coordinated by the local meetup group to bring together other technologists who can further their project. Finally, Faith Comes By Hearing gave a special award of 2 seats at a coworking space for three months to the team they judged to best use their Digital Bible Platform API. After all the project demonstrations and Q&A with the judges, the panel stepped away to reach consensus. During the ‘deliberation’ time at each hackathon, there are palpable feelings of relief and anticipation among the teams. This afternoon was no different. After just a brief recess, the judges emerged to announce the following winners of the 2015 Dallas Code for the Kingdom Hackathon:
- Best Overall New Code – Yada
- Best Overall Existing Code – MultiplyMe
- Best Kingdom Concept – MentorMe
- Runner-up New Code – Kingdom Promised Land
- Runner-up Existing Code – GodSync
- Runner-up Kingdom Concept – truefood
- People’s Choice – #ihaveaname
- Best Use of the Digital Bible Platform – Kingdom Promised Land
Future Hackathon Events
More Code for the Kingdom Hackathons are planned for 2015. The next event will be held in Orlando, Florida, on May 22-24, and will be a collaborative partnership with Wycliffe Associates. Then on October 2-4, the first global hackathon event will take place in 12 cities around the world. More information on all future events can be found at http://codeforthekingdom.org.
Code for the Kingdom, a Leadership Network hackathon initiative, convenes bright entrepreneurs and technologists to use their gifts to affect global culture from a Christian perspective. It seeks to advance the Gospel through the creation of new technologies addressing significant issues confronting society, community, families, and spiritual life.