Want to Improve Orlando? Start with National Day of Civic Hacking

What can you do for your city in just one day?

Code for America’s National Day of Civic Hacking is fast approaching, and we're back at it again. Code for Orlando will be celebrating the annual nationwide day of action with a free civic hackathon from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018 at StarterStudio in downtown Orlando.

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t the only ambitious crossover in history. This civic hackathon will bring together creative minds from the Central Florida area to work on projects that positively change the community. Our National Day of Civic Hacking event is for everyone- from the technical and non-technical.

You will learn about hacking for civic good, idea generation, managing a project under a deadline, as well as co-creating solutions to local problems using open government data and technology. This is a chance for you to build meaningful connections and leverage your skills for good. You will also have access to free food and cool swag throughout the day.

Change happens when people come together to take action. Come join us.

Is National Day of Civic Hacking for Me?

Don’t let the “code” in our name intimidate you. You don’t have to be a coding pro to participate. We are looking for techies and non-techies- including community members, content specialists, data scientists, designers, developers, entrepreneurs, project managers and more- to help make Orlando a better place to live, work and play.

Orlando coder, designer and city government employee collaborating

How to Participate

We will match you with a team based on areas of interest or problem statements. We have learned that having teams from different backgrounds make a difference. You will collaborate with your team on an idea for a project and create a prototype that helps solve a pressing problem in our city. You may work solo as well.

Get a head start by forming a team before the event. Find potential teammates in our Slack, or hit up other meetups and invite friends to come to the hackathon with you. If you would like help finding a team to work with, get in touch with anyone on the Code for Orlando core leadership team. They will steer you in the right direction.

Projects can be technical or non-technical. These may include websites, mobile apps, interactive maps, business plans– you name it. Anyone can propose an idea for project. As long as it’s addressing a problem and benefits the community, it’s on topic for this hackathon!

Orlando creative developing an action plan for a civic hackathon project

There are no restrictions on creativity. You can make anything you want using whatever technology you want. We will provide pencils, paper, markers, post-its and other analog materials to help with the creation, planning, idea and management process. Bring whatever you need so you could do what you are great at. Please bring a laptop if you own one, even if you don’t usually work with computers. Don’t forget your charger.

The Challenges

A problem statement is a specific social problem you want to tackle. Here are potential problem statements to focus on. Keep in mind these are just suggestions. Feel free to develop your own. You will have the opportunity to discuss your ideas at the event.

*How might we help spread candidate and election information to the Orange and Seminole communities, so that voter turn out and awareness is increased?

*How might we collect ethnographic data to understand the Orlando tech community and why individuals choose to stay or leave tech jobs here, and what the average developer or designers pain points are in pursuing a tech career in Orlando.

Making the Most Out of the Hackathon

Our civic hackathon is a creative exercise to flex your skills, engage with incredibly talented people and make Orlando more awesome. We’ve come up with some tips to help you make the most of your experience.

  1. Find the right team: You’ll need more than just programmers. Ideally, you’ll want to find team members with a mix of different skill sets and perspectives–  a few coders, designers, project managers, industry experts, writers, etc. If you are missing a specific skill, let any of the Code for Orlando Core Leadership Team know.

  2. Be clear on who is doing what: Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Assign roles and responsibilities according to skill set. Who is going to lead? Design? Research? Test? Make the presentation? Present? Document? Not all teams need to fulfill these roles but understanding who is doing what will help minimize miscommunication.

  3. Make a plan: Spend time with your team making a plan and setting small goals for the day. Be sure to define a realistic project scope. Use issue tracking to prioritize workflow.

  4. Remember your audience/users: Try to solve a problem your audience is struggling with. Think about what they value. If you don’t know, do a little research. The quickest way? Ask other participants.

  5. Keep it simple and adapt: We tend to follow the “Make things, move quickly” and “Done is better than perfect” mottos. Stay focused on what you can actually achieve with the time you have. Iterate. Test. Pivot.

  6. Communicate: Join our Slack team and create a channel for your project. It’s an easy way to share links and data. You can also use the channel to stay in touch after the hackathon is over. Ask questions. Contribute to conversations. Don’t be afraid to talk to other participants. We’re all friends here.

  7. Know when to take a break: Hackathons can be a bit overwhelming at first. Set aside time to eat, network and recharge.

  8. Have fun: Most of all, enjoy yourself. Sure, it would be amazing if you produced a game-changing project. However, National Day of Civic Hacking is more than that. Your experience should be worthwhile. Challenge yourself. Learn something new. Build connections.


Code for Orlando, a local Code for America brigade, brings the community together to improve Orlando through technology. To learn more about what Code for Orlando is about, check out the TED talk by Code for America founder Jen Pahlka.

Respect your fellow civic hackers. View our Code of Conduct

New to Coding?

Get started with some of these websites. They offer coding lessons for free: the Orange County Public Library System/The Melrose Center, W3Schools, CodeAcademy, EdX, Github and KhanAcademy. Hone your new skills at one of our Community Action Night meetups.

Project Management Tools

Slack, Github, Trello, Google Docs and Asana are just a few of the free tools that Code for Orlando members use.

City Data Resources

Orlando's Open Data Portal, Orlando GIS Data

County Data Resources

Orange County GIS Data

State Data Resources

Tabs on Tally API - Florida Legislative Data, Florida Geographic Data Library

National Data Resources

Data.gov Data Sets


8:30 a.m. Check in. Grab some breakfast and socialize.

9:00 a.m. Introductions. Problem statements revealed.

9:30 a.m. Organize into teams and discuss solutions. Select an idea. Develop a plan.

10:00 a.m. Time to get to work! Break out tasks for your project and make sure everyone is pushing forward.

12:00 p.m. Lunch. Take as long or as little as you wish for lunch.

4:00 pm Wrap up projects. Prepare a short presentation to showcase to attendees. Check if demo is working. Give yourself time to practice and be proud of what you've built.

5:00 p.m. Closing presentations. Share our experiences. The event ends at 6 p.m., but the efforts of civic hackers will never die!

After Party If there is interest, we can socialize at some awesome local bars and pubs near Church Street!

What Skills Do You Have? Tell us on Twitter @CodeForOrlando

by Erin-Denton
Thu Jul 19 2018 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (UTC)