Earlier this year we set out on a mission: more than coders at Code for Philly.

Between then and now we’ve hosted 3 hackathons, 1 mentorship program, and a hack night every week with dozens of partners (municipal and community), a diverse range of practitioners and experts, skill level from beginner to advanced, and upwards of 50 data releases/refreshes for these events.

These wins are built on the collaborations between technologists, practitioners from the field, expert communicators, and fresh perspectives from enthusiasts of all varieties. Civic tech is about the people and civic hacking is about the process. We’re redefining contribution because civic hacking needs everyone.

Copyright Chris Kendig Photography
Copyright Chris Kendig Photography

In the same way, you don’t need to be an environmentalist to care about sustainability. It’s more than wanting to preserve nature and urban green space (though that’s important too!).

Economic interests, political structures, social dynamics, and of course things like technology operate in tandem like an ecosystem. These nodes within a network rely on and react to one another. For this reason the entire system must adapt and persist to survive.

Here are a few reasons why we want (and need) you to hack sustainability this weekend:

  1. When we say sustainable, we’re interested in the environment as part of a larger whole. The topic is broad but the interdependencies among nodes is key, and that includes technology.

  2. Sustainable solutions make a 21st century city. Philly is a city of firsts and there are many legacy infrastructure in dire need of updating. Whether it’s environmental, social, political, economic, technological or otherwise, there is plenty of work to be done. Modern interventions must plan for a changing future and adapt to emerging trends. Tech applications can help both directly and indirectly.

  3. Civic hackers want to make their city better because they care about the present as well as the future. Improving livability today increases the daily lives of future Philadelphians. Civic hackers take pride in their city and want to encourage others to do the same. Our weekly event and quarterly hackathons are ways for us to use technology as a way of placemaking that can be both individual and collective. We need to share that with others so that they can contribute to that experience and bring in more people to take part.

  4. We have an all-women panel of experts for a mixed event. That’s big. Tech needs diversity, and these women are strong models of inspiration. These women are accomplished in their fields, self-driven, and ultra successful. Whether it’s in business prowess, sustainability expertise, visionary ed tech approaches, or building civic impact, the panel is composed of incredible leaders ready to share their insights.

  5. We have 12 new and refreshed datasets plus the data owners to talk about them. Part of this weekend is an unconference where city partners discuss the data they released and more importantly listen. They want to know what you think is important and worth investing in, in addition to thinking about how the data might be used and applied with technology. Their goal is to improve the city and serve its people. There’s will on both sides, let’s making something happen together.

Now that we’ve convinced you to join us, read on for more event details!

The unconference takes place all day 9am-4:30pm Friday 10/16 at the Innovation Lab on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building. A number of city departments will be represented as well as those in the sustainability field.

Sessions can range from a traditional presentation to a panel/roundtable to a field trip at around City Hall. Simultaneously, a proper unconference will take place where breakouts are decided at the time based on interest level from all the participants in the room. The goal of this part of the event is to begin the conversation with a variety of perspectives and talk out key problems as well as the roles of topical experts and technologists in creating a civic hacking project.

After the unconference, we’ll head to Young Involved Philadelphia’s Civic Engagement Fair at WHYY from 6pm-9pm for the community needs assessment portion of the weekend. During this event, sustainability enthusiasts and civic doers of all varieties will brainstorm potential projects to work on over the weekend. Ideas are sketched out on poster boards and participants walk around the room adding to ideas and voting on their favorites. At the end of the evening projects will get pitched to the rest of the crowd.

We start bright and early on Saturday 10/17 9:30am at City CoHo and go for the entire day hacking. Meals and wi-fi provided. Hacking can be writing code, but contributions might be providing the vision for a project, synthesizing complex issues and articulating them in a consumable way, or it might be managing the project and all its moving parts. While the technical application is incredibly important, it’s not the only way to work on a project at a hackathon. We stay as long as the space allows us, and start again at 10am at City CoHo on Sunday 10/18. Teams have until 2pm to finish their project and get set up to present to a panel of experts for review. With critical feedback, we encourage participants to continue their work at our weekly hack night event.

We hope you’ll come for at least some part of the weekend event to innovate Philadelphia infrastructures and make them sustainable. If you can’t make the event in-person, you can still submit and vote on project ideas at appsforphilly.org and be part of the conversation on Twitter @codeforphilly #SustyHack2015 #apps4philly #SOYP15

Event overview and schedule

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