As Philadelphia prepares to close dozens of schools, afterschool enrichment -- a lifeline to arts, athletics and academics -- is also in peril. That’s why Chris Alfano, CTO of JarvUs
and brigade leader of Code for Philly
, and Faye Anderson, founder of Tracking Change
, are building a wiki-based platform that identifies available programs. The team's project, What’s Going On?
, won Philly’s fifth Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK)
this past weekend at Drexel’s ExCiTe Center
This year's RHOK joined forces with hackathons around the globe under the umbrella of National Day of Civic Hacking
. The event was organized by Technically Philly
through partnerships with Azavea
, Code for America
, Drexel and the City of Philadelphia. There were five final projects
and over 20 participants.
When the Alfano and Anderson first investigated the afterschool issue, they noticed that the data is often incomplete or outdated. Some programs, like the Free Library's Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program
, are burried in individual branch sites. For families with limited internet access and know-how, the lack of an accurate, central resource is a major barrier.
"They need to find things in the community and there's no directory," says Alfano. "Someone who's researching is going to have to be making phone calls and checking up on everything they find."
Instead of creating a static app, which relies on a developer for updates, What’s Going On? is a search engine built on public wiki pages. Users and program directors can submit program pages or update existing ones, creating a more comprehensive repository.
The winning app was first conceived during February’s Tech Camp
, which addressed challenges in public education. According to Brian Kirk, co-founder of Technically Philly, relationships between hackers and hackathons have become increasingly common in the civic engagement space. For example, Sheltr
, the second place finisher at RHOK, was first created during a hackathon several years ago. The team that worked on it during this recent event was a completely new group.
"There's a community that has an understanding of the data ecosystem and what's being built," says Kirk. "Without any big leadership change, we've seen it coalesce and get pushed further down the road."
Faye Anderson, Chris Alfano, What’s Going On?; Brian Kirk, Technically Philly
The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.