Business in Savannah

Coco Papy: We the people create the solutions

Grassroots movements have always shifted and changed power. But they have also provided solutions.

This article can be originally found at Business in Savannah

Grace Lee Boggs once said “Movements are born of critical connections rather than critical mass.”

It’s a habit of mine to always start off with a quote because whatever point I’m about to make, someone else has already made it in a much more graceful and tactical way. But the above also serves as a reminder folks have been thinking about this stuff and doing this work for as long back as we can remember — the stuff just evolves based on where we are at culturally. Pamphlets and flyers have evolved into tweets and social media platforms, tools that still carry similar messages, but with different reach and capacity.

Which makes Hack for Savannah: National Day of Civic Hacking — Savannah’s first ever hackathon being held this weekend — so dang cool and so dang timely.

Oh, it looks like you have a question. What is a hackathon you ask? You only hear that word in context with Russia, elections and Facebook? Excellent inquiry and please — fear not.

“The term ‘hacker’ has been somewhat abused by the media, such that many may now view it as a derogatory term. It has often been used by media to describe criminals who infect systems and breach networks,” says Carl Lewis, head honcho of Open Savannah.

“The reality of the true hacker, and of the hackathon, couldn’t be further from this image. Jargon File describes it as a person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and stretching their capabilities.” Lewis continues, “Civic hacking is a creative and often technological approach to solving civic problems. These civic problems run the gamut from voter registration and public education, to helping consumers buy homes and choose financial advisers. Often civic hacking involves the use of government data to make governments more accountable.”

Simply put, hackathons are hacking marathons and civic hackathons are marathons for the betterment of communities. This means smart, thoughtful and innovative folks get together for a weekend to create new projects from the ideation stage to functional, semi-functional prototypes. It’s also like all good events in Savannah: a super social time and great excuse to eat food, drink lots of coffee, hang out with friends and meet new people. Hackathons are held all over the country to mark Code for America’s annual National Day of Civic Hacking, which convenes coders, bureaucrats, data scientists, journalists, user experience designers and community activists to tackle big problems.

Even better? The event is absolutely free to participate in and the civic technological solutions you build could end up being officially adopted by the city of Savannah or Chatham County. Plus prize money for the best project to be presented by Savannah Morning News’ Mary Landers and Enki Research’s Chuck Watson.

Originally scheduled for September, the first event was postponed after the threat of Irma loomed heavy over Savannah, oddly close to the anniversary of Matthew.

Once Irma passed, the organization shifted the narrative from the general theme to Coastal Community Resiliency and Disaster Response, and partnered with CEMA to not only talk about the damage that yes, Irma still did, but also the increasingly-difficult-to-ignore factors of sea-level change and climate change when it comes to natural disasters and beyond.

The hackathon kicks off Friday night with a reception and panel at Bull Street Labs, which will combine some of the thinky-est thinkers and doey-ist doers on the subject: representatives from CEMA and Chatham County; Cam Mathis, director of IT for the City of Savannah; Brigade Neighborhood Association Lead Nick Palumbo; and Jill Gambill, faculty member at UGA’s Marine Research and Extension Center and one of the Southeast’s preeminent coastal resiliency experts who has drafted the first two, and only, municipal sea-level rise plans in the state of Georgia.

Neighborhood leaders have also been invited to the event as front-line spokespersons for what’s happening in their neighborhoods, and how locals have been creating more and more opportunities for resilient communities to spring forth, despite the unknown that is ahead.

The ability of a community to spring back and recover on its own from any sort of collective trauma, whether natural disaster, social upheaval or public crisis, is what keeps communities alive. But resiliency with imagination is what keeps our communities thriving and thinking “what can we do better, what problems can we solve?”

Sign up for Hack for Savannah here: http://hackforsavannah.org

To nurture the members of the Savannah community engaged in creative or innovative endeavors and to cultivate an environment in which they can thrive.

Copyright © 2017 The Creative Coast.

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