Apr 16, 2018

We talk (pretty incessantly) about ATX Hack for Change, but if you're new to the event — or new to St. Edward's — it might be hard to wrap your head around what exactly ATX Hack for Change is. 

Not anymore. We're here to break down what happens at the event, why we do it and how you can get involved. 

At ATX Hack for Change, anyone can hack — no matter what your skill set is. You can't change the world in a weekend, but you can start.

What It Is

ATX Hack for Change is Austin's particular flavor of the national and global civic hacking movement. "Civic hacking" is a fancy way of describing the act of members of the community coming together to solve city-wide or community-wide problems, creatively and, often, with technology. 

That's it. All "hack" means in this context is finding new, out-of-the-box ways to short-circuit vexing, long-standing or often-ignored issues. 

For our civic hackathon, Austin comes here to the hilltop. Every June, we invite the city —nonprofits, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, social do-gooders and the City of Austin itself — to St. Edward's for a weekend to hack and to make change. And they'll all be here again this year, June 1-3. 

What It Isn't

Like we said, "hack" means "to solve problem," not to create them. We know it can be a scary term, but we want to reassure you that our intentions are good — and so is our commitment to cybersecurity!

When you hear the word "hack," you may also be picturing a sea of programmers, typing away at their laptops. We certainly do need programmers, but most of the time, lines of code can't solve a problem by themselves. Our motto is anyone can hack, no matter their skill set. And, by the way, we need everyone to hack. 

How It Works

Each year, local nonprofits, organizations and individuals pitch project ideas for ATX Hack for Change. We work with a team of partners — with a wide array of experiences — to evaluate those projects for: 

  • their impact on Austin
  • what kind of issue they solve
  • how long they'll live on after the event

Once we have a final list, we head into event weekend where Project Champions pitch their projects to hundreds of hackers. Hackers are free to work on any project that interests them, though we do try to play matchmaker to an extent, helping hackers align with the projects that need their particular skills or experience. 

The event kicks off Friday night, and on Saturday morning, project teams are assembled and hacking. They work through Sunday to get a solution together — though, we don't expect it to be a finished product, of course! On Sunday, we see all the amazing things the teams have come up with, and our esteemed panel of judges decides which project nailed it to the highest degree. 

Everyone leaves feeling better about themselves and about the community they live in. Our hope is that the projects they hacked continue to grow and flourish long after that weekend in June. 

Why We Hack

Ultimately, we hack because we care — about our community, our city, our world and one another. 

Social justice and the social good are central to the mission of St. Edward's. For our part, we see plenty of opportunities for technology to enhance that mission and to find new ways to solve old or lingering problems. 

ATX Hack for Change is a high-impact, high-energy avenue for us to bring together the vibrant, idea-a-minute Austin tech scene with the commitment to the common good at St. Edward's. 

Who's Involved

St. Edward's hosts ATX Hack for Change, but we have several partners and sponsors who make the hacking happen. We have three indispensable partners for this year's event, along with dozens of sponsors whose efforts you'll see at the event. 

Open Austin is a volunteer citizen brigade advocating for open government, open data and civic application development since 2009. They are affiliated with the nonprofit Code for America, which believes government can work for the people and by the people in the 21st century. Open Austin is focused on the needs of our own community and uses design, technology and open data to improve the quality of life in our city.

Google Fiber is committed to bringing reliable, affordable internet to everyone in Austin. By building a fiber optic network in Austin, Google is bringing 1000 MBPS internet speeds to the public. Google's mission is to make all information universally accessible and useful.

The City of Austin Innovation Office helps diverse and inclusive teams examine challenges and opportunities to surface better ideas and solutions that make a lasting, positive impact. The Innovation Office works with internal and external partners to develop, test, organize and encourage innovative projects with the goal of fostering a culture of innovation within the City of Austin.

How You Can Join Us

At St. Edward's, we all want to make change and to do good — here on the hilltop, throughout Austin and beyond. You can do that at ATX Hack for Change in a few ways. 

  • Pitch a project. If you have an idea to make Austin better, we invite you to submit a project proposal for this year's event. Alternately, you can encourage any organizations you're involved with to pitch a project that would help them make more of an impact in the community. The deadline to submit a project for ATX Hack for Change 2018 is April 30. 
  • Register to hack. Someone has to make those projects come to life. We need hundreds of hackers, of all skills, to make this event a success. If you want to make a difference, here's your chance. 
  • Sign up to volunteer. Not sure if you're ready to hack? We still have a place for you. Event volunteers help us keep the weekend running smoothly. You might be greeting hackers or setting up spaces or acting as a runner between campus locations, and we appreciate any help you can give.