Gift The Code Was A Smashing Success

gift the code

It’s amazing what people can create in just 40 hours. Capital One Canada’s second annual Gift The Code Hackathon wrapped on Sunday afternoon and I was there to judge the submissions and witness the finished products first hand.

From November 3 – 5, 165 developers, designers and UI/UX creators assembled in Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre to #UseDigitalForGood. Participants were asked to help solve specific digital challenges faced by six different Toronto-based charities. Some of them had known each other prior to the event while others were complete strangers. They had to come together, research the charity they were given, and get to brainstorming, building and presenting all within a 40 hour time period. Not an easy task.

It was an incredible feat and I’m so impressed with what I saw. Alongside 2 other judges, I was tasked with judging on behalf of Kids Help Phone. Over the course of Sunday afternoon, we sat down with each of the five groups assigned to help Kids Help Phone and took a look at what they had come up with. Two things I noticed right off the bat. Each group ranged drastically in age, and there were a lot of women involved. In fact, close to 30% of the 165 participants were female which is more than double the usual rate at hackathons which kicks ass.

This would be my first time judging a hackathon but my work with kids charities and coding skills helped me know what to look for. Alongside us was a representative from Kids Help Phone who was a great addition to our judging team. Our job was to determine which solutions could be quickly implemented and integrated into each charity’s existing infrastructure.

Each team presented something different, but two really stood out to me. One team created a platform for counselors to talk to each other and receive their own support which I think is amazing. Counselors have an incredibly tough job that requires them to talk to at-risk children all day. It’s not an easy gig and I can’t imagine what they must hear and go through. These counselors are truly unsung heroes. This platform allows them to get help from other counselors across the organization and gives them a place to chat amongst each other.

Their backend and idea was top notch, but the actual presentation could use some fine-tuning. But that’s the beauty of having so many talented people in one place. While picking our winners we thought it would be great for two teams that competed against each other to come together to combine their work. One team we saw built a beautiful landing page for the counselors but it didn’t have all the nifty features that the other group had crafted. By coming together and combining their talents they could truly create something very beneficial for Kid’s Help Phone. If both teams could create something so immersive in 40 hours, imagine what they could do in a year. Or even a with a few hours sleep and a hot shower.

“The digital solutions created by Gift the Code Hackathon participants will maximize the impact our charity partners can make when providing services to their clients. These innovative capabilities help streamline processes, ease operational burdens and uncover new opportunities for the charities right here at home in Toronto,” said Mark Cauwels, Chief Technology Officer, Capital One Canada. “Additionally, Capital One is providing a $5,000 grant to each charity to help implement the top solutions that were created for each of them.”  

Capital One is providing money to each charity to help make these projects come to life. I can’t wait to check back in the coming months and see them come to fruition. If you want to get involved or take a look at the 24 submissions you can from the comfort of your own home. All projects are open-source and available online at to allow for further development and implementation by other charities and non-profits. I love the sharing nature of this project and I hope people take them up on the offer.

The following are examples of digital solutions that were created to tackle challenges that partnering charities face:

  • Kids Help Phone – A chat bot to connect counselors internally and encourage them through gamification which will create a peer-to-peer support system within the organization.
  • The 519 – Developed a secure registration platform for members of the LGBTQ+ community to access resources available to them. This allows The 519 to enhance their membership database and tailor programming availability to areas that need it most.
  • Autism Ontario – A searchable library of resources, available in French and English, that allows parents to easily navigate educational information. This empowers parents and caregivers to easily find what they’re looking for and eliminate the information overload many currently experience online.
  • Indspire – A solution that generates engagement in Indspire’s annual Soaring Indigenous Youth Empowerment Gathering by gamifying attendance. The Gathering provides assistance and coaching to Indigenous high school students as they prepare for post-secondary education and then later, to enter the workforce.
  • CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals – A data management solution leveraging machine learning to better serve client needs and present a case for funding opportunities. This advances the economic and social development of Toronto’s Black youth facing multiple barriers to employment.
  • Sistering – A chat bot that revolutionizes the conversations Sistering can foster with potential volunteers to provide additional information, insight, video, and testimonials to encourage and educate on involvement possibilities.

I am humbled to be involved in this year’s Hackathon as it was truly a wonderful experience and got my mind racing. How can I help? I don’t possess the skills that many of these fine folks have, but not only are the resources online for me to learn, but I could be brainstorming ideas. Author James Altucher encourages people to write down 10 ideas a day and that’s what I’m going do.

There’s some incredibly talented minds out there who are using their powers for good. It’s refreshing to see first-hand and so important for these charities. I wish I had more time to see all the entries, but from what I heard from the other judges after the show is that everyone brought something unique and original to the table. Congratulations to everyone who participated!

To learn more about the Gift the Code Hackathon, visit: or follow #GiftTheCode on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Post Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and something I strongly believe in.

Brock McLaughlin

Brock McLaughlin

Brock McLaughlin 🕹 🎮 Twitter @brockmclaughlin New Media (B)Rockstar. Blogger. Video Gamer. Podcaster at the Game Moose. UnBrocxer. Host/Producer at @comedygamers4u. Somewhat Charming.

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