Hack 4 Good- Experience and Takeaways

Saturday 16th February- Microsoft Reactor, Shoreditch

Last weekend, three Pythagoras representatives volunteered their Saturdays to head to the Microsoft Reactor for a charity hackathon organised by TDG (ThoseDynamicsGuys) and Microsoft. Once we heard about the opportunity to share ideas with others in the partner community and raise money for charity, we were keen to get involved and put our skills to the test.

In this post, we hear from Rebecca Stenning, our Not for Profit Lead Consultant, about her experience throughout the day.

Rebecca Stenning

Rebecca Stenning

Not for Profit Lead Consultant

Setting the scene

The day began with a powerful opening presentation by Alex Rijnoveau, Architect and Storyteller at Microsoft. Alex noted in her presentation that a concerning 48% of non-profits describe their IT infrastructure as failing, reinforcing the importance of gathering the tech community together to share ideas and work towards making improvements. Alex reminded us all why we were there, sharing some sobering figures about violence and persecution in the refugee community.

This was followed by presentations from others in the Microsoft partner community, each sharing some inspiration for the day ahead by discussing innovative app ideas and ways that they have helped used Microsoft technology to address their clients’ challenges. App ideas ranged from sourcing leftover food for the homeless, matching volunteers with charities after disasters, and providing those with disabilities the means to live more independently.

Suitably inspired, we were off! The hackathon commenced!

The challenge

Each team had to come up with a problem faced by charities that could be helped by using technology from the Microsoft stack. We had just over four hours to build a solution and prepare a presentation – the presentation was to last five minutes only! There was a huge buzz in the room as people used whiteboards and flip charts to map out the process they had chosen, followed by people beavering away on their laptops.

Our solution

Our team decided to create an app that could capture individuals’ interests, analyse sentiment, and put them in touch with suggested charities that were most relevant to what they are passionate about. For this, we built a PowerApp which created Contact records in Dynamics 365, captured donor information such as interests, and then surfaced these details to selected relevant charities to enable them to engage in a more personalised way. The app would also gather feedback on donor engagement to monitor the strength of their relationship.

An example of the process flow from initial communication with each donor to charity matching.

Technology used

  • PowerApps (Canvas Driven)
  • Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement
  • Flow
  • Logic Apps
  • Azure Cognitive Services
  • CDS
  • And PowerPoint (technically!)

Our PowerApp coming to life.

Concluding thoughts

The winning team was Team Grey, who chose to donate the money raised (close to £5,000!) to Solent Mind & Lebenshilfe Nürnberger Land. There were some amazing Apps built in an afternoon, including one to put those who need shoes in touch with charities which can provide shoes in their size; another put blood donors in touch with hospitals who need blood of their blood type – so much creativity!

Overall, this was a brilliant example of what can be achieved when we challenge ourselves to create something exciting and innovative that addresses a common issue. We’ll be taking some of the skills we developed on the day back to our work at Pythagoras to further boost the solutions we deliver for our customers. A huge thanks to TDG, Microsoft and all attendees for a brilliant day!