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“Pro bono and skills-based volunteering is an increasingly popular capacity-building resource for nonprofits, typically supporting woefully underfunded areas deemed ‘overhead,’ such as technology, HR and marketing.” – Chicago Tribune
In 2021, the BlackRock Atlanta office hosted its first iteration of the Social Impact Codeathon. Our three-week Codeathon brought together members of BlackRock Atlanta’s developer community to help four local nonprofits create technical solutions to support their missions.
The inspiration for the Codeathon came from Terry Francis – Lead Engineer, Aladdin UX Engineering – who has experience in pro bono software development for nonprofits. After realizing how much of an impact BlackRock software engineers could make in the community, Terry introduced the Codeathon to the Atlanta office and throughout BlackRock. Once he received interest and support from his colleagues, Terry created a team comprised of Analysts and Associates to design the event and identify nonprofits that could truly benefit from the Codeathon.
From left to right: Jonathan Alvarez, Victor Gomes, Darius McFarland and Terry Francis (not pictured: Hugo Olcese)
Each year, through employee applications, the BlackRock GIVES network grants funds to various charities and nonprofits. The Codeathon team identified four local nonprofits – Gideon’s Promise, Hillside, HYPE and Unfading Beauties – that did not receive grants and supported them through software design and development. BlackRock also matched each Codeathon volunteer’s hours with a monetary donation. Read about the impact of each project below.
Gideon’s Promise connects public defenders across the United States and supplies them with the resources they need to provide their clients with the best legal representation possible. To continue to push toward their mission of “transforming the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities,” Gideon’s Promise asked BlackRock coders to deliver a starting point for their mobile app, which they wanted to create for years but didn’t have the capacity to build. The mobile app creates a digital community for public defenders in the Gideon’s Promise network. The app was developed using Flutter and is powered by Google Firebase. It features user profiles, a donation page and links to all Gideon’s Promise social media accounts so users can stay up-to-date with the nonprofit.
Hillside is a mental health facility with the mission of “helping children and families thrive by providing outstanding residential and community mental health services.” One of the services Hillside provides is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is used to help patients effectively manage their emotions, feel and show empathy, and establish and maintain relationships. Hillside previously relied on paper logs in order to conduct this form of therapy; they needed a mobile solution. The Codeathon team developed a new app that enables patients to instead fill out digital diary entries, including a Subjective Unit of Distress (SUD) scale, which prompts patients to record their current level of emotional distress. The app, created using React Native, Django and Python, allows Hillside staff to directly monitor this data and be able to more readily predict potential stressors for their patients. The increased flexibility and connectivity of the mobile solution compared to the paper form will lead to faster and more personalized care for young patients in the future.
Hope for Youth Inc. (HYPE) “empowers girls of color to confidently pursue 21st century careers and opportunities in computing and technology.” HYPE wanted a web application to serve as a Learning Management System and “one-stop-shop” educational platform for students who participate in their programs. The web application allows students to create profiles, view their courses and utilize a calendar to manage their daily activities. The application was built using several technologies – most notably Microsoft Community Training, React and Next.js. BlackRock’s partnership with HYPE extends beyond the Codeathon, as the Atlanta chapter of our Black Professionals Network (BPN) worked with HYPE several times in 2021, resulting in BlackRock receiving HYPE’s Volunteer of the Year award.
Unfading Beauties “encourages middle school and high school women to overcome the struggles of life, even at their young ages.” The nonprofit holds bi-monthly events to tackle and discuss issues like bullying, self-respect, beauty, love, abuse and anger. BlackRock coders helped the organization redesign their website, which the team reimagined using WordPress, HTML, CSS and Google Cloud Platform. Featuring an area for donations and landing pages with prominent links to the organization’s social media accounts and upcoming events, this new website will better enable Unfading Beauties to continue making a positive impact on the lives of young women.
The Social Impact Codeathon embodies our “We Are One BlackRock” principle – it brings together technologists from across the firm to work toward a common goal of helping nonprofits carry out their missions. Collectively, we volunteered more than 322 hours, resulting in $8,050 being donated to the four nonprofits. And on an individual level, volunteers were able to expand their networks, hone their project-planning skills and show off their development talent – all while increasing BlackRock’s presence in the local Atlanta community.