ANATOMY OF A HACK OREGON TEAM
ALL HACK OREGON PROJECTS ARE MADE ENTIRELY BY VOLUNTEERs.
THIS IS HOW WE ORGANIZE.
Our projects always begin from a point of passion. Yet, the things we build are often things that you might not think too much about, because they seem so obvious you might assume they already exist.
We live in a world where the capabilities of technology can be mind-blowing, but the technology of making things function as you intuitively feel they ought to is still really rather rare... and can be expensive.
In fact, attempting to thoroughly understand complex and perhaps emotionally charged issues burns time and resources and has the elusive pang of a job never finished.
When it comes to the concept of big data, intuitive "ease of use" is not a quality that's immediately called to mind. However, as we place more value on transparency and accountability, it's an important challenge that government and journalism must rise to meet. Yet, these are two fields which have some of the most limited access to top level engineers and designers that can push the boundaries of how we think about interacting with the human experience of data.
The barriers to transparency and good information are completely solvable.
Two of the biggest barriers to government creating pathways for open information are lack of funding and a management culture of restricted in agile iteration. Because Hack Oregon teams are entirely volunteer-based, it allows us the ability to collaborate with unique freedom and execute with amazing speed.
This dynamic sets the stage for one of our most important team building aspects: direct and continued contact with context and domain experts who understand the experience and impact of information available (or not available) that informs our topic. To make a real difference, it's important that our projects are actionable, not just for citizens, but also for leadership. We all need access to information to make good decisions, the fun begins when we get the right people in the room and start to realize the new capability we can achieve together.
Learn more about the role of a Facilitator (COMING SOON)
The range of perspective that surrounds the brainstorm of an issue is treated with another layer of process when we bring in our Build Team Captains. As soon as a project can gain traction from domain experts and context partners around a Facilitator, we add roles for other experts to begin to define scope and set expectations for what what we can build together.
Making great data stories requires a range skills and can feel like the ultimate balance between open collaboration and distinct focus.
We tend to start out by framing our motivations around four main questions:
- What can the data tell us? (Data Science)
- How can we make it easy to spot or communicate a discovery? (Data Visualization)
- When we do make a discovery, how will it be meaningful? (Design)
- How does new information impact our understanding of the world we live in? (Journalism)
There's a spectrum of cross-over between these questions, and each focus helps to inform the other. The Facilitator plays the role of managing scope and driving a deliverable, while removing roadblocks, making edits, or finding new resources as the project unfolds.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ROLES OF DATA VIZ, DATA SCIENCE, DESIGN, AND JOURNALISM CAPTAINS (COMING SOON)
BREAKING THE RULES OF VOLUNTEERISM
Ask them to do something important and challenging.
By the time we launch a beta, the number of people that have contributed code, design, content, media, and strategy can easily range from 20-50 people for a standard project. We often run multiple, simultaneous projects which turns Hack Oregon into a several hundred person pop-up company with a range of product deliverables on 3-month timeline.
If you think this sounds like a outrageous idea--- you're definitely right. It barely makes sense that we are able to do this, and it was never an "idea" that any of us had to try and pull this concept off. The truest thing would be to say that we eventually just found ourselves in a position where it was just happening.
The reason we need so many hands on deck for our projects is not only because there's a lot to do--- but when we're asking everyone to work for free, the value is in the challenge. We focus on creating value in our project opportunities by making them as relevant and compelling as possible, and tailor every person's role individually based on the skills they want to contribute, with the skills they want to learn.
When our project work is both meaningful and challenging, it means that every person at every level is a part of something bigger-- and their contribution is appreciated.
We onboard new volunteers by connecting them directly with another volunteer slightly above their own skill level. This creates an exciting environment for project-based learning and honest mentorship, not to mention quite a few of our volunteers and students go on to land amazing jobs and promotions from the experience and network gained through their work with us.
This summer we're working to open-source even more of our behind the scenes content and documentation. While our projects are cool, we're starting to notice that the momentum powering our engagement process is truly outrageous.
And from where we're standing, it looks like it's just getting bigger.