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Hack for Change Miami: Where art and tech meet big government data

By Danny Lafuente


On June 1 and 2, The LAB Miami will host the 1st Annual Hack for Change: Miami as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. The event endeavors to bring together citizens in the spirit of collaboration to develop new technological solutions for some our country’s oldest problems. Or, as the national website puts it, “to do what is most quintessentially American: roll up our sleeves, get involved, and work together to improve our society.”

If the idea of a hackathon doesn’t already excite you, and if Uncle Sam’s call to action doesn’t already inspire you, and if you think there is actually a cooler place to be than in the heart of Wynwood, I’ll give you five reasons why you should still register and participate:

HackforChangeMiami1 . Because this hackathon has new faces and new spaces. Most hackathons attract entrepreneurs, programmers, and front-end developers, but this one is also calling on artists, musicians, nonprofits, government employees, and anyone with the time and talent to spare. Hack for Change: Miami has issued three of its own challenges around Art, Technology and Sustainability. With a bevvy of other national challenges, there really is something for just about everyone. In a room full of passionate, talented people -– serendipitous collisions abound.

2. Because the data to which you’ll have access will blow your mind. Datasets and open APIs at the national level have been released by agencies like NASA, EPA, USDA, US Dept of Energy, USAID, US Dept of Labor, Census Bureau, National Science Foundation and the Peace Corps among others, in addition to a growing list of local government data. Folks, this isn’t stuff you find on Google – and
until recently, you would have needed special clearance to access it. The list of challenges range from specific ones like a national farmer’s market directory, to broad challenges on synthesizing data on everything from commute times in every neighborhood in the US to the movement of celestial bodies in outerspace.

3. Because it’s a free lesson in social entrepreneurship. Simply put, social entrepreneurship is a business that aims at solving a social problem. They differ from nonprofits because social entrepreneurs face what is called a double (or triple) bottom line, meaning they measure performance based on profit/return in addition to positive social impact. While its not easy to fix the world and make a buck doing it, companies like TOMS and Kiva have mastered it. With new local offices for organizations like Ashoka and Endeavor, Miami is a prime market for social entrepreneurs. This hackathon will not only further educate you on social enterprises, but it will also give you real life experience using some of the most coveted data in the industry.

4.  Because if you’ve EVER complained about the government, you’d be a hypocrite to sit out. This likely applies to just about everyone who’s lived since Ancient Rome but never has the government enabled, on such a broad scale, its citizens to help in directly impacting the efficacy
of government. The solutions created might lead to less traffic, greater energy efficiency, or better-informed fellow citizens. Who knows? It could even lead to a wait-free DMV…but I may be getting ahead of myself.

National Day of Civic Hacking By the numbers5. Because it’s important for Miami. Not just for the tech scene but for all of Miami’s citizens. Events like this create solutions to alleviate social problems. Events like this help build community and consensus, which are hard to achieve in a city so sprawled and culturally diverse. Events like this
bridge an important gap between the private and public sectors. The importance of this event is felt by many and is reflected in the 20-person steering committee composed of representatives from city and county government, multiple universities, local companies, and tech groups. If Miami aims to be the next big startup hub, it’s going to need governmental support. 

If you want to learn more about the different challenges or the event itself, I encourage you to come to The LAB Miami this Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., for a networking info session that’ll be sure to answer any questions. It’s also a great place to start meeting potential teammates, brainstorming on app ideas, or sketching out potential data visualizations. And yes, food & beverages will be provided.

You can also learn more at hackforchange.org/hack-change-miami-arts-more or on The LAB’s website at www.thelabmiami.com.

Go to http://hackformiami.eventbrite.com/ and register today.

Danny Lafuente is the COO and co-founder of The LAB Miami. He is a proud Miami native and alumni of Ransom Everglades School and the University of Pennsylvania. You can email him at [email protected].