Pioneering in “hacks for good”: Knowbility

Hackathons, hacks for good, hackfests or codefests are quite the buzz words these days.

There are a lot of new initiatives getting a lot of attention for mobilizing people with high tech skills to help various causes at individual events: these initiatives bring these people together to spend the day, or maybe a few days in a week, at computers, usually in one big room, with everyone using their skills to do good, eat some good food, take lots of fun photos of everyone in action, and celebrate the great work at the end of the day.

Good stuff. But one of the first organizations to do this, Knowbility, gets lost amongst the much better-funded, higher profile newcomer groups, and it’s such a shame, because more people really should get to know Knowbility!

AIR Houston 2007

Knowbility is a national nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas that creates technology programs that support independent living for people with disabilities, including veterans. Knowbility’s signature event is its Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) – a hackathon that brings together teams of web designers to learn about web design accessibility standards, and then to apply those standards in a competition to create web sites for nonprofit organizations. The result of an AIR event isn’t just a fun day and new web sites; all participants walk away with an understanding of web design accessibility standards they didn’t have before that they can apply to their daily professional work, and the volunteer teams, most of them from the corporate sector, learn about the unique work of nonprofit organizations, creating opportunities for better partnerships in the future.

Knowbility’s activities have earned all sorts of awards and recognition – like the Peter F. Drucker Foundation Recognition for Nonprofit Innovation. On September 21, 2000, the White House issued a press release to highlight programs across the country that are helping to bridge the digital divide for people with disabilities and Knowbility’s AIR event in Colorado was mentioned by President Clinton as a new and noteworthy initiative. And I’ll never forget when they got mentioned at the end of Oprah’s talk show, resulting in an onslaught of emails and phone calls and oh-so-much excitement.

Knowbility earns more than 60% of its revenue through fee-for-service offerings. But that means it still relies heavily on grants and donations. Knowbility is worth your financial support. I really want this organization to continue – more than that, I actually want this organization to launch more AIR events and other activities all over the USA, and beyond! Knowbility is worth your investment.

And if you have ever been involved with Knowbility in any way, consider blogging about your expereince, talking about it on your Facebook status update or Twitter feed or Google Plus profile or other social media profile, and linking to the donation page.

Here are some other blogs I’ve written about Knowbility:

Hackathons for good? That’s volunteering!

Volunteer online & make web sites accessible

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