Recently, I’ve been made aware of two Hack-a-thons – one here in London and one in L.A. The “End Sexual Violence Hack” I wrote about here, while the city of L.A. hosted it’s own hack-a-thon to highlight the city’s release of lots of data – # of stray animals, water usage rates, a calendar of city-sponsored events, graffiti clean-up, bicycle lanes and other services. 30 teams came together for 24 hours of coding to create an application to improve the city.
Shelter Connect was the winning application – the app “lets homeless shelters report their needs so restaurants and volunteer groups can determine where to best devote their resources.” I think the idea of the app is a good one and I hope it gets used well and further developed.
Personally, I’d like to see the envelope pushed further when it comes to engaging the homeless community and technology. I’d love to see something emerge like a TripAdvisor for Social Services. Yes, it goes beyond the homeless community, but what if we start there. What if the users of social services – homeless, unemployed, immigrants, etc. – could rate the service they received from the service provider. They could rate service quality, customer service, and speed of service to start with and let it evolve from there.
At the moment service providers need to keep their donors, not their clients, happy in order to stay in business, which is a poor model. We need to get the clients or the end users engaged in deciding who should continue to receive donations or tax dollars. By creating such a service, the homeless or any other social service recipient could be engaged in mapping where services are, rating them, and ideally, this would improve the overall quality of service provided.