do_action hackathon Cheltenham 2019 – building four websites in a day!

It started out, as many great ideas do, as a discussion over a few drinks!  A group of us from the South West WordPress community were enjoying WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. Europe in Berlin.  Buzzing about the event and talking about how much we loved being part of the WordPress community, one of our number, Elliott Richmond, brought up an idea.  He had a local charity called The Sedbury Trust who needed help with their website. We were all eager to lend a hand, as giving back to the community is important to all of us. One of our group, Laura Hunter, had been a part of the first European do_action Day in Bristol, so had a good idea of what was involved. Fuelled by enthusiasm, we all agreed there and then we would give a day of our time to build a website for this charity.

Organising the day, why help just one charity?

After this initial discussion, Elliott ran with the idea and decided that if we were going to help one charity we might as well widen the net and help more.  He gathered advice from others in the WordPress community, organised the venue in Cheltenham and with the help of his fellow Cheltenham WordPress MeetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. organizer, Richard Bell, started researching charities in the local area. Using the charity commission website they found local charities that either didn’t have a website or looked like they were in need of an update. Emails were sent and follow up calls made to find out if charities were interested. 

We also did shout outs on social media for local charities to come forward. Sometimes people can’t quite believe that they can get something for nothing, so it was important to explain to the charities what a WordPress do_action day is all about.

The charities

Four charities came forward to apply for our help, including the original charity. The charities were;

Swindon Village Community Hall – an important local hub for clubs and events, with a bar for the villagers on a weekend.

Heart Heroes is a charity working with children and their families living with heart conditions.

The Sedbury Trust provides financial grant to families with vulnerable or disabled children in Gloucestershire

CADCAF is a charity that helps care for special needs children and their families.

Now we had four great causes, all we needed to do now was recruit some willing volunteers to give up their time to help!

Recruiting volunteers

The WordPress community is amazing and we are lucky to have such a friendly group of people in the South West.  Many of us are active members of MeetUp groups or have been involved in UK WordCamps. This meant that finding volunteers wasn’t too tricky and we had a great range of developers, project managers and content writers sign up. Many of these people don’t work for big companies, so they gave up a day of running their own businesses to make a difference to others.

Project managers were tasked with liaising with their charity and getting everything ready for the day.  Although the Hackathon is one day there did need to be some research and work upfront to ensure that our time on the day could be spent wisely.

Building four websites in a day!

So finally, the day arrived! After welcomes from Elliott and introductions to the charity representatives and much needed coffee and biscuits, we got to work!  Elliott took the charity members off to train them on all things WordPress and we got down to it. You could sense the determination of everyone in the room to achieve a huge amount in a day.

I was a content writer on the team for Swindon Village Hall with Laura Hunter as our project manager, Emma Irvine as our designer and Lucy Sloss and Matt Seymour as our developers.  Laura and I run our own business together so we did a fair amount of work upfront, including meeting representatives of the charity to understand their requirements. This meant we could come into the day with a clear plan. Our team was just fantastic, although I would say that! We all work differently in our day jobs but we had to very quickly pull together as a team. Luckily, we all got on immediately and were prepared to sometimes make compromises to get the job done. We supported and looked after each other, which was important over a long day.

Every now and again I would look up to see all these people working their socks off to create websites and it was lovely to see everyone giving their all to make a difference.  We stopped for lunch but apart from that it was heads down all day! When our charity representatives finished their training and came to look at what we had been doing they were amazed.  Everyone worked so hard to create websites that these charities can be proud of.

By the end of the day four websites had been created, four charities were very happy and lots of volunteers needed a drink and a sleep! The finished websites all looked great.

The Sedbury Trust

CADCAF

Swindon Village Community Hall

Heart Heroes

We stayed for a chat and a drink afterwards and we were all buzzing about what we had achieved.  New friendships and connections had been made and we felt the warm glow of doing something for others.

It is thanks to the hard work of Elliott Richmond, Richard Bell and Rachel Willoughby that the day was such a success. In the words of Elliott “It’s nice to be nice” and this day is a great example of that! 

What we learnt from do_action Cheltenham

Preparation is key – Despite being called a do_action day, you do need to spend some time upfront gathering requirements and thinking about the design.

Teamwork makes all the difference – All the teams had never worked together before. You have to create a supportive atmosphere where ideas are listened to and people feel happy to ask questions.

Be realistic, it is only one day! – The websites we created were functional and attractive but we all had to make compromises and prioritise the “must-haves”. There wasn’t time for very complicated functionality.

The WordPress community is fantastic! –  There were over 20 people from the WordPress community involved in the day, all of whom gave up their time for free.

This will make a real difference to the charities involved – By taking away some of the overhead of creating a website, this allows the charities to concentrate on what they do best.

#do_action