(Photo by Mona Parikh)
Community activists, entrepreneurs and those interested in technology teamed up with several local nonprofit organizations for the 2017 Idea Challenge last Wednesday. This is the fourth year of the event, hosted by Open Data Delaware and Technology Forum of Delaware. (See all our coverage of previous years here.)
The theme of this year’s event was “Access to Hope through Innovation.” Teams from the Food Bank of Delaware, Network Delaware, Wilmington University and the Committee of 100 worked for hours to come up with a strategy to increase access to food, job skills, community involvement or education by using technology in an innovative way. Once a plan was conceived, each team had to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges.
According to event judge Janet Reed, a partner at Wilmington law firm Potter Anderson & Carroon, the panel was looking for an idea that could easily fit into a real-life business plan.
Network Delaware, an organization started by former Wilmington mayoral candidate Eugene Young in late 2016 (and not to be confused with our tech jobs fair NET/WORK), won the judges over with their “geofencing” concept. This idea would allow users in a specific geographic area to find and support programs and initiatives through the platform.
Young said the goal of both the team and organization is to be more inclusive.
“We want to meet people where they are,” he said in a phone interview following the event. “This was a great opportunity for us to fill the gap between the grassroots work we do and the members of the community we may not reach. We hope to find a way to get closer to the community through technology.”
The Idea Challenge was more than just a one-day “hackathon” for Young, who lost the mayoral race by 234 votes, and the rest of the Network Delaware team.
“I met a variety of people during my campaign,” he explained. “Many of those had no idea about political issues because there was no engagement and no relationship between them and the candidates. This is not just a municipal or state problem, these are the same problems facing the nation. It is our job [as politicians] to find better tools to connect with the community.”
The Network Delaware team will have the opportunity to implement their project at Open Data Delaware’s National Day of Civic Hacking event in June.