Never too old to hack: 140-year old Berry Street proves hackathons are no fad


Hackathons are synonymous with startup culture, but Jennifer from Berry Street Services has proved that hackathons aren’t just a fad. The 140-year-old child and family services organization has reimagined how they collect and access intricate and sensitive data.

In collaboration with their RHoK team of volunteers from the tech industry, Berry Street have been building a system to record in-depth information on relatives and friends of children in the child protection system. This is a process that is far too complex for regular family trees and genograms. The highly sensitive nature of this data adds yet another layer of complexity.

Jennifer McConachy works with Berry Street’s Family Finding team and came to her first RHoK looking to solve this problem from a new perspective. For Jen, this open mind paid off.

She says, “I walked away from the Hackathon on Sunday night feeling very inspired and humbled, it was an awesome experience.”

When going into a hackathon, identifying and refining this problem is vital, “It is important to have a good sense of what it is you want, but be open to how that need is met”.

While hackathons take place over a weekend, there is a lot of planning and refining that takes place to get to that point. In the months prior to the hackathon, changemakers work with the RHoK team to help refine their problem – it’s not always what they think it will be.

Jen also believes that this solution could have applications in all fields of welfare, “My expectations and my mind were absolutely blown away by the interest, dedication, lack of ego, level of expertise and really genuine friendliness of the people at the hackathon.”

Learn more about how RHoK can help your organisation.

I have found it really helpful to try to not think of how our organisation and sector do things now, so I am not constrained by current practice or approaches.
— Jennifer McConachy, Berry Street
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