The Lagos WordPress Meetup Group hosted its first ever do_action Charity Hackathon to provide websites and related services to five selected charities that operate in Lagos. This was an event I have been looking forward to for a couple of months and was super glad I could be part of it.
How did I participate? I was selected as a co-organiser and a developer for one of the charities selected. As a co-organiser, I helped with the planning and vetting of the charities that applied for the hackathon. I also helped with guiding the volunteers with the development of their sites in the other groups.
The 5 do_action Lessons Learned
It seemed easy at the beginning but I ran into a few challenges while preparing for the hackathon – my first ever by the way! I decided to share lessons learned here.
Clearly define expectations from volunteers
Each volunteer needs to know exactly what they are required to do from the get-go! In fact, they should know everything before they even sign up for the event. It can be tough if you have a volunteer signing up as a developer with little WordPress knowledge. However, they get first-hand experience in building a site, if they are paired with a seasoned developer.
People differ – understand and work with their differences
Working with different kinds of people – people you may have knowns for a while or people you may have never met – can be a real eye-opener. You really need to be patient and understand how everyone works. We organisers provided each team with a Slack channel but most decided to use WhatsApp instead – which worked really well. I thought of enforcing the use of Slack but I decided not to.
Leading volunteers can be really tough too. You’ll need to keep cheering them on and uplifting them when they seem down or feel like joining wasn’t the best decision they ever made. Recognising others’ efforts too is very key – no matter how small or how easy the completed task might have been.
Always be two steps ahead
Preparation for a do_action requires way more planning that I realised! There’s the venue, food, choosing a theme, speaking to the charity, making sure I’m on the same page with my team members, ensuring I have everything ready for the D-Day! It can be overwhelming but it’s a lot of fun.
Sometimes, your team members may experience challenges. These can be quickly resolved if you expect them to happen. Like not being able to access documents shared, not know who to contact for what, going off-script, etc. I had to have a response ready and also not get upset or frustrated when expected knowledge seems missing from volunteers or team members – no one really knows everything at the end of the day.
Provide feedback at all times, even when there is nothing to talk about
And that’s an area a sucked at, I never always gave my team members feedback of ongoing work as often as I wanted. A simple, “Hello everyone, this is what I have done so far, any thoughts? Contributions?” Or a, “So, I haven’t really done much today, but I plan on finishing X and Z by Friday” would have been really helpful keeping me on my toes and spurring my team on.
It may not be perfect, but it should be really good
I’m a chronic perfectionist and pessimistic. So I kept reminding myself that a perfect site may not be built on the hackathon. There might be last-minute issues or problems. However, the site should be good. The charity should be happy and all the requirements met! But that’s no reason for complacency or a bad job, and the site being free is no excuse either.
The hackathon is also a way to tell the community that there are great site builders in their locale. You don’t have to look for a web developer overseas to get a decent site after all!
I’m looking forward to the D-Day and I hope my co-volunteers are as excited as I am. I’m actually looking forward to the next do_action here in Lagos! You should look out for it too! You could participate or donate if you want!