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Dropbox Hack Weeks support Foundation and nonprofit partners


Hack Week is a time for Dropboxers around the world to be audacious creators and problem solvers. Each year, Dropbox has three Hack Weeks—one company-wide, one just for the engineering, product, and design teams (EPD), and one for summer interns. These are opportunities for people to shift their focus from working on day-to-day tasks to collaborating on new projects and they’re times to change the way we think about our products, processes, and the community around us.

Our community spans near and far—from the Dropbox Foundation partners Allies Against Slavery (Austin), GOAL (Dublin), Larkin Street Youth Services (San Francisco), Physicians for Human Rights (New York), War Child UK (London), and WITNESS (New York), to Dropbox for Good community partners in the cities where we have offices. During Hack Week, Dropbox Foundation and community partners have a chance to submit projects that range from changing operational processes to technological improvements. Dropboxers are encouraged to come up with solutions to help support the nonprofits’ missions.

“The opportunity to collaborate with organizations who are helping to empower communities and defend human rights puts into perspective the responsibility each of us have to make a difference,” says Easlynn Lee, program manager for the Social Impact team at Dropbox.

This year, more than a dozen projects were submitted by nonprofits for our company-wide Hack Week. This included projects from some of our Foundation partners, and a new community partner in New York, Code Nation. Hack Week reminds us that regardless of industry or expertise, the best results come from working together.

Collaborating across teams and offices to build business continuity

During our EPD Hack Week in the spring, London and San Francisco-based Dropboxers on our engineering, sales, and legal teams all partnered with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to assess the organization’s disaster readiness and create an appropriate disaster recovery plan. PHR uses forensic science to investigate and document human rights violations in order to advocate for justice around the world. Having a disaster recovery plan can help ensure PHR’s core operations are minimally disrupted during an emergency.

“It was a privilege to be part of this Hack Week project with PHR as we were able to use our skills and collaborate with other Dropboxers to help develop their overall disaster recovery plan,” says Chau Vu, business continuity manager at Dropbox. “Each of us had something different to offer - skills or perspective - and it was great to work on a problem together in real time.”

“Through working together with Dropbox during the engineering Hack Week, we were able to benefit from high level expertise that made it possible for us to build in necessary security and infrastructure to scaffold our other work,” says Donna McKay, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights.

Collaborating to assist international activists in saving and managing digital assets

WITNESS uses video and technology to help document human rights abuses and distribute the stories in a safe and ethical way so that they can lead to a lasting change. As a global nonprofit whose digital material is critical to fulfilling their mission, WITNESS had a strong need to easily access, organize, and submit videos and photos to archives. During Hack Week 2018, Amado Hidalgo, a technical architect manager based in our Dublin office and Thierry Berger from Dropbox channel partner GoodID in Paris, worked with WITNESS to create a digital asset management tool. 

“The WITNESS team made working on the Hack Week project so much fun,” says Amado. “They were enthusiastic, truly appreciative of the work we were doing, they embraced the madness of Hack Week, and easily worked across four time zones. Most importantly, knowing the potential impact on people’s lives made working on this Hack Week project extremely rewarding.”

In the past, WITNESS often received photos and videos on USB drives, hard drives, or through email. A lot of time was spent on uploading footage to a local server and manually adding metadata. The management tool helped simplify and automate the workflows for submitting, ingesting, tagging, archiving, accessing, and sharing digital media assets.

“As an organization that supports human rights defenders around the world, we are spread out all over the globe,” says Yvonne Ng, senior archivist at WITNESS. “We needed a better way to collect and share photo and video documentation our team members were creating. Amado helped us create a Dropbox-backed workflow that simplifies and streamlines the whole process, allowing our program team to focus on our partners while ensuring that our timely communications needs are met and our valuable documentation is preserved.”

Collaborating across generations to prevent human trafficking   

Allies Against Slavery (Allies) uses technology to help identify potential victims of human trafficking and prevent their exploitation. Their app, Lighthouse, enables social workers and health professionals to identify victims of sex trafficking. But Allies had to manually add users to the app, which was time intensive and didn’t scale as partner adoption grew.

During intern Hack Week, Dropbox interns created a design plan, engineered a new user onboarding process within the app, and ran Q/A testing to build out a front-end interface for Lighthouse. Now, Allies can save valuable time onboarding users and expand the amount of information available in their system to help prevent human trafficking. 

“The intern team jumped in right away, learned a ton on the fly, and carried themselves with professionalism,” says John Nehme, Allies CEO. “We’re grateful to have had their help with Lighthouse and as a result, they’ve helped protect the freedom and dignity of sex trafficking victims.”

Collaborating to support the next generation of leaders 

Code Nation is a nation-wide nonprofit that aims to equip students with the skills, experiences, and connections that together create access to careers in technology. They offer coding courses and on-site learning programs to empower high school students and help them build a firm foundation in STEM. Volunteers in our New York office are thrilled with the program and are currently teaching coding to a cohort of Code Nation students.

During company wide Hack Week, Dropboxers from our marketing, product, and communications teams helped develop a marketing strategy to build brand awareness in Chicago, a new office location for Code Nation. They helped define the organization’s target audience, ran a competitive analysis, and created a promotional plan. 

”Working with the Dropbox team during Hack Week enabled our small team to push forward a project that we may not have had the capacity for otherwise,” says Riley Butterfield, communications manager at Code Nation. “Their expertise in communications and marketing provided us with a project plan that we will be able to use and re-use time and time again"  

Dropbox product marketing manager Johna Seo says working on a marketing plan for Code Nation was a great opportunity to give back to a great cause, refine marketing skills, and work cross functionally with other Dropboxers. “I loved applying what I’d learned at Dropbox to a completely different scope, and it felt amazing to support an organization that works to increase diversity and inclusion.”

Intern, EPD, and company-wide hack weeks are a time to collaborate, build community, and be a force for positive social change. Skills-based volunteering activities have taught us the true power of collaboration and the knowledge exchange that happens on both ends when we come together for a common goal. But the impact of these projects go beyond the week itself and we strive to continue building deep, longterm relationships with our nonprofit partners.

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