Random Hacks of Kindness is built on a global community of dedicated people working to make a difference all around the world. We want the rest of the world to know a bit more about the individual members who make up this incredible community, so will be working to bring you interviews on a regular basis with some of the RHoKstars who are putting their time toward RHoK--organizing, promoting, inspiring and hacking for humanity.
Our first interview is with Heather Leson, 3-time RHoK organizer, mentor for numerous first-time RHoK leads, and one of RHoK's most dedicated evangelists!
Tell us about yourself (Where do you call home? What keeps you busy during the day? What do your enjoy?)
I'm an idea hacker, community builder and serial volunteer.
After years in Internet provisioning, event planning, project management and incident management, I answered to call of tech for social good following the earthquake in Haiti.
This incredible journey connects me with global makers and doers. By day, I'm Ushahidi's Director of Community Engagement. Here I get to combine my love of information mapping/sense making with hacking. Every day is an adventure to meet people mapping change in their communities and world.
Toronto is home - this is where my bike and garden reside.
How have you been involved in RHoK?
CrisisCamps for the technical community response to Haiti included some of the original RHoK November 2009 problem definitions. I started and led Canada's first CrisisCamp in January 2010 using some of those hacks.
The RHoK global team sponsored me to go to Sydney, Australia to lead their first RHoK in June 2010. What an honour it was to collaborate with their community. At the time, RHoK was using Ovoo as a video collaboration suite. I actually had my first virtual meeting with Erik Hersman, co-founder of Ushahidi who was attending RHoK in Nairobi. We discussed the Bushfire Connect project.
While in Sydney, I dreamed of bringing RHoK magic home to Canada. So, in December 2010 with a dedicated team, we made it possible. I led two RHoK Toronto events - December 2010 and June 2011. In December 2011, I joined Angelique to mentor and collaborate on the first RHoK Montreal. This June I will be assisting the RHoK Toronto team and connecting via the global team.
Why does RHoK matter to the world?
RHoK is taste test of tech for social good. If RHoK inspires one person's view of why their knowledge could affect change in their world and community, then it is successful. It matters because we need to figure out how to connect the right participant action to the real world issues. This is not something that can be perfect overnight. We are inventing the potential as we go. It is worth every single attempt, no matter hard it is.
I like to think of it as the OSI hackathon or RHoK OSI model:
- Discover: "I can do this"
- Encounter: Connect with people from a wide array of disciplines from technical to design to subject matter experts
- Build a common language
- Create and collaborate sprint-like to prototype
- Join the movement of possibilities to remix and hack this model for local, national and global issues.
- Mentor and train others to RHoK the planet
Why does RHoK matter to you?
What if the time we spent creates a prototype that leads to a solution someday, or leads to new ideas plus action? What if it changes one life? Inspires one future? And what if changes us? Sometimes I think RHoK hacked my life…in a good way. As I watch the community grow, I think that the best hack is watching the magic of an accountant or bacteria scientist join the fray alongside the developers. We need to use all our best knowledge globally together to help solve wicked problems. RHoK is an injection of new ideas and people into these issues. It is a beautiful thing for people to be engaged in their world and communities. Plus, this means I can sleep on more hackers floors if I visit a RHoK city. : )
Based on your experiences with RHoK, do you have any words of wisdom to share with the larger RHoK community?
RHoK is a prototype. The concept is relatively new, we are also hacking how to make this possible. It will take time, talent, and tenacity to make it grow. Have fun, connect with others around the world who are like minds and know that RHoK brain is not just twice a year. It can change how you work, create and live.