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Why Community Projects Like JS Village Are Important

Recently I was involved as an organizer in a local community event called JS Village along with my colleagues Brandon, Caleb, and Alex.  Their goal was to bring together designers and developers to solve community problems that no one would otherwise tackle.  Basically problems that we're unprofitable and otherwise required too much expensive design and development talent to complete. The concept got me thinking...

Most of us volunteer at food banks, we're familiar with organizations like Doctors Without Borders that volunteer an expensive skill, and we donate to charities that fight cancer and drill wells in Africa.  So why should volunteering a costly skill like design or development be any different?  Surely as a developer I can do more good with my highly trained skill than I can donating money or serving soup.  Not that those are lesser, they're just not what I'm best at and I want to give my best to doing good, we all should.

So I volunteered, unlimited hosting from AwareLabs, and probably a week's worth of marketing time as an organizer plus another week as a participant on one of the projects.  So was it worth it, did I do more good in the world than I spending that time in a soup kitchen?

I knew the answer was yes two minutes into meeting my teammates and I was certain it was exponentially more valuable when I watched the final presentation of what the teams had accomplished.  Projects like the Veteran Services site literally preserved a service for veterans that was discontinued by the government a few days before they presented.  The Neighborhood Intelligence team delivered a mobile application that combed otherwise confusing police data and presented it in an easy to use mobile application anyone can use for free.  The Stellar Mathematics team built a brilliant learning application that used solid teaching principles instead of app store revenue as the goal.  The Dinner Gatherings team genuinely addressed bringing people together.  The Local Business Aggregator group built a beautifully simple application to help people engage with local events.  My team combed through IRS tax tables and historical records to build a more accurate US Debt Clock and help people understand the national debt.

All of these projects are public and open source on Git Hub.  These problems were addressed through hundreds of design and development hours and given to the community as finished products.  It would take thousands of dollars per project in donations, making them improbable.  The only way this happened is because talent was volunteered.  Thank you to everyone who participated, working with people who genuinely give of themselves was inspiring.

After this experience I'll find more ways to give my talents not just my time and money to making the world a better place.  I look forward to the next JS Village and I encourage you use your hard earned super powers not just for profit but for good too.

Written By: Paul Kenjora

Paul Kenjora is the Product Manager and founder at AwareLabs, a company that provides the next generation website builder for small businesses. He has 10+ years product development experience, has launched sites netting millions of visits a day, and has consulted for fortune 500 companies.