7th February 2014
An Overview of HWF
A Bit of History
Around January 2012 James stopped working on his start-up Disruptive Dev and started working on CoderDojo full-time. At this time he was being paid by SOS ventures as a social entrepreneur in residence enabling him to work on CoderDojo. In August he was joined by Lindsay MacVean through the same program. They both worked on things like publishing the newsletter and responding to emails from people asking about CoderDojo and representing CoderDojo at events. At this stage it became clear to James it was going to take more than two people to help the community in any meaningful way.
In October 2012 James won the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award and fully kicked-off the setup of the Hello World Foundation (now The CoderDojo Foundation). The process of registering HWF as a company took longer than usual for various reasons, and the company was eventually fully incorporated in February 2013. HWF then hired Giustina, Eugene and Rebecca, bringing the total number of full time employees to 5.
Given the unique nature of CoderDojo, as well as HWF being solely founded by James who was 20 at the time, there was various challenges, experimentation and learnings to find out what worked and what didn’t. A large challenge was HWF had to catch up with the size and expectations of the rapidly scaling CoderDojo movement.
As We are Now
For the last 2 months we have had 3 permanent employees whose time is exclusively dedicated to HWF (Ben, Eugene and Giustina). James has stepped back from day-to-day operations to focus on vision for CoderDojo & the Foundation. We were also joined this month by 2 interns, Peter and Laura, who have been working on our social media, community support and helping to keep Zen up to date.
What is HWF here for? The community can handle it on our own!
HWF was set up because James couldn’t handle the amount of people contacting him about CoderDojo. Naturally people look for a central point to contact, and that’s not something that the community can provide in an ad-hoc volunteer manner.
HWF is here to support the community, there’s no other objective. As part of the charter we have committed to:
- Act in the interest of the global CoderDojo community
- Facilitate the community to share its knowledge
- Share our resources for free
- Encourage active involvement in our organisation
We want to help the community. We have to help the community, because without the community CoderDojo stops being. It would be a very short journey for us if we didn’t pay attention to and respect the community and the different opinions encompassed.
Why does HWF control everything?
Basically, it happened by accident. Almost everything was setup before HWF existed, by James and other members of the community. The main pieces:
- The website
- The mailing list
- CoderDojo-org google group
Much of this ended up falling into James’ and Lindsay’s hands, and thus eventually got brought over to HWF.
So why the charter?
The charter is a set of commitments from both sides, the Dojo and HWF commits to follow a set of guidelines set out in the charter. It’s there because there is an absolute necessity to protect the CoderDojo name from people who could damage it, however unlikely that is, through malice or through ignorance.
What HWF are Doing
The work that we’re doing is mostly to make CoderDojo more sustainable globally. These are mostly through projects which will have major impact medium to long term, but because of that we miss the immediate resolution of quick impact work. Along with the larger projects there are some smaller more immediate/day-to-day tasks that HWF deals with.
- Answering tickets
The email address on the CoderDojo site gets nearly 500 emails per month. Currently we handle all of these. There have been issues in the recent past with staying on top of these due to how constrained we are resource-wise, but we’ve worked down the queue and are keeping up steadily with the pace that tickets are coming in at (with a few exceptions, normally around times events are on). Laura is currently taking lead on this, and has been getting things back under control.
- Verifying Dojos on Zen
About 3-4 new Dojos pop up every day and they register on Zen so they appear on the CoderDojo website. These have to each be checked and approved before the listing appears on the site as “Verified”. You can find the criteria for a listing to be verified here.
- Watching our presence Social Media
CoderDojo gets a lot of tweets, and a lot of people are interested in hearing about CoderDojo. Peter has been working on getting a plan in place for managing our social media streams like Twitter and Facebook, and pushing content from Dojos out there for the world to see as well as focusing on attracting new mentors.
- Publishing the Newsletter
The newsletter was something that Lindsay set up before the foundation existed. It became the responsibility of the foundation when it was formed. The newsletter is one of the hardest tasks we perform regularly as there is so much content coming from Dojos. It’s very difficult to pick good, relevant content which engages the roughly 1,000 people read the newsletter, so it’s important we get that content right.
- Day to Day Operations
This includes the standard operations of running an organisation and charity. Dealing with legal requirements, researching and following best practice guidelines, managing governance of the organisation i.e board meetings. It also emcompasses finance and all adminstration. Both Giustina and Eugene share these tasks.
- Community Engagement
This is one of the few projects that has an immediate and visible effect on the community. Eugene is responsible for this and some of the initial events that have run as part of this project have been successful. The community calls, which run monthly and across time zones, have been well attended and will continue as long as there is interest. The next biggest chunk of this job is helping people in the community organise DojoCon, which this year will be in Sligo, and Coolest Projects, which is organised by the team in DCU. The ultimate goal of all of this is to get the community communicating and working together on stuff that will make a difference to the kids who are and will be involved in CoderDojo, even if that is just by making mentors’ lives easier.
- Child Protection
Child Protection is going to be a huge issue in the Republic of Ireland with new legislation being brought in now and over the next few years. This is the only one of our projects which puts the focus almost entirely on Ireland, and this is done purely out of necessity. Laws across each jurisdiction are very different so we can only place our focus on one jurisdiction at a time. To this end we are working on sorting the vetting and guidelines for Ireland now, before any of the legislation is fully enacted so we’re in a much better position when it is. The aim of this is to make CoderDojo safer for kids, and ensure that Dojos keep in line with the law as it changes. Ben is currently leading this project.
We want to make setting up and running a Dojo as easy and stress free as can be. We’ve been working with Accenture to spec out a platform that manages a Dojo, the attendees, what mentors are involved, further extending to managing vetting and streamlining compliance with laws in countries.
As CoderDojo is escalating at such a tremendous rate internationally, the purpose of initiating an affiliation process is primarily to ensure that the Dojos using the name and brand subscribe to the CoderDojo ethos. Affiliation has become a priority for HWF so as to ensure that all Dojos around the world are operating in a manner that meets bset practice to protect the attendees and also the CoderDojo standards. While we understand each Dojo is unique and has freedom to choose its own direction it is imperative, to the organisation and to the community, that a basic consistent standard is maintained and that Dojos agree to this standard. This is being considered as a preventative measure to ensure that the actions of negligent Dojos do not affect the greater community. Giustina is currently leading this project.
- Development and Partnerships
This area revolves around two core projects, setting the strategic direction and ensuring adequate resources. Setting the strategic direction includes planning for the future of the organisation, developing our long term strategic goals/objectives and monitoring progress. This is done by James, our board and the team with Eugene managing the team. Ensuring we have adequate resources to meet our goals is an imperative and function and without this we would not exist. HWF is a charity that is 100% reliant on donations from our funders to enable us to carry out all the above projects. We work with two types of partners; partnerships that benefit HWF as an organisation i.e free legal advice from A&L Goodbody, or partnerships that have a direct benefit on the CoderDojo community i.e Raspberry Pi partnership for UK Dojos, Giustina and James with assistance from our board are taking the lead on fundraising. Partnerships are split amongst the team with Eugene & Giustina managing the bulk.
We are always happy to engage in constructive and positive dialogue with community members so feel free to contact us by emailing [email protected]. Taking all the above projects into account we ask that you are patient with us.
The HWF team.