Yoti’s Inaugural Hack Week: Lessons Learned So Far

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Yoti holding inaugural hack week

In February, we held our first hack week here at Yoti, focusing on the the challenges that charities face with verifying people’s identity.

We think that the hack method is an under-exploited tool in tech companies Social Responsibility toolkit. We have a hunch that we could use the method both to support charities to deploy technology to solve local and global problems, and nurture their confidence to embrace digital technology more broadly. So our inaugural hack was our first opportunity to test our hypothesis.


Our Hack Week Format

Our Hack week partners, Founders and Coders CIC, spent the day in our offices with our developers, familiarising themselves with the Yoti identity verification platform.

We were joined by our eight participating non-profits: GoodGym, NSPCC, vInspired, the Scouts, Centrepoint, Freegle, Forum for the Future and CharityBase for a Design Hack Day. Following a presentation about Yoti, Founders and Coders supported the participants (with the aid of lots of post-it notes!) to design apps that used Yoti to solve challenges they were facing with verifying identity. At the end of the day, the participants pitched their designs. The most promising five were taken forward to the next part of the week.

The five shortlisted charities worked remotely with the Founders and Coders developers to work their ideas into prototypes

We all met again at our offices. The charities pitched their prototypes to a panel, and the most promising two ideas each won two months of developer time to work their ideas into a Minimum Viable Product.


What went well

  • Selection: We selected our participant charities based on an expression of interest form. Participants reported that this was useful in ensuring they arrived with thought-through challenges.
  • Size: The number of participating charities – eight – seemed to work well. Participants said that there was variety of challenge, whilst being small enough for them to get to know other participants, the Founders and Coders team and Yoti staff.
  • Partners: Founders and Coders were brilliant partners for the hack. Participants said they liked the pace and content of the Tuesday design hack, and the support of the team over the course of the week. Our other contacts in the Tech for Good community including Technology Trust, NPC, CAST, NCVO were also pivotal in promoting the event.
  • Location: Running the hack in our offices meant we were able to draw on internal expertise when needed, and provide an inside view of a technology company to the participants. Our obligatory tech startup bean bags and table tennis also provided a fun venue!
  • 100% of participants reporting back said they would recommend our Hack Week to colleagues in their/other organisations. Yeay!


Room for improvement

  • Pre-hack prep: Some time was spent during the week a) downloading Yoti and b) answering questions about the company and the field of digital identity. We’re working on collating some preparatory guidance to help ensure future participants will feel fully briefed on the context prior to the week. We’ll provide more guidance on the structure of the week (and the fact that participant charities won’t be expected to code!), so participants are more informed of what to expect.
  • Differentiation: We received some conflicting feedback. Some participants felt there was too much focus on technical terminology and process. Others wanted more opportunity to meet UX design specialists and face-to-face time with the coders. We’ll think about how we adapt elements of the week to suit different preferences.
  • User-feedback: Ironically, while we were espousing the importance of user-centered design, we almost forgot to seek feedback from our participants. Fortunately, we caught ourselves in time, and made time for retrospectives and surveys, both from the participants and from the Founders and Coders cohort. We’ll be better about this next time!

Tech for good

Of course, it isn’t over yet! Our two winning charities are currently beavering away with Founders and Coders to create their MVPs, and we’ll blog again with case-studies of that process. But the experience so far has convinced us that there’s great potential for tech companies using hacks to support social good.

If you’re a non-profit interested in participating in one of our Hack events, or a company thinking about using the hack method to support non-profits, we’d love to hear (and learn) from you!