Vodafone's massive life hack for young Kiwis

21 March 2018

At the end of the week-long Vodafone Hackathon there’s a palpable energy in the air.

People who were strangers at the start of the week now smile at the shared bond that comes from hundreds of hours locked in a room, working together to make Aotearoa a better place.

Their efforts are all part of the Vodafone Foundation’s new 10 year strategy to halve the number of the most excluded and disadvantaged young people in New Zealand.

“We are committing $20 million to that goal, but we are under no illusions that we do this alone. One of the biggest opportunities was for us to leverage Vodafone even more.

“We know that people who work here love the way the Vodafone Foundation invests in community partners to change the lives of young people across the country and we wanted to tap into that passion,” HR Director Antony Welton said.

Three community Foundation partners were selected to access Vodafone’s business skills.

Campus Connections, a mentoring programme that brings young people enrolled in alternative education to the University of Auckland campus, Dingwall Trust, a care and protection organisation that works with children in care residentially, and VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, an organisation that provides a voice and connections for young people who are care experienced.

“Once the three organisations outlined the challenge they each faced, we were overwhelmed with volunteers to take part in the Hackathon - which is essentially a sprint-like event where you focus on an issue or challenge for a short period of time and come up with a solution.

“We matched 15 Vodafone staff from across the business, and were able to free them from their day jobs thanks to the Vodafone Foundation’s Hands Up policy, which enables all our employees to volunteer for up to two weeks each year,” Antony added.

For those three Foundation partners, the 15 Vodafone hackers put in over 300 hours, and came up some ingenious solutions, all from the rooms at the company’s Auckland InnoV8 building at Smales Farm.

Campus Connections Co-Founder Dr Kelsey Deane’s headache was working out how to move a mountain of paper forms into the cloud to a live online space, where the team could start entering the data through online forms and access it anytime for easy analysis.

Her crack team of hackers included Aaron Astle Vodafone’s Enterprise Solutions Lead.

“My role was more or less to be a paid nerd – and it’s really cool to try and make a positive impact,” Aaron said.

For Enterprise Marketing Manager Richard Fry the Hackathon was a chance to see Vodafone’s super geeks in action.

“I’m really excited that we were able to take a business problem and turn it into a digital solution. It’s at the heart of how all our businesses throughout New Zealand need to change and it was amazing to see it first hand,” Richard said.

Dingwall Trust Director Tracie Shipton’s focus was on programmes to enhance and support strong leadership at the Trust, and she was quickly matched with Vodafone’s Learning and Development Consultant Lane Hannah.

“Together we came up with a 1 day programme called Responsive Leadership that we’ll run several times with the trust at their base. We were able to take components of the programmes Vodafone runs, and tailor it to what Dingwall really needs,” Lane said.

“How do you say thank you for this? We do wonderful care of our children and we put them at the centre of everything that we do, but we just didn’t have that overarching management tool for building leadership capability,” Tracie said.

VOYCE Whakarongo Mai Connection and Engagement lead Carolyn Taueki-Stott was keen to find solutions to connecting with young people who are care experienced.

“We looked at developing specific video content through zero rated YouTube videos, we looked at digital and print media tools to help our young people find their voice, and we also investigated providing a pre-loaded device for new rangatahi coming into care which would enable them to connect easily with VOYCE and support in their community,” Carolyn said.

For Vodafone’s Enterprise Personal Assistant Sian Dunn the Hackathon’s been an incredible experience.

“We’re lucky to work for an organisation that doesn’t just allow us to go and work on this for a week, but actually encourages us. I’m really pleased that you can take the company’s collective brainpower and use it to connect for good,” Sian said.  

The feeling is mutual for Campus Connection’s Dr Kelsey Deane.

“The week has just been phenomenal. We’ve just been so inspired to have a team of people from Vodafone come in with their commitment and care, and it’s been such a relief to pass on a problem to a group of people. We had full trust they would be able to do something magical for us and they did.

“The outcome for us is the foundation of a full customised customer relations management system, and now we have these awesome forms that resonate with youth and their experience. It’s just been really remarkable,” Kelsey said.

Vodafone's massive life hack for young Kiwis