Random Hacks Of Kindness – A Definition

Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is a an initiative originated by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, NASA and the World Bank. The objective is to bring together experts around disaster management and crisis response with volunteer software developers and designers in order to create solutions that have an impact in the field.

Random Hacks of Kindness grew out of an industry panel discussion at the first Crisis camp Bar Camp in Washington DC in June 2009. Panel attendees included representatives of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. They agreed to use their developer communities to create solutions that will have an impact on disaster response, risk reduction and recovery. The idea was for a “hackathon” with developers producing open source solutions. The World Bank’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit and NASA’s Open Government team joined the partnership and these “founding partners” decided on the name “Random Hacks of Kindness” for their first event.


Hacker is a term that has been used to mean a variety of different things in computing. In the context of RHoK, a Hacker is referring to someone who challenges the existing order, most often using science, engineering, or information technology. In modern computing terminology, a “hack” is a solution to a problem, doing a task, or fixing a system that is inefficient, inelegant, or even unfathomable, but which nevertheless (more or less) works.

A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others in the field of software development, like graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software-related projects. Occasionally, there is a hardware component as well. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week in length. The word “hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon”.

What happens during a typical Random Hacks of Kindness?

A RHoK typically runs during a weekend, starting Saturday morning and ending Sunday evening. After the registration and welcoming the participants, the event is ignited by a set of short panels or presentations aiming to bring the audience in the spirit of the RHoK and presenting “problem cases” proposed to solve during the event. After this, teams are formed grouped by “problem cases” chosen to address.

Most of the RHoK events have a permanent video live stream, which allows to follow the activities and to communicated between RHoK events around the world. Currently, more than 30 events are running on the same weekend on all continents.

What are some examples of RHoK result?

CHASM, a visualization tool for complex landslide risk models, was the winning hack at RHoK #1, Washington, D.C., but its story did not end there. This RHoK hack is making an impact on the ground helping engineers to assess urban landslide risk in the Eastern Caribbean. [Hear the CHASM story / Video]

Disaster Map is an Internet-based map system to support emergency operations for Caritas. [Link]

IAmNotOk is an easy to use Android app that will allow a user to send out an emergency broadcast message across multiple mediums to indicate they are not OK and need help. [Link]

Moving Food – Every day, everywhere, a great deal of prepared foods goes to waste from restaurants, events, etc. In some larger cities, there are formal organizations to collect and distribute left over food, but most places do not have these resources and they are very costly to run. As an answer, FoodMovr has been developed.


On the RHoK.org website you can find over 200 problem definitions (http://www.rhok.org/problems ) and more than 100 solutions (http://www.rhok.org/solutions).
An important note as well is the fact that problem definitions don’t need to be “global”. A local RHoK event is as well invited to address local problem and possible local crisis situations.

Who is welcome at a typical Random Hacks of Kindness?

The typical RHoK audience is made of software developers, project managers, brainstormers, problem solvers and designers. However, the scope of audience can be extended in the same manner than possible scope of problem cases to address. “Typica”l doesn’t mean “has to be” – be creative! In short, every person willing to work on solutions for imaginable, local or global, problem cases and crisis situations is welcome. The result is not necessarily a software application, but can be a correctly defined and analysed problem definition as well as a well elaborated solution proposal.

Want to see more?

http://rhok.org / http://rhok.be

(I’m actually in this video explaining the Ozimov Project, isn’t that cool! ;-)

3 thoughts on “Random Hacks Of Kindness – A Definition”

    1. One more thing: in the article you have a typo in the ImNotOK link. It os “http://wiki.rhok.org/IAmNotOkhttp://” and should be “http://wiki.rhok.org/IAmNotOk”.

    2. Thank you!

      Typo corrected.

      Don’t hesitate to copy the article and/or to improve it. It’s CC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *