Mozfest: Thoughts on a more sustainable Summer Code Party

Summer Code Party. Image by Mozilla

This year has seen Mozilla’s first Summer Code Party. SCP is a decentralized, global series of community events, and a simple toolkit to help local organizers get their events set up more easily. It’s also a template for three event formats ranging from so-called Kitchentables (3-5 friends hacking at home) to Hackjams for up to 50 participants.

At Mozfest, Mark Surman hosted a brainstorming session that also touched on the question how the Summer Code Party can be both spread even further and made more sustainable.

There were a few key thoughts and ideas that emerged in our group – apologies for not being having the participants’ names at hand – that I’d like to share. Curious to hear your thoughts on them.

For one, localized resources are always helpful. The more language are available in both tools & materials, the better. Everything that lowers the barrier of entry. While in our tribe everybody speaks English, to reach out to all the people beyond the inner circle it’s key to make participation as easy as possible, and language is a big part of that.

Another way of spreading the word is to make use of cultural specifics per country/region. As one participant pointed out, in Austria there is one presence reliably in every small town across the country: A local brass band. Is there a way – any way – to take advantage of that fact? Can the brass band be harnessed as an ambassador for an educational endeavor? What other cultural hacks can we come up with to tap into local communities? I’m sure there must be more of these types of very specific cultural and local hacks to grow Summer Code Party.

The third big point is to coordinate with the probably largest network of learners and educators, namely by partnering with the school and university system. The advantage in size is obvious. However, there are also specific challenges and needs there. Concretely, it’s anything but a given that educators have the skills and/or the confidence to teach web making. Providing more formal resources could be one way of getting them onboard. I think there might be a more appropriate way, though: Educators should use the same tools and formats that the Summer Code Party proposes to the “end users” – by hosting peer exchange Kitchen Tables or Hack Jams or similar formats. That way, educators become an integral part of the Summer Code Party, and like the kids they try to encourage and empower they, too, would be both teacher and learner simultaneously.

Curious to hear your thoughts.