Two months ago, when my boss, Frederic Desmoulins, asked two of my colleagues and me for some help and inspiration, I didn’t know it would end up becoming one of the things I’m the most proud of in my company. His question was simple:
“What if we linked each of our contests to a charity?”
At CodinGame, we’d been holding coding contests every 2 months or so for the past 5 years. Associating such an event with a charity was completely unprecedented. I was all for it, but at the same time, I didn’t know how we could do it or how the community would react to the change.
Should we give something in exchange for a donation?
Should we make a fundraising the primary purpose of a contest?
Should the charity be somehow linked to the theme of the game?
Here’s a short history of how we have organized coding contests in the past so you can understand the significance of this idea.
From Classic Coding Contests to More Beneficial Tech Events
At the very beginning, our coding contests consisted of on-site events where you solve coding puzzles. Then, we migrated them online. These events contributed to making our platform known to more developers.
Next, we started creating multiplayer “bot programming” games: challenges where the goal is to create an artificial intelligence better at doing some tasks (or winning a specific game) than other players’ AIs. For more than 2 years, we have been holding 10-day competitions with such games.
The contests were also sponsored. A developer could register and choose to have a chance to be noticed by one of the sponsors who were looking for fresh talent, and eventually be hired; all of this through CodinGame.
That’s how I got hired here \o/
Finally, last November, we held a new type of contest: a Community Contest. Two big changes: no more sponsors, and the game was crafted by members of the community (with our support)! As the entry to our contests is free, we were now holding the event just for the community. Additionally, we pledged to organize more of them, since many members were interested in contributing.
Code for Fun and Support Charities
At first, I didn’t really realize the importance of what Fred suggested we should do. But now that I think about it, it strikes me as very powerful.
We’re going to support a charity — CoderDojo — which helps children to discover the world of programming. We have opened a fundraiser for CoderDojo so players of the next contest can support the amazing work they do for children. Players can obviously participate in the event without having to donate, and donating doesn’t grant access to more features or advantages.
It’s just about doing a good thing while enjoying a fun code competition.
That might not sound incredible, but CodinGame is still a young startup with around 20 employees. Our objective as a business is to thrive so we can continue helping companies recruit developers (that’s actually how we make money).
We’re very proud of contributing to the future of the tech industry, at our level. As one of the creators of the next contest said (the 3 creators chose the charity they wanted to support — not us), “CoderDojo builds up people for the future.”
To show our commitment to making this coding contest very special, we even dropped the “classic” prizes for winners and laid the first cornerstone of the fundraising with an initial donation.
Towards a Better Tech Industry
This fundraising is a small step for the tech industry. I won’t argue here. One step leads to another, though; if everyone makes an effort to contribute, at their level, to the thriving and well-being of our industry, we could really make the tech world, and by extension the whole world, a better place. We all know too well that there are plenty of topics to discuss and things to improve:
- Introduce new people to programming
- Close the gender gap and ensure diversity in the community
- Foster communication and spread good practices
- Develop and promote open-source software
- Define the ethics and principles to follow and a moral discipline to respect.
I wrote about that one year ago, after watching a talk from Uncle Bob; it’s about the future of programming.
It’s easy to get caught up in the work and the objectives of your company, especially in a startup. But as a part of the tech ecosystem, we all share a part of responsibility.
In case you’re interested in helping charities but don’t know how, here’s a list of tech charities we have found.
With a global action:
CoderDojo is a global volunteer-led community of free programming clubs for young people between 7 and 17.
AnitaB.org connects, inspires, and guides women in computing, and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative.
Code.org is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.
PracticalAction is a global innovator, inspiring people to discover and adopt ingenious, practical ways to free themselves from poverty and disadvantage.
Techfugees is a non-profit coordinating the international tech community’s response to the needs of refugees.
KhanAcademy’s mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.
With a local action:
AllYouNeedIsCode (EU) brings together a wide array of stakeholders to promote coding and computational thinking at all levels of education.
GirlsWhoCode (US)’s mission is to close the gender gap in technology.
CodeWeek (EU)’s idea is to make programming more visible, to show young, adults and elderly how you bring ideas to life with code, to demystify these skills and bring motivated people together to learn.
Cristina.org (US) works to promote technology reuse by educating businesses and the public that technology resources coming out of their first place of use can be given a second productive life for developing human potential.
We believe they are all worthy causes, and we support them all in spirit. We’re very happy that the creators have chosen CoderDojo for the next contest because it embraces the same ideals that Codingame is based upon: teaching others how to learn code for free, for fun, for a better future.
There are many more non-profit tech organizations I didn’t list here, either because their actions were too local or unclear, or because I simply missed them. Don’t hesitate to call me out in the comments if you think one should appear here.
Now, I want to encourage everyone in the tech industry to think about what they could do to improve the programming world. Sometimes, it doesn’t require many efforts nor much time. Whether you want to join our contest and donate to CoderDojo (come here, you’re welcome 🤗), create your own fundraising action (we used the GoFundme platform) or volunteer directly next to those in need, don’t hesitate and go for it. Trust me, you’ll be proud.