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How Umbraco powered our Hackathon for Homelessness

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How Umbraco powered our Hackathon for Homelessness

In just two days, Zeroseven built a website that could help change the lives of over 1,000 homeless people in Brisbane – and it was all made possible by Umbraco. 

Umbraco CMS logo

As part of Homelessness Week (August 2-8), Zeroseven organised and hosted the Hackathon for Homelessness. Held in partnership with Micah Projects and the Brisbane Alliance to End Homelessness, the event saw the Zeroseven team come together for an intense two-day hackathon to build a website for the Brisbane Zero campaign. (Zeroseven donated the whole team’s time to the project on Friday, and our team members volunteered their own time on Saturday.)

We were drawn to the Brisbane Zero campaign because of its evidence-based approach to homelessness. With our office being based down by the river in West End, homelessness has long been a visible issue for us. It’s a problem that can seem insurmountable and inevitable, but the Brisbane Zero campaign has made the case that we don’t have to accept homelessness as a fact of life. 

Instead, the Brisbane Zero team has treated homelessness as a manageable problem that can be solved, using live data to track rough sleepers and connect them with the housing support and services they need, with the goal of ending street homelessness in three years. 

With the support of partners in the housing and homelessness sector who share their vision, the Brisbane Zero campaign assembled a ‘By-Name List’, a real-time list of all people experiencing homelessness in the community. The list was recently certified by US-based organisation Community Solutions, making Brisbane only the second city outside of North America to have a Quality By-Name List. 

The website

A website was needed to showcase this data, which is where Zeroseven came in. The challenge was to build a website that could not only communicate the size of the problem to the public in real-time, but also clearly explain and assist with the goals of the Brisbane Zero campaign.

We knew that the best way to achieve this would be by utilising Umbraco, a platform that makes it possible to quickly build a website with a straightforward and intuitive content management system – ideal both for the the fast-paced nature of the Hackathon, and for the needs of the Brisbane Zero team who would be updating the website’s content in future.  

Using Umbraco

Umbraco provided the flexible editing environment that we needed. By setting up simple structures at the outset of the Hackathon, editors could begin adding content virtually straight away, even while the site was being built around them and content components like accordions, call-to-action buttons and videos were still being added. 

The flexibility of Umbraco also allowed us to make changes and modifications with a minimum of fuss, to reflect any alterations to the design of the site that were made on the fly as the Hackathon rolled on.  

Data is at the heart of the Brisbane Zero campaign, and we were able to create a custom interface that made it a breeze for the Brisbane Zero team to update and manage the data showcased on the site themselves.

Better yet, we were able to use Umbraco to create a custom workflow that enables organisations to submit the services they provide for homeless people in Brisbane. These submissions are sent to an inbox for editing and approval by Brisbane Zero’s moderators, who are then able to add them to the ‘Services’ section of the site, providing a simple way to match people in need with the support that’s available to them. 

Of course, this was possible largely because of the extensive experience we’ve had in coordinating the many aspects required to build websites and integrate them with content management system platforms, but Umbraco provided all of the tools that we needed. 

What's next?

Going forward, it will be easy for the Brisbane Zero team to manage the site’s content themselves, but our support for their work certainly hasn’t ended with the Hackathon. The site comes with a free support plan for the next two years, and we’ll continue to make changes to the functionality and design of the site as required. 

Our hope is that the Brisbane Zero site will make homelessness visible to everybody by attaching a real number to the problem – and we’ll all get to see that number go down to zero.  
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