The first ToryTechs Hackathon held on the 15th/16th of February 2020 at Newspeak House addressed
one theme: How can we improve MP offices?
The 25 participants at the event worked collaboratively to address various challenges faced by MPs and their staff, resulting in 6 open-source projects, 3 of which are immediately usable by MPs.
The teams made notes on this collaborative Google Doc, take a look at what we learned.
Our mission is to create a community of conservative-friendly technologists, designers, politicians & activists who want to improve British politics through tech & collaboration - this event was the first step towards our vision.
We started ToryTechs because we believe that democracy works better when everyone has good tools. Some groups, such as Campaign Lab and the Lib Dems Software Group, have created similar communities to tackle the challenges we are currently facing as a democracy. However, there was a general feeling that conservatives were not welcome in these spaces. From this sentiment, ToryTechs was born as we recognise that conservative thinkers, creators, and technologists have a lot to offer in terms of innovative solutions, know-how, and general technological prowess. It is our goal to create a community of conservative practitioners who will build and maintain tools to help democracy.
Hackathons are weekend events for technologists, designers, and domain experts to come together and solve problems in an intensive and collaborative way. If you are unfamiliar with this type of event, you can read more about them here: https://hackathon.guide.
Hackathons are an intense and fun event format for finding innovative solutions as they bring together people with different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and abilities. They can be great for building a community around a specific problem, such as inefficiencies in government. Typically, the projects that come out of hackathons are prototypes and therefore not very practical - they are more about showing an approach to solving a problem rather than solving problems themselves. This being said, we were amazed at the immediate applicability of the projects that came out of the first ToryTechs Hackathon.
The usefulness of projects made at the event, the interest on social media, and the collaborative nature of the people who attended the event have convinced us that there is an appetite in the tech community for more events like this. As such, ToryTechs Hackathon #1 will be the first of many ToryTech events. We are excited to see how this community will evolve and the type of projects we can kickstart at upcoming events.
The creation of ToryTechs caused a buzz in the local community and attracted a fair amount of attention. The event was attended by people from many walks of life, and across the political spectrum. Many people persevered in spite of travel delays and uncharacteristically bad weather as a result of Storm Dennis. There was a great deal of engagement from attendees, and from those that were interested in the event that couldn’t make it. The ToryTechs WhatsApp group was lively and will continue to be used by the community. The ToryTechs Twitter account also had a good amount of engagement throughout the course of the event. It is our hope that our continued effort in this space will be of use to those working in government and this show of support was encouraging.
We are planning to run monthly Hack Nights (with dinner provided) at The London College of Political Technologists in Shoreditch. These events will be a space for the community to meet regularly, maintain existing projects, develop new tools, and support each other.
Like most things, going-it-alone is unlikely to render the best results and we are interested in finding ways to work with other groups to achieve maximum impact. If you would like to explore a partnership, please contact [email protected]
We are truly grateful for the outpouring of support from the community to help us make this event a reality. This hackathon was the first of many events that ToryTechs has planned and we would like to welcome you all to attend our next event, a Hack Night (with dinner) hosted by The London College of Political Technologists where we will continue to build the community and encourage existing community members to maintain tools that were built at the hackathon.
ToryTechs is looking forward to participating in an ongoing conversation about the importance of technology and democracy. We are happy that so many people have seen value in our work and our collaborative approach to problem solving - we hope to continue to be a positive force in the political-tech community.
There were a high number of useful and well thought out projects created at the event. We were impressed at the teams’ abilities to come up with user-friendly solutions that were highly applicable to the challenges that were presented.
aMPlify is a non-partisan documentation project that is all about helping MPs and their staff find resources that make them more effective. This will be an ongoing project supported by ToryTechs.
Parliament Calendar Subscription is a tool for automatically adding the agenda from calendar.parliament.uk to an MPs Outlook calendar. Up to this point, the process of updating calendars has been done manually by MP staff.
This tool extracts question deadlines from OralQuestionsRota.pdf (published by Parliament) and adds reminders to MP calendars. We hope this will help reduce manual work MP staff have to do, and will ensure MPs always get the chance to ask important questions of their peers.
LeafTrax was an experimental project that could be used in leafleting. It provides a way to link location and address to online survey responses. With the right data privacy considerations and a user dashboard, this project has the potential to become an essential tool in the belt of campaigners not just in the UK, but worldwide.
MPfree is an excellent idea that, with more development, could help constituents contact the right people faster, and reduce incoming MP office casework that should be going to councils or government departments. It’s a form that can be embedded in MP websites that directs, sorts, and tags messages in a similar way to https://www.writetothem.com/
Permit API is an ongoing project that provides a standardised interface to access permits given by local and national government (e.g. Planning Applications, Environmental Damage Permits, etc.).