PENCIL wins Judges Choice Award at the 2020 Hack for the Community

By Eva Fuze, Project Manager Assistant for Project Management Center | HCA Healthcare, and Hack for the Community Project Leader

Hack for the Community is an opportunity for IT professionals and nonprofit organizations across Middle Tennessee to come together for a common goal – to innovate and execute solutions that will maximize positive impact in our community. 

This year, with the onset of COVID-19, the original springtime date for Hack for the Community was postponed, and the planning committee debated if the event would even be possible to pull off in this new, unpredictable environment. For years, “Hack” has long been an exciting, energetic and beloved event, with a specific uniqueness of being a large, in-person two-day affair (some teams even work through the night!)

With new safety concerns and parameters in place to facilitate a largely virtual Hack event, what would this mean for the volunteer teams? While it would inevitably be different, the community’s dedication for Hack was still very much alive.

All participating groups were approached once again in September to revive the plans from the original H4tC, to begin recruiting volunteers and brushing the dust off old problem assessments and technical checklists. The event was back on track!

For PENCIL, our scope was fairly straightforward: the team leverages Salesforce to track and manage partnership communication and check-ins, creating a long list of manual tasks and to-do’s for our partnership liaisons. This means numerous hours a day sitting in front of a computer to track who has and hasn’t received the proper communication, and inevitably – some partner touchpoints that wind up being missed. 

For every hour one of these individuals spends sending out e-mails or scheduling follow-ups, that is valuable time they could have spent actually meeting or engaging with that same partner, or a new prospect looking to partner with one of our local schools. 

We saw an opportunity for automation that would boost efficiency, create standardized structure around communication with e-mail templates, and free up human hours to do what humans do best! The impact of this goes beyond metrics and data – it means stronger relationships and support for our teachers and students, to ensure Metro Nashville Public Schools is well-equipped and set up for success. 

Our volunteer team consisted of Salesforce Engineers, Admins, and QA/Testers of varying levels of experience. We paired up expert and beginner level volunteers to facilitate learning alongside one another, all while delivering small releases of code toward the final solution. Volunteers represented CGI, HCA Healthcare, Deloitte, and HealthStream, and worked closely with PENCIL’s Data Manager and Salesforce Admin, Todd Chappel to ensure the work met the unique needs and use cases of real-life scenarios. We tested the solution in the Salesforce Sandbox environment, asking lots of “what if?” questions to vet the various conditions of the new code as it was being written. 

The team completed final rounds of testing and QA right on time, as the H4tC volunteer teams reconvened in the virtual meeting portal to submit their pitch videos to the judges. We awaited the judging process with anticipation, and were shocked and thrilled to hear as PENCIL was announced as the 1st place winner of the Judges Choice Award! This award recognizes the team selected by a panel of judges to have created the most impactful, viable and innovation solution amongst the 13 nonprofit teams. This recognition earns PENCIL an incredible $5,000 toward our mission. 

We are grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this year’s Hack for the Community, and thank HCA Healthcare, Nashville Technology Council, and Hands on Nashville for making this event possible!

Click here to watch the winning pitch video