How Social Impact Organization Amplify 4 Good Was Launched from a Hackathon

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Joey WomackJoey Womack came up with a unique way to help solve social problems. He created Amplify 4 Good, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. Womack and Amplify 4 Good co-founder Justin Dawkins launched it in August of 2014.? The organization’s tagline is:”Amplify 4 Good uses rapid problem-solving to help organizations create social impact around the world.” In short, it assists underserved communities in solving problems by using the resources they already have available.

In order to achieve this, the company has built a huge database with an ecosystem of resources, mapping needs and creating recommendations for collaboration.

Womack tells TNJ.com the who, what, when, where, and why behind it.

TNJ.com: What led you to start Amplify 4 Good?

Joey Womack: This could be a pretty long story, but I’ll distill it down to the more recent parts. Just know that this all began as a Facebook group for really good African-American entrepreneurs back in 2009.

In October 2013, I got a call from an Atlanta tech influencer asking to come up with some event concepts to diversify Atlanta Tech Startup Week 2014. One of the concepts was a hackathon to help solve the tech problems of Atlanta nonprofits focused on African-American communities. It would later be known as Goodie Hack.

Few interesting points about this: I had never participated in a hackathon before–I had only been a mentor for a few college students; the idea of helping existing organizations do great work came from a personal blog post on how Black fraternities and sororities don’t realize their potential relative to solving community problems because they are extremely inefficient in their “change making” process.?

The first Goodie Hack took place on March 1, 2014, but it started to receive a lot of attention in the weeks leading up to it. The one-day hackathon matched the hype, and I realized that we were onto something. So, we did another one in June 2014, and it was even better.

At this point people wanted to sponsor us, and I was still running it as a side project. In August 2014, we created a company around it.

TNJ.com: Why did you feel Amplify 4 Good was necessary?

J.W.: There are too many resources and talented, passionate people in the world for so many problems to exist. I spent a lot of time thinking why this was the case, and I kept coming back to “inefficient ecosystems.”

We already have everything that we need to make the change we want to see happen, but the “change making” ecosystem is inefficient.

Taking ego out of the equation, many people start nonprofits because they are passionate about making a difference, but don’t existing organizations are doing similar things and already have momentum. If we want to create change faster (and we should), then let’s accelerate the efforts of those organizations. And we could do that by amplifying whatever was around us.

TNJ.com: How does Amplify 4 Good work?

J.W.: Amplify 4 Good has evolved over the last 26 months into a social good consultancy which uses rapid problem-solving through innovation labs to help organizations create social impact. We teach people to think like tech entrepreneurs in order to solve problems they see on a daily basis.

We can produce everything from four ideation sessions to five-day “mini-accelerators” like hackathons.

TNJ.com: How did you fund the startup?

J.W.: My for-profit startup sponsored the first two hackathons (before we became a company), and then we got hired by CARE USA to produce a private innovation lab for their international emerging executives. We’ve been internally funded ever since.

TNJ.com: How do the innovation labs work?

J.W.: I have a nightlife background so I wanted all of our immersive experiences to be cool. On top of that, we really wanted to “professionalize” hackathons. We set the mood for the environment with high-energy, good music before executing a culturally-relevant design-thinking session. We have a special curriculum and way of delivering it. It’s our own secret sauce.

Depending on the project length, participants will break into teams for a few hours or days. We spend a ton of time helping shape their ideas before they presenting them to either company leadership or industry experts.

TNJ.com: How do you get new clients?

J.W.: Honestly, it’s been all inbound. I amassed a pretty large following (100,000 people) from my first startup. I founded it while in college at Florida A&M in 2002, and all of us have grown up together. Now, they are the ones making decisions for their companies.

TNJ.com: Why the name?

J.W.: Our mission is to make the “change maker” ecosystem more efficient using the assets at our disposal: people. We wanted to better “amplify” the talent and connections of people for the “good” of under-served communities.

TNJ.com: Goals for 2016?

J.W.: It feels like I’m piloting a rocket ship here. Looking to stabilize the ship and solidify the team and our offerings.?