The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel), a humanitarian assistance organization, has teamed up with tech giants like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (HP) for a first JDC Social Impact Hackathon to help vulnerable Israelis.

Bringing together 100 programmers and designers, as well as 30 mentors from seven global tech companies, the Social Impact Hackathon used technology to create apps and programs to solve the challenges faced by at-risk Israeli populations like the elderly and people with disabilities.

Out of nearly 100 social impact ideas that were put forward, 21 were chosen to be developed, with three receiving top prizes. Participants worked in teams on tech solutions evaluated by judges from JDC, the tech industry, and the NGO sector.

“One of the hallmarks of JDC’s work in Israel is channeling cutting-edge innovation in a variety of sectors, like the booming tech industry, to ensure a better life for Israelis whose needs aren’t met by established social services,” said the CEO of the JDC, David Schizer. The aim, he said, was to work with tech leaders, the Israeli government and hackathon participants to “make Israel a better place for those living on the edges of society.”

Women working at JDC's Social Impact Hackathon held in Jerusalem to close social gaps in Israel, January 2017 (Courtesy)

Women working at JDC’s Social Impact Hackathon held in Jerusalem to close social gaps in Israel, January 2017 (Courtesy)

First prize went to Connected Community, an app for managers of senior communities to efficiently follow up with clients, prioritize goals, and manage emergencies. Second prize went to Yad2All, a platform for people with disabilities to access rental apartments via the web. And third prize went to IRemember, an app to help the elderly track daily medication schedules and family members’ birthdays.

The winning groups will continue the development process via a new social entrepreneurship hub set up by JDC-Israel and Israel’s National Insurance Institute.

“We saw some great ventures that hold potential for serving populations in need and can truly become valuable tools for JDC professionals in their work at the Social Impact Hackathon,” said Elion Tirosh, an early stage investor, tech entrepreneur, and JDC Board member, who served as a judge. “The atmosphere enabled everyone to engage in open, non-formal efforts to identify real life needs and find matching solutions that can solve their target population’s needs.”

Additional judges of the Social Impact Hackathon included: Professor Mimi Ajzenstadt, dean of the Paul Berwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Gali Konky, vice president of product management at LivePerson; Yossi Tamir, director general of JDC-Israel; Professor Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central; Ilan Cohn, PhD, patent attorney and senior partner at Reinhold Cohn & Partners Patent Attorney; and Dr. Michal Tsur, co-founder, president and CMO at Kaltura.

JNext – a joint project of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Municipality of Jerusalem, whose aim is to strengthen and empower the technological ecosystem in Jerusalem – was also a partner in the hackathon.

Participants at JDC's Social Impact Hackathon held in Jerusalem to close social gaps in Israel, January 2017 (Courtesy)

Participants at JDC’s Social Impact Hackathon held in Jerusalem to close social gaps in Israel, January 2017 (Courtesy)

“Israel is considered to be the startup nation as well as one of the countries with the worst inequality in the OECD. Combining JDC-Israel’s social innovation with Israel’s brightest technological minds is what JDC’s Social Impact Hackathon was all about,” said Yossi Tamir, director general of JDC-Israel. “We must incorporate cutting-edge technology into the planning and development of social services, whether in Israel or worldwide. We achieved some great solutions during this hackathon — some of which we might even implement on a large scale. There are tons of new technologies out there and it’s up to us to make better use of them for Israel’s most vulnerable populations.

JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel on humanitarian causes like alleviating hunger and hardship, rescuing Jews in danger, and providing relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters.