11/15/2013 05:55 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Hackathon Seeks to Create Tech for Queer Youth

This Nov. 22-24, San Francisco will be home to the first annual Hack 4 Queer Youth, a hackathon hosted by Maven, an interactive virtual community for LGBTQA youth to network, organize and educate for social change. According to Maven's website, the intention behind Hack 4 Queer youth is to "catapult LGBT youth serving organizations forward by pairing them with talented teams of tech professionals to develop innovative web and mobile applications that will enhance vital services."

I had a chance to chat with Maven's founder, Monica Ann Arrambide, to find out more about the vision behind Hack 4 Queer Youth.

Kortney Ryan Ziegler: Tell me a little about your background and how you came to organize Hack 4 Queer Youth.

Monica Ann Arrambide: I have been working with queer youth for close to 19 years, for a variety of queer centers. Throughout these years I slowly felt the impact of technology and, most importantly, felt the resistance of nonprofits to adapt to this new concept early on, either due to lack of skills or financial restraints. With Hack 4 Queer Youth we want to show that nonprofits can and should embrace new technological applications, because it will ultimately help them more closely reach the population that they want to serve. We also see Hack 4 Queer Youth as an opportunity for the tech industry to share their talents with local nonprofits that are struggling to maintain and adapt to a fast-changing tech-based world.

Ziegler: What type of issues do queer youth deal with that technology can address?

Arrambide: I think that better communication is a number-one issue for youth, so there are many ideas that can be made because of this. Ideally, Hack 4 Queer Youth wants to take advantage of the large percentage of youth that have access to mobile technology -- which is around 78 percent -- and help them communicate with one another in more safe and effective ways.

Ziegler: What nonprofit organizations are the beneficiaries of the hack?

Arrambide: Organizations involved are OutLoud, LYRIC, Maven, SF Center. They have acknowledged that their online presence is not particularly youth-friendly, so the goal for them is to see the technological possibilities available so that they can get new ideas on how to better their programs and services for queer youth.

Ziegler: What type of projects do you hope to see emerge from Hack 4 Queer Youth?

Arrambide: Each nonprofit has unique programs that have generated useful data, giving a multitude of opportunities for participants to be creative. For example, OutLoud does youth empowerment through radio, so what if there is a way to do this by a mobile app where queer youth can capture their stories or discover new stories? Or what about an app that manages queer youth counseling appointments through mobile texting? From my experience of working with youth, I found out that they are not always able to email or call to change or cancel an appointment, or they sometimes forget when a meeting is set for counseling. Helping to ensure that they are reminded about appointments that concern their health and well-being is crucial. Maven would also love for a team to help bolster our digital badging program system, which is designed to track levels of engagement and help provide insight into the success of programs designed for queer youth that utilize the badge system.

Registration for Hack 4 Queer Youth is free and is still open. Find out more at