Why Pro Bono Computing Work is the Right Thing to Do
The ACM strongly encourages volunteering within the ACM and beyond. After
looking at several organizations, a subcommittee of the Professional Development
Committee under the leadership of David
O’Leary promoted ACM’s partnership with
Social Coder. In December of 2016, ACM’s
CEO Bobby Schnabel announced [ 9]
“ACM’s new partnership with Social Coder:
global opportunities for members to volunteer with deserving organizations.”
Social Coder, ACM Partner
Social Coder helps connect volunteers’
skills and interests, such as database, web
design, and product evaluation, with causes they are interested in, such as famine
relief, children’s welfare, and health care.
Volunteers are from all areas of software
development, not just coding. Social
Coder provides support in developing the
project and ensures that the client has a
post project plan before the project starts.
The product is then given to the organization, which is encouraged to use open
source and permissive software licenses.
Social Coder helps inexperienced volunteers by pairing them with more experienced volunteers.
The Challenge of Being
Pro bono computing professionalism
should have a prominent place in comput-
er science education. Get your students
excited by doing something beneficial to
society; show them the power of com-
puting for good. There are numerous
opportunities to promote and participate
in pro bono work. Service courses and
projects are generally met with student
enthusiasm; their work in a course serves
a broader function beyond earning them
a particular grade. Industries support this
kind of public service for their employees
both because of the general service func-
tion and because such projects encour-
age teamwork, technical expertise, and
Have your students identify pro bono
projects. The opportunities on campus
include developing a system for departments, and working on programs for ACM
chapters. They can develop software for
campus charity projects or library book
sales. Students can contact service fra-ternities like Alpha Phi Omega, and other
university service organizations. There
are also numerous off-campus service
organizations that need help: e.g., students
could teach computing at senior citizen
centers; help with veteran’s services; assist
at food distribution centers; and work with
scouting organizations. If your students or
you contact any of these groups you will
find many possibilities for useful projects.
Pro bono work is an opportunity for
team building. Each team must decide
which projects can be undertaken based
on the project’s requirements and the
team’s current skill level. These kinds of
projects alert students to the power and
responsibility of computing while accomplishing many other academic goals.
Joy in the Code
This positive side of computing generates
enthusiasm in students, in professional
ACM chapters, and in student ACM chapters. Students and individual professionals
get excited when they do something useful
for others. Working on public service hackathons, service projects, and as volunteers
with Social Coder and other organizations
will help people develop a deeper understanding of the power of computing, and
of their own professional responsibility.
Codes of Ethics are sometimes misrepresented as constraining documents, rather
than documents that inspire. The next time
you read the ACM Code of Ethics, we encourage you to recognize the opportunities
for good that it presents.
PASTA sign photography by Don Gotterbarn.
Social Coder Volunteer Map. Google maps Social Coder
Home Page http://socialcoder.org/Home/Index
Promote Good Cartoon by Don Gotterbarn.
1. ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
(1992); https://www.acm.org/about-acm/acm-code-of-ethics-and-professional-conduct. Accessed 2017
2. Brinkman, B., Gotterbarn, D., Miller, K., Wolf, M.,
Making a Positive Impact: Updating the ACM Code of
Ethics. Communications of the ACM, 59, 12 (2016).
3. Draft 2 Suggested Updates to the ACM Code of
Ethics, (2017); https://ethics.acm.org/2018-code-
draft-2/. Accessed 2017 February 28.
4. Free and Open Source Software Projects; http://
foss2serve.org/. Accessed 2017 February 28.
5. Geeks without Bounds; http://gwob.org/. Accessed
2017 February 28.
6. Providing Area Schools with Technical Assistance
(PASTA); http://pasta.etsu.edu/pasta-story. Accessed
2017 February 28.
7. Random Hacks of Kindness; http://rhok.cc/ .
Accessed 2017 February 28.
8. Rule 6 the American Bar Association’s Rules of
Professional Conduct; http://www.americanbar.org/
rule_6_1.html. Accessed 2017 February 28.
9. Schnabel tweet 12/15/16; http://www.acm.org/
membership/social-coder. Accessed 2017 February
10. Snyder, B. These 10 companies offer big incentives
for volunteering. Fortune.Com March 2015; http://
incentives-for-volunteering/. Accessed 2017
11. Software Engineering Code of Ethics and
Professional Conduct (1999); http://ethics.acm.
Accessed 2017 February 28
ACM Committee on
Professional Ethics, Chair
DOI: 10.1145/3123646 Copyright held by author
In December of 2016, ACM’s CEO Bobby
Schnabel announced … “ACM’s new
partnership with Social Coder: global
opportunities for members to volunteer
with deserving organizations.”