The premise behind it is that we (designers) can apply our skills to actual, real-world social problems like unemployment, urban violence, public education, community mental health, and cross-cultural understanding. User experience and visual designers are known for being creative problem solvers, but their skills have not been traditionally valued very highly in organizations — or in the non-profit world. Mashable wrote a summary of the event and why designers, specifically, were picked to help come up with solutions to hard social problems.
Pretty rad, I think. And I am honored and stoked to be participating in it. Here's why:
First, it's important from a civic-duty perspective for us all to participate and "give back" to the community in our own ways. I don't do much volunteering anymore, but I have in the past and it's always been very rewarding. And today, one way I can give back is through design.
Second, I've been to iPhone Dev Camp and other hackathons as a "guest" — not as a participant — since I'm not a developer. It always looked like a lot of fun to work with a small group for a day or two, build something, and compete against each other on a project. But there haven't been any "hacking" competitions for designers (that I've known of). UX for Good is specifically a designer hackathon — which is just about the most exciting thing I could imagine right now!
(Side note: I've been organizing a hybrid design/hacking competition in San Francisco recently, because I'm passionate about getting designers and developers to talk and work more together! The focus also had a civic-duty angle: to help prepare people in times of natural disasters/emergency response. Unfortunately, I had to resign from the organizing committee because organizing 3 conferences at the same time while working at a startup is crazy business. I believe the event is still being planned, so if you're interested....stay tuned!)
Third, the UXXU attendees are some rockstar designers that I'm very honored to be working with! I'm hoping that this weekend lets me learn and grow in ways that I can't (or don't) during the week at work.
Fourth, it's based in Chicago! Chicago is an awesome town and, importantly, it's not San Francisco! I believe the dedicated technorati of SF need to branch out from the Valley and learn from practitioners elsewhere. This seemed like a perfect occasion for that very thing, even more so than an Interaction'11 or IA Summit (both of which I'm bummed to be missing!).
In addition to being an awesome design event, it happens to be the same weekend as ORD Camp — a barcamp inspired event that's put on by a few folks from Google, and happens to be invite-only, but brings together the top tech thinkers and do-ers in Chicago. Chris and I attended last year (as the token out-of-towners) and we were both planning to attend this year as well! When UX for Good came across my radar, I realized that it'd be a better event in terms of professional growth — but we were still able to travel and stay with each other in Chicago over the same weekend! Bonus!