The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 5th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

The 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge

Winner in Call to Action

Finalist in Technology


IBM has a long history of taking on the world’s biggest challenges because we believe it’s our job not only to innovate but to innovate responsibly. That history is the prime reason David Clark Cause approached IBM to be the Founding Partner of Call for Code, the largest and most ambitious effort to unite and mobilize developers to take on society's most pressing issues. The Call for Code Global Challenge invites the world’s developers to create practical and effective open-source applications based on IBM technology for potential deployment around the globe.

Today, the focus of these efforts includes protecting our environment, responding to growing climate change issues and the recent global pandemic that is COVID-19. And because those challenges are experienced differently by different communities, it means crafting solutions that work on local levels that can scale through open source and help communities everywhere.

Our research found that 79 percent of first responders and developers agree most people want to do something to help combat climate change but don't know where to start.

IBM works with a robust partner ecosystem, including The Linux Foundation, and the winning teams to not merely create innovative ideas, but to develop, field-test, and deploy these solutions in communities that need them most. Through Call for Code, we aim to harness technology and put open source solutions - free for all to use, build upon, and customize - into the hands of those who can create change in communities around the world.

Strategy and Execution

We know there are millions of developers ready and waiting to answer the call to solve today’s most pressing challenges with the experience, tools, and resources needed to create innovative solutions. They just need to be activated.

While we originally focused the 2020 competition on addressing climate change, we quickly recognized the opportunity to tap into the ingenuity and passion of the developer community to respond to COVID-19. We therefore created an additional COVID-19 Call for Code track with an accelerated timeline for the deployment of initial promising solutions.

Nearly two months after announcing the expansion of Call for Code to include COVID-19, Bob Lord and Chelsea Clinton announced three early Call for Code solutions to help in the fight against COVID-19: from reducing the strain on medical systems to supporting small businesses and helping us all run errands in a safer way. IBM and our partners are actively working with each of these three teams to develop prototypes and deploy their ideas.

Along with the original 2020 challenge and the expansion to include COVID-19, IBM, and the Clinton Global Initiative University also launched a new, dedicated University Edition within the Call for Code Global Challenge for college students to apply their learnings from the classroom to use their ingenuity to contribute to the COVID-19 response efforts.

At their core, all developers are problem solvers. We want them to discover and try IBM’s technology, and understand how the same tools they use for business can create a positive impact in society.

To help mobilize and grow this movement, while keeping the challenge focused on solving urgent global needs, we designed an integrated marketing and communications campaign to engage our core developer target audience and drive participation. To complement our earned media and event and hackathon strategies, we worked with David Clark Cause to mobilize support from leading celebrities, artists, and athletes and more to amplify our call-to-action over social media.

To create a groundswell and cut through today’s noisy social media conversations, we selected a single day to activate and orchestrate having these celebrities engage their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram followers to promote this cause.

We ended up securing over 100 participants – including Lady Gaga, Pitbull, and Gigi Hadid – to rally their social media followers on May 27 to join Call for Code and encourage developers to answer the call.


Call for Code is based around the central idea that technology should not be a barrier keeping people from making a positive impact in their communities, but rather that it should serve as the catalyst that allows them to do so.

Since 2018, this tech for good community has grown to more than 400,000 developers across 179 nations who have answered the call. In the first three years of Call for Code, developers created 15,000 applications focused on natural disaster preparedness and relief and climate change. In March 2020, Call for Code expanded to address the world’s reaction to COVID-19 in addition to climate change. To help drive submissions for the 2020 global challenge, and ensure the deployment solutions when they were most needed, our judges selected three early COVID-19 submissions, which were announced on May 5, and drove targeted media outreach resulting in 158 articles with an estimated reach of 20.6 million.

Safe Queue was one of these three solutions selected for accelerated deployment. Safe Queue is an app helping tackle those long lines we’ve all seen during COVID-19 at shopping centers, small businesses, and polling places. Safe Queue was created by a single developer in Los Angeles, after seeing Lady Gaga’s video about the global challenge on the local news.

In addition, we secured over 100 celebrities - including Lady Gaga, Pitbull, and Gigi Hadid - with David Clark Cause to rally their social media followers to join Call for Code, reaching over 945 million followers.


Video for The 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge

Entrant Company / Organization Name

IBM and the David Clark Cause


Entry Credits