Byte Night 2016: IT community unites to raise money and end youth homelessness

Alan Crawford, CIO of City & Guilds, is taking some time out of leading the cloud charge at the vocation training charity to join the thousands of IT workers taking part in Action for Children’s annual charity sleep out event, Byte Night, on Friday 7 October.

In this guest post, the former Action for Children IT directors shares his past Byte Night experiences, and explains why he continues to take part year after year.

When I joined Action for Children as IT director in 2013 I knew Byte Night was an event every major IT company got involved with, and I considered it part of my job description to sleep out too.

On my first Byte Night, we heard from a teenager whose relationship with his mother had broken down to such an extent, he ended up spending part of his final A-Level year sofa surfing with friends. But when they were unable to give him somewhere to stay, he began sleeping in barns and public toilets.

It was at this time, thanks to the intervention of his school, an Action for Children support worker stepped in.

By the time the October 2013 sleep out rolled round, the young man had shelter, was rebuilding the relationship with his family, had passed his A-Levels and started at university. Just thinking about his story gives me goose bumps,

Unfortunately, 80,000 young people each year find themselves homeless in the UK, and it is because of this I’ve agreed to sleep out again on Friday.

Byte Night: What’s in store?

Every Byte Night follows a similar pattern. Participants are treated to a hot meal, and take part in quiz (or some other fun activities), which are often overseen and supported by a range of celebrities.

For some participants, which include CIOs, IT directors and suppliers, the evening also provides them with an opportunity to network and swap details, with a view to doing business together sometime at a later date.

In the case of the London sleep out, all this takes place at the offices of global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, and there will be more than 1,700 people taking part in the event at 10 locations across the UK this year. At the time of writing, the 2016 cohort are on course to raise more than £1m for Action for Children.

Regardless of where the sleep out is taking place, at 11pm all participants head out with our sleeping bags under our arms, ready to spend the night under the stars.

While that may sound a tad whimsical and romantic, the fact is sleep will come in fits and starts, and by daybreak we will all be cold and tired. But, as I trudge up Tooley Street on my way home, my heart will be warmed by memories of the night’s camaraderie and the feeling I’ve spent the evening doing something good and worthwhile.

While Byte Night may only be a few days away, there is still time to get involved and support the cause by agreeing to take part in a sleep out local to you, or by sponsoring someone already taking part.

Thank you for reading, on behalf of Byte Night, Action for Children and the vulnerable young people at risk of homelessness in the UK.