A buzz word which has regularly popped up in innovation and sustainability discussions over the past few years has been ‘hackathon’ … but what is a hackathon?
A hackathon is an event in which people from different backgrounds / disciplines come together and collaborate intensively on a project. Hackathons’ can last from a day to two weeks, with the aim of taking existing datasets (or creating new datasets) and presenting them in new, unusual ways to solve a problem or challenge.
Typically, hackathons have focused on developing new software or hardware technologies; bringing together computer programmers, graphic designers, interface designers and project managers. For example, Yahoo! has run an open hack day since 2006, and Facebook recently hosted its 50th hackathon. In this hackathon, Facebook employees from across the company took a break from their regular projects to develop ideas about artificial intelligence over a 24-hour period.
Hacking for social good
Interestingly, hackathons have also been used recently to address social and sustainability challenges. Recent examples include
Other recent examples include: International Development Hackathon (ID Hack); Building Smart, Sustainable Cities Hackathon
5 tips for a good hack
Looking across these examples, a number of factors can be identified for a successful hackathon…
What is interesting about the rise of hackathons is that they fit into a wider trend in which organizations are looking to harness the power of the ‘crowd’ to help solve some of today’s most pressing social and environmental problems. So while hackathons can help companies develop new products and services, or enable multi-stakeholder groups’ to address sustainability challenges, the benefits echo beyond the outputs of a single event. Hackathons offer a new way to promote cultures of innovation and inclusion, challenging the operating norms of how our society considers and addresses the major challenges facing organisations’.
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