Hackathons as a tool for finding impactful solutions

Published on: 11/05/2020




Hackathons as a tool for finding impactful solutions

In these unprecedented times, we are facing new challenges every day. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the efforts of social enterprises that have been striving to meet the world’s most pressing needs.

To face the evolving crisis, one tool available to social innovators is the hackathon – a digital event that promotes collaboration by enabling us to quickly crowdsource ideas and develop practical solutions.

Through hackathons – a combination of the words ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’ –, individuals from all over the world can join forces and collaborate to find solutions, not only to the current COVID-19 pandemic but also for social good and many of the challenges faced by low-income communities.


Hackathons for social good

Hackathons have gained popularity in recent years and the method is being increasingly used by government agencies and organisations, such as UNESCO.

Hackathons help to harness collective intelligence by bringing together experts from various fields, enabling them to create new solutions, new apps and new businesses. The advantages of a hackathon include [1]:

·         Spurring innovation by bringing new ideas and new viewpoints to the cause;

·         Rallying together an active community and increasing participation;

·         Sparking interest in the cause among the public;

·         Making work more effective and more efficient, as teams can repurpose or repackage data;

·         Solving the problem. A hackathon leads to practical solutions with meaningful impact.

The Global Hack the Crisis Community provides guidelines on how to set up an online hackathon, but there are many other resources available. The online platforms ChallengePost and Changemakers allow organisations to host challenges and hackathons, while the renowned design firm IDEO partners with organisations to host design challenges that encourage collaboration through OpenIDEO.

At times like this, open innovation has proven to be a powerful tool. TRANSFORM also harnesses the power of collaboration by inviting social thinkers and innovators to share their market-based solutions for underserved communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Through regular Open Calls, we can combine these impactful solutions and the resources and expertise of our vast network to drive progress towards accomplishing the SDGs.

[1] Adlibbing, Five Reasons to Use a Hackathon for Social Good: https://www.adlibbing.org/2013/07/25/five-reasons-to-use-a-hackathon-for-social-good/