Choosing a project at a social impact hackathon
One of the most difficult parts of a hackathon is choosing what to build. Let’s face it, there are plenty of needs, and it seems like those needs have become even greater recently. Faced with a challenge that society has been confronting sporadically for millennia, it’s perfectly understandable why so many people get nauseous at the thought. Here’s how to push through the epic challenge of changing a societal norm that too many people don’t even acknowledge:
- Recognize The Role You And The Hackathon Play In Change – This seems simple, but it causes most of the hangups that discourage hackathon participants. Understand that change takes time (Ok, change can take A LOT of time.), and you are not trying to solve all of society’s ills in a few days. You’re working on the big picture by tackling the small, vital parts of it. Think of it as a jigsaw puzzle, each one starts with a small, perfectly formed piece that other parts will build on. As far as the Hackathon goes, it’s there to provide a safe place to create. It’s a welcoming, inclusive environment free of many of the distractions and roadblocks you’ll face in your everyday pursuits. Hack The Patriarchy serves as both an incubator for grand ideas and a meeting place for like-minded makers to meet.
- Start With A Broad Topic And A Broader Sampling Of Participants – Diversity is more than a catchphrase, it’s a path to success. Select a wide ranging-subject, for instance, the pay gap. With a diverse team, you’ll have people who have witnessed how your chosen topic has played out in real life.
- Narrow Your Focus – Your team’s first-person accounts will help you refine your idea. Using the pay gap idea, you can be sure that every participant has experienced it themselves or knows someone who has. Take a look at the trends that emerge. For this example, we’ll say that lack of promotion opportunities, management unaccepting of non-cismale input, and simple gender-based pay disparity between genders are heavily cited within the group.
- Select Your Idea And Form A Concept – While you may see several repetitive themes come from these discussions, choose one. None are necessarily more important than others, but look for the idea that you can have the greatest impact on with your limited hackathon time–nothing says you have to stop there once the event is over. Continuing the example, simple pay disparity is chosen. One possible concept would be an anonymous app that lets employees from marginalized groups offer ratings on the culture at local businesses as a way to warn potential employees of the environment they’re entering.
The most important part of the hackathon is to form relationships built on the desire for social good. Your idea will be great, but the overall impact of the event will be measured by more than just the builds that come out of it. In the end, we’ll all be stronger together.