On why we’ve invited the Government to join our hackathon

On June 2015 a group of entrepreneurs from Italy, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Poland, Singapore and Ecuador decided to organise a hackathon that would gather designers, developers, activists, entrepreneurs, universities and the government, to work together on projects focused on social impact and smart city.

If someone decided to tell the story of ImpactON, it would start with a paragraph like this.

The hackathon that is going to happen in Santiago this weekend, the 21-22-23 of August, is just the final phase of a process that we’ve designed together with a bunch of entrepreneurs with whom we share three key elements: we all happen to currently live in Santiago (Chile), we all are passionate about combining doing business with doing good, and especially we all like to do things differently.

Why differently? What’s different in organising a hackathon? And what’s an hackathon anyway?

These are all valid questions. Let’s answer them all. But backwards.

1. What’s a hackathon?

“The word “hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon“, where “hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime”.

And also, still quoting Wikipedia: “a hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software and hardware development collaborate intensively on software projects. (…) The term “hackathon” has also been used as a term for more general “focused innovation efforts” that includes non-coders and community members.”

Generally hackathons have a specific focus or main subjects to work on, which in the case of ImpactON are social impact and smart city, with the related six sub-challenges.

2. What’s different in organising a hackathon? (AKA: why organising a hackathon at all?)

Once you decide that you want to foster creativity and collaboration amongst players that usually don’t work together or close to each other, you’re basically stating that in your humble opinion they should. 

And this is totally our case.

We believe that the public and the private sector, the academia and the citizenship should gather to co-create solutions to real problems, the ones that everybody cares about and that everyone would like to solve but that nobody can actually sort out without engaging with the other players.

ImpactON wants to show that this collaboration is possible, and hackathons have the perfect model: they forces you to get into action. A hackathon is not a conference, it doesn’t have just talks on interesting and inspiring content — it actually has desks where you have to sit, and make things happen for real. It has challenges to solve, there’s a competition, there are prizes.

3. Why differently?

Because we care.

Doing things differently means that you care about something, that you know the current patterns and dynamics around it, and that you’ve decided to question them to make things better.

And this requires intelligence, and courage. Intelligence for getting (sometimes uncomfortable) true answers about what needs to be different, and the courage to act accordingly.

First uncomfortable truth: most of the hackathons don’t really generate anything more than a bunch of apps/softwares that might create impact if they’d ever get combined with a business/sustainability model.

Second uncomfortable truth: we think that coders alone are key but just not enough to solve problems.

Impact, mode: ON. 

So we created ImpactON.

ImpactON has been inspired by models like the Inzovu Curve by UX for Good, and Bukminster Fuller‘s theories of change based on design principles.

To foster creativity, we’ve designed a process that would alternate ideation and reflection.
To inspire action, we’ve organised talks and workshops supported by online co-creation.
And to consolidate solutions, we’ve set up a three-day hackathon with mentors and partners.

ImpactON is made to include non-coders, in order to bring into the game also designers, students, professors, entrepreneurs and the government.

After two design thinking workshops, we are now a few days away from the inauguration and the three-day hackathon where we are going to work on challenges that have been co-designed with 6 different government’s units and other stakeholders.

Why all this? Why involving the government and not just students, entrpreneurs and developers?

To us, is simple: because to solve everybody’s problems, we want everybody’s voice. And because every brilliant idea needs accountability and resources to grow.

Organising ImpactON has been a priceless experience already, and after this first edition we will decide on bringing this format to other countries.

Which, anyway, enables me to say something I love to say: this is just the beginning.

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To register: impacton.org

We’ll be streaming the event, follow us!