I’ve had a few event organisers get in touch with me following the post last year about how an organisation can make the most of a hackathon. One of the questions I was asked was “what happens after a hackathon as it seems very different from other types of events?”
This is a brilliant question and kind of gets to the heart of the whole idea behind a hackahton. So I thought I would write a post explaining in a bit of detail what does indeed happen when all the hackers have left on the Sunday evening.
Within the post I will cover what the “event organiser” may end up doing as well as what can happen to the winning projects.
What happens after a hackathon to the event organiser
Normally after an event there is a bit of tidy up and perhaps a post event review or an attendee questionnaire. But at the end of this event there was a lot more to do. If you run a hackathon you better be prepared to do a good bit more, post event, than you normally do once an event has ended.
I was determined that the Hackathon wouldn’t just “talk a good game” but would actually help alleviate the homelessness and rough sleeping issues in Scotland: in a nut shell, that’s why I went to the effort of running it.
There were three main reasons to run a Hackahton the way we did, which deviated a wee bit from the traditional hack in that we invited organisations to pitch their projects to the attendees. The objectives were:
- To try to actually create something practical that helps the organisations who took part
- To build a community around the issues of homelessness and rough sleeping
- To offer support for other organisations / organisers who want to run a Homeless Hackathon of their own
To some extent we managed to achieve the first two during the event. As you can see here Simon Community (who pitched to the audience) cover the immediate success of the app that was developed over the weekend as well as discussing the networks that they were able to develop.
So, it would have been easy to think, mission accomplished on the first two objectives, and to move on to something else. However, Simon Community’s project wasn’t the only winner, and part of the prize was ongoing support. We had two other projects to think about.
We also had to think about how we would spread the word (objective three) that we had a pack and some cash to help launch other homeless hackathons.
So over the last few months I have become less of an event organiser and more of an app programme manager as we try to finalise and launch a brilliant app called Harbr. I have also tried to finish the Homeless Hack Pack and raise awareness of the positive impact a hackathon can achieve. You can help by sharing this article now.
So that awareness raising work included an article in the PCMA monthly magazine as well as a speaking session at the PCMA Convening Leaders conference in Pittsburgh in January 2019.
So how does an event organiser become an app development manager and what does that actually involve?
I have to now take “Harbr” a few further steps along the development journey. We had three stakeholders pitch the idea of a signposting app for those experiencing homelessness and we had a team of eight hackers answer the call. Over the weekend the team were able to create a name, logo, brand, skin a website and outline the entire back and front end of the app. It was pretty amazing to see! However, it’s been very difficult to get those hackers to engage with the project now that the event is over. Which is of course, a huge disappointment.
Since then it’s been up to me to take things forward. I’ve spoken to all of the stakeholder to see if they are keen to continue their support and thankfully they are.
I’ve also found two organisations who would be interested in “owning and running” that app once it’s developed and I’ve been able to secure an API that will be vital in populating the date of the app. So we are really just waiting on hearing back from the original hackers so we can move this on.
Even without the much needed development work carried out so far, I have managed to create a draft work plan to take the app live. All of course while doing the day job, the proper job of organising events.
Now, as any event organiser will know, this is little to do with organising an event! But really I couldn’t just leave the project in this state of limbo.
If I want the event to achieve its objectives my role as the organiser has to continue, and what a brilliant way to learn a few new skills.
So if you are going to run a hackathon be prepared to either support the further development of the projects yourself or identify someone (it would be a member of the Hack, an organisation or someone outside the scope of the event) who can support the projects as they develop. But the important point is that the event isn’t really over until all of your winning projects have launched!
What happens to the projects?
The first place project was the RSVP app created for Simon Community. Second place was Feed Glasgow and third was the Harbr app.
RSVP for Simon Community
The internal communication side of the platform is up and running. Street team members are able to communicate much more quickly and effectively by using the platform developed at the event. As Megan from Simon Community says: “Already we are able to dramatically improve the communication between worried members of the public and our Street Team”
The second place project was Feed Glasgow
Saqib outlines the role the Homeless Hackathon played:
“Feed Glasgow has been looking to take the next step into providing a service for the community and at the Homeless Hackathon we found amazing volunteers and organisations all who are doing their best to help alleviate the homeless problem in their city. We made great contacts and the positive and creative environment really helped us to create our project at the Hackathon and I look forward to being able to show people our final product and help support homeless and refugees in Glasgow.”
Harbr with its three stakeholders Bethany Community Trust, Social Bite and NHS Glasgow has quite a way to go, but as covered above, we are working on it! I would hope that we have something live this year.
And the Hackers themselves?
We know that some of the hackers are in touch with the organisations they supported over the weekend. There were also a few friendships developed over the weekend and almost half joined up to our Homeless Hackathon Mailing list. So, the seeds of a digital community to support homelessness and rough sleeping in Glasgow, and a bit beyond, have been sown.
We plan to run another Hackathon this year, as part of a city wide homelessness awareness weekend (well, that’s the plan). So if you are interested in finding out about that you can sign up to our list here.