The usual recipe for a successful hackathon is to ensure a good representations of hackers, hustlers and hipsters. However, the recent Techfugees Melbourne hackathon added a fourth important element – the humanitarian, and in the process created a dream team inspired to co-create solutions for newly-arrived former refugees, as API Evangelist, Frank Arrigo discovered.
The hackers are the coders/developers, either front-end, back-end or full-stack, the hustlers are the entrepreneurial business types, and the hipsters are the creative designers folks – Forbes calls this the Dream Team and it’s been a successful pattern for most hackathons I’ve been involved in over the years.
I was part of the organising team, which was also a bit of a dream team, or as I now dub them the “Magnificent Seven” : Lynda Ford, Shelli Trung, Lama Tayeh, Michael Coburn, Jieh-Yung Lo & Wesa Chau and of course little ol’me.
The Magnificent Seven, was able to track down a marvellous venue; get the word out to Hackers, Hustlers & Hipsters; recruit talented mentors; identify judges, attract great sponsors, partners & supporters; and basically get the ball rolling for a hackathon.
We were also were able to great support from 2 organisations that work with migrants and former refugees – Australian Red Cross & AMES Australia, and this is where we added the humanitarians. This is where the stories came from, the problems that needed to be addressed over the weekend, which gave us a baker’s dozen of areas to be tackled – disability access and support, employment, entrepreneurship, food security, health, housing, language, legal system, migration advice, migration hub, qualifications, tracing to family reunion, and translating and interpreting.
As part of the lead-up we ran a series of webinars to introduce people to the event. We used this to explain the basics – Why, Who, What, When, Where. We ran these at different times during the week of the event, so as to make sure folks were well prepared.
The structure of the event followed a typical hackathon pattern – Friday evening kick-off; Saturday develop solution; Sunday prepare pitch/wrap-up and then the presentation ceremony to close the event and celebrate all the hard work!
Friday evening (or day 0) kicked off at 7pm with registration, introductions, sponsor thanks, guest speakers and then team formation. We had a colour coded system to identify the respective roles of Hacker, Hipster, Hustler and Humanitarian. In retrospect, we also needed something for mentors, sponsors, observers, organisers and all the other roles we had – lesson learnt! We also live-streamed the ceremony and it’s online!
Over the course of the weekend, we had great mentors come in to assist the team, and here’s where I want to do a shout-out to Jason Cormier and Jason Taylor who were there to help wrangle mentors, deal with tech challenges, and basically do what was needed. Thanks gents! And thanks to the marvellous mentors – Marina Paranetto, Steve Bennet, Alvaro Maz, Rita Arrigo, Guy Franklin, Grant Downie, Sandra Arico, Ren Butler, Hima Tk, Developer Steve, Tariq Hassanen, Alex Tanglao, Esther, Eliza Sorensen and the AWS gang – Mark Brown, Con Emmanouil, Mark Teichtahl,Craig Lawton and Arden Packer. Your contribution was welcomed by all the teams, from answering technical questions to pitch preparation and everything in between.
We asked the teams to enter their projects via the hackathon site we set up. So when we asked everyone to stop at 1pm on Sunday, it was a mad rush to ensure all the bits and pieces were posted to Devpost, even though we had kept reminding everyone to do this over the course of the weekend. Lesson – pay attention people!
At around the same time, the judges slowly started arriving – Jackie Coates, Judy Slatyer, Will Richardson, Peter Kelly and Ian Gardiner. They had a quick briefing on what’s what, who’s who and they were ready to do their bit.
The presentation kicked off at 2pm, we gave each time five minutes to present, with five minutes for Q&A and after a few technical glitches (sorry) we had our rhythm going and each team was able to tell their story, show their work, and answer their questions, and we got it all on video!
So after the marathon pitch session, the judges headed out to deliberate. It was a great discussion, with different perspectives, and to be honest, it didn’t take long to come up with the top three. Plus, we had a people’s choice vote online on Devpost – this is where teams needed to hustle, get on social media and get votes! And that’s just what they did!
Interpreter central – Interpreter dialects preview platform
The Comets – Picture dictionary. English audio & add translation
Friendfugees – Support network connecting young volunteers
People’s Choice Winner:
Ninja Seals / GAB – Make new arrivals welcome with conversation
A lot has been written about the event – such as Melbourne tech community comes together to help refugees settle in Australia , How we organised a gender-diverse startup event and you can too, so no need to repeat what has already been said so well, plus there’s a documentary in the works!
I have collected tweets and photos from over the weekend and compiled a little social story. Enjoy!
So that’s my recap – it was a pretty inspiring, tiring, thrilling weekend. Adding the humanitarian to the mix was a great contribution from Red Cross and this really ensured we were able to something relevant and helpful. It gave a sense of purpose to the teams which really united them and drove them over the weekend. Teams working together with a diverse group of folks in a pressure cooker environment to do something that matters. I’m glad to have helped make it happen.