OpenHack is an Open Source hackathon organized by Engineers Without Borders Sweden (EWB)
There are several challenges that we face to build a sustainable and secure future for tomorrow. These challenges stretches from poverty, unemployment, epidemics, environmental changes and cultural- or political problems. Multiple organizations and social actors exist who work hard to solve these challenges and to help build a better world, all in there own creative and honorable way. Still the growing complex and multidimensional aspects of these challenges calls for new tools and methods to share information, gather knowledge and to leverage data that can increase efficiency of our work.
The rise of new technology, especially within IT, opens up for new possibilities and ways to meet these challenges, regardless of field or nature of the problem. Just as technology and IT opens up for great possibilities in our daily life, it can be used to help solve many of the challenges we face in the strive for a better tomorrow. At the same time the same technology has made it possible for people to collaborate and share their work more effectively, something that is perhaps most visible through the concept of Open Source communities.
Still the possibilities for coders and tech-volunteers to find available projects are still limited. Aid organizations and social actors clearly express interest to leverage technical solutions to create new solutions, but are often unable to attract the right talent or have a hard time define the project objective.
The purpose behind OpenHack is to show people interested in programming how they can help to make a difference on both a local and global level with Open Source development as a main toolkit, as well as to show aid organizations, governmental agencies and social actors how tech-volunteers can be a vital part of their work. We aim to create a platform for collaboration, where organizations and tech-volunteers can meet and exchange both ideas and knowledge.
The areas under focus include disaster management, information sharing, education and social development, all which aligns with the purpose of EWB. Case challenges are provided by external partners and Anyone can submit a proposal for a challenge, regardless of if you represent an NGO/aid organisation or national agency, work for a social actor, or want to contribute as a private actor. The challenges for each hackathon is selected based on subject relevans, social impact, technical depth and the credibility of the case contributor. The OpenHack team can offer assistance to help identify and produce the right challenge, based on a case or problem background.
The intention of the hackathon is to be free for participants why it will seek financial backing from corporate sponsors and rely on the help of volunteers and partner organizations. To the extent possible, sleeping as well as food arrangements will be offered. The 48 hours long hackathon normally take place over a weekend, Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.
During the hackathon participants will work in teams to solve humanitarian and social challenges provided by our case contributors. Through out the hackathon, all teams will be offered to present their work-in-progress in front of Open Source project representatives, field experts and technical coaches to get feedback and to fuel new ideas.
On Sunday afternoon, the hackathon will end with a prize ceremony where teams may present their final work for a jury consisting of representatives from Open Source projects, field experts, corporate sponsors and organizers. Categories will consider factors such as innovativeness, complexity, potential and quality of the contributions and ideas developed. Prizes will partly be extrinsic with offers for further development plans through incubators, tools to keep the project running, symbolic rewards in form of goods and offerings, as well as public credit and recognition in the spirit of Open Source.
What We've Achieved
Since OpenHack was first founded in 2015 we have organized four humanitarian hackathons, each with over 100 registered participants from all over Sweden and the nordics. We have received and helped address more than 25 humanitarian and social challenges, with at least one concept solution presented for each challenge.
We have received great respons from both participants, partners and case contributors - that our mission to create a platform for technical solutions to humanitarian challenges is not only valuable but also needed. We also won the title as "Digital inspirer of the year, 2016" by IDG Sweden.
Last but not least we have had a lot of fun, seen a ton of incredible ideas and met a bunch of amazing and inspiring people.
Goals for the future
Our goal with OpenHack is to raise awareness and interest for how programming and Open Source may be used to make a difference, both on a local and global level. The idea is to build a community around the common goal of how to build and leverage Open Source solutions that make an impact for the humanitarian evolution of our planet.
We are set to make our hackathons a reoccurring event, that will take place on several locations around the major cities and universities of Sweden. As EWB has a nationwide presence in Sweden, this provides as a foundation for OpenHack to evolve around. Non the less, we are always open for new locations, that can provide the right circumstances for a great hackathon. The future ambition is for our community to grow beyond the borders of a specific country.
As a complement to our hackathons, our ambition is to further develop the possibilities for participants to take their projects to the next step. One of several steps towards this ambition is the concept of an incubator program, specifically designed for Open Source projects. The aim is to provide a custom Openhack community platform through which a few of the most innovative and resourceful solutions may grow from concept to prototype. This program will include and involve both original core teams, problem stakeholders and additional supporting partners, under supervision and guidance from Openhack and EWB Sweden. I trial version of this incubator program was initiated during spring 2017, with the ambition to deliver a fully defined program in 2018.
In order to fully visualize and make avaliable the impact of the solutions that are born in the path of our hackathons, we want to create a custom digital plattform for humanitarian Open Source projects. Our vision is that this plattform will grow to become the heart of what we do. Since we are all about Open Source the plattform will be open to anyone, with the goal that it will not only work as a go-to-source for ideas but also enable connections and aspire new collaborations. We plan to launch this plattform in the end of 2018.