The Global Social Storm Hackathon 2014 -A look towards the Future

In November 2014 (within my role at Futures Entrepreneurship Centre) I worked with Helen Ots at Loughborough University to bring to life the first ever Global Social Storm Hackathon. Now, as I write this in late March 2015 I am on my way to London to discuss how we can continue to make a difference with Social Storm.

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The Global Social Storm 24 hour Hackathon in 2014 (part of Global Entrepreneurship Week each November) was a great opportunity for students to gain experience in communicating internationally to find viable business solutions to global social issues.

The 24 hour Hackathon style event developed participating students’ experiences and confidence in problem solving, teamwork, using their initiative, viability consideration, market research, idea implementation and working around international differences, language barriers and other constraints in a timed environment to successfully convey their idea via a 3 minute video pitch.

So, what was last year’s Social Storm 2014, 24hr Hackathon all about? In a nutshell; the Social Storm hackathon took place over 24 Hours, involved 8 Universities, 6 Countries (UK, USA, Canada, United Arab Emirates, China, Tasmania) and had over 100 participating students. The problem that the teams had to find a solution to was this time rooted in creativity & education and specifically focused on the UN goal to achieve universal primary education. Based on the UN Initiative, teams had to come up with a viable plan for how the attendance rate of Primary Education around the world could be increased.

International Q and A time via Go To Meeting during the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon
International Q and A time via Go To Meeting during the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon

The hackathon resulted in 20 international teams and 20 exciting ideas submitted. The local (Plymouth) winning team was Team H.O.P.E standing for Humanitarian Online Primary Education and they won a cash prize of £100.  Their idea was a social enterprise called H.O.P.E (Humanitarian Online Primary Education) based on providing basic education to students in areas where there may not be an established or effective system in place. It would support teaching volunteers and initiatives in struggling communities by providing the teaching material and lesson plans they need to provide a high level of education in basic numeracy, literacy and general life skills for children aged 5-12 years old. The website also promotes international voluntary involvement in education. The team created a working prototype website to show the viability of their idea.

A look at the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon
A look at the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon

The International Winning team, made up from students from Loughborough University and Cape Breton University was team GEMS and they came up with Global Educational Military Software (GEMS) and won a cash prize of £800. In their own words

“GEMS is a software programme that can let teachers and students communicate on-line through cheap, sole purpose laptops provided through partnerships with transnational corporations.”

As a university, not only did Plymouth University get to provide students with an opportunity where they could develop themselves through the challenging experience of overcoming language barriers while working together to develop innovative solutions to important global problems in a time constrained environment. Through this event Plymouth University also developed working connections with UK and international universities including, Loughborough University, the University of East Anglia, the University of Tasmania and Cape Breton University in Canada.

This first Social Storm Hackathon proved to be a memorable and intense skills building event for participants. The two local Plymouth teams went away proud with the results of their solutions, research, time-pressured decision making and hard work during the intense 24 hours of the event. Their efforts over those 24 hours are an example to both themselves and others of what can be accomplished within a short space of time when individuals decide to make a dedicated effort to work together internationally to produce viable solutions.

The success of this first Global Social Storm Hackathon will aim to start a legacy for others that this sort of international collaborative ‘hackathon style’ event is not only possible but if done well will result in thought provoking and viable solutions.

A look back at the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon whilst developing future hackathon events in 2015.
A look back at the 2014 Social Storm Hackathon whilst developing future hackathon events in 2015.

The Future of Social Storm:

The 2015 Social Storm Hackathon scheduled for the 20th and 21st of November, will have more participating organisations and more participants from a wider range of countries with a new Global Social problem to solve. Greater participation will result in a larger International cash prize and greater media impact as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Plymouth University, Loughborough University and the University of East Anglia would also like to run a Mini Social Storm Hackathon on Friday 23rd  of October 2015 in anticipation of the 24 hour Social Storm Hackathon in November and would love other Universities to take part in either Hackathon.

Social Storm and Plymouth University’s Futures Entrepreneurship Centre hope the visible results of the global Social Storm Hackathon will act as an example to others, that if individuals make a dedicated effort anyone can make a positive difference in the world.

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A video overview of the Social Storm 2014 Hackathon:

Please comment below if you would like to get involved or suggest a topic or problem you think Social Storm should tackle in one of our future Hackathons.

Have you read our other Hackathon related posts? We run one within Enterprise Creation 2015 and 2016’s post. Here is our post on 2015’s Social Storm Hackathon

PBS Staff Photo Shoot for web pagesAmber Strong
Amber Strong

 Thank you for reading, if you have any questions feel free to contact me:amber.strong@plymouth.ac.uk

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