Look, we’re all aware of the situation by now. If you are grieving, taking your time, slowing down and getting used to the ‘new normal’, that’s totally fine. If you are still out at work because you’re a key worker, then you’re an absolute hero and I salute you.

And if you are also keen to proactive in the face of this crisis and are not sure how to direct that energy, then I have something for you today.

This situation is unprecedented in many ways. It has laid bare the faults in our current systems, which many people have been trying to point out for a long time (remember how before this all kicked off I wrote about how ‘low skilled’ jobs are actually very difficult and important?). It has also shown us that human and environmental rights can actually be achieved if we decide to achieve them.

And so, when this starts to calm down, we are also presented with an opportunity. Yes, we will need to collectively grieve, but we will also need to choose what kind of world we’re going to build going forward.

Right now there are immediate challenges, which are being tackled by brave heroes in areas like health, childcare, science, and community action. But soon we will have to start thinking about what happens next, in particular the economic and social aftermath. Clearly, there’s a need for solutions in many areas (in education, family life and the arts, for example).

The hackathon

In the light of this, CommonVC and Boruah foundation are running a global online hackathon on April 18th & 19th, aimed at creating solutions for the challenges ahead. The project is spearheaded by Dhruv Boruah: an award-winning environmental campaigner who has already run multiple Plastic Hackathons and engaged with millions of people around the world on environmental issues (basically, this is very different to a hackathon run by a tech company or financial institution).

Now, he turns his attention to a post COVID-19 world. A hackathon is an event designed for people to solve problems (despite the title, it is also not solely for people in tech/coding). Teams collaborate, quickly innovate new ideas and build proof of concepts, with the aim to make these ideas into tangible realities.

The hackathon will be a space to come up with new policies, business models, campaigns, tech proposals, and products by encouraging collaboration and conversation across many fields and perspectives. Whether you’re a young person, an artist, a teacher, a developer, an industry expert, an environmental campaigner or a behavioural scientist. It’s for everyone, and will be a place where like-minded, diverse creators and experts can talk about actionable solutions.

To join the coronavirus hackathon you don’t need an idea to apply, instead you’ll be put in a team based on your skillset. There will be facilitators to drive the idea generation, and everyone can apply because everyone is a stakeholder. The hackathon will take place completely virtually, using tools like Zoom, Skype, Slack, Youtube, Facebook and Google Docs, so it’s also open to all corners of the world.

It will be a two day, ‘open innovation’ event, and the winning teams will get the opportunity to present their solutions to investors, philanthropic funds & policymakers to make a change. The team is also working to build a roster of partners and investors (both in industry and in policymaking) to fund the best ideas and bring solutions to life, so if you can help invest in startups, get in touch!

If participating isn’t for you, you can also join in in other ways such as mentoring, facilitating, volunteering, or spreading the word.

How the application works

Pretty easily, it turns out:

  1. You submit your application

  2. You’re added to the Slack group

  3. The team review and approve your application

  4. They allocate you to a team based on your interests, skills and timezone

  5. You donate £10 to make sure you are committed and don’t let your team down at the last minute. (This will be used to cover running costs and support moving ideas forward, if you can’t afford the donation check the “I need scholarship” option, as they may be able to waive the fee)

  6. You join the hackathon

So far, the hackathon is having a great response, but right now they’re running a little low on artists/creatives. The more diverse perspectives, the better! I will be signing up, and I hope that some of you out there, many of whom I know are in creative industries, will be too. I’m hopeful that this is an opportunity for more Green New Deal policies, more intersectional justice, more creativity and more compassion to lead the way into a new world.

To participate in the Hackathon apply here

To help in another way (volunteer, mentor, run a session etc) apply here