[Written by Eleni Kavoura and Nicole Beatriz Michelen, students of the Master of Global Health ISGlobal-UB]
Hackathons are all about developing creative solutions to a specific problemHackathons are all about developing creative solutions to a specific problem by bringing together a group of participants and enabling them to identify practical interventions and approaches. We actually learned this about two months ago, when we saw on LinkedIn that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was involved in organizing one: the #HackAgainstHunger.
The #HackAgainstHunger was an event organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Impact Hub Geneva to identify and support innovative solutions that address challenges around food and agriculture. The goal is to develop new sustainable agricultural practices, support small-scale and family farmers, and allow them equal access to land, technology, and markets.
Our original team consisted of Nicole Michelen, Eleni Kavoura, and Marianna Rodriguez –three ISGlobal-UB Master of Global Health students with a common interest in food security. Our idea involved creating software that can automatically screen seed policies and classify them according to their adherence to the FAO’s recommendation, in addition to creating a platform for information management and sharing.
Our idea involved creating software that can automatically screen seed policies and classify themThe idea for our hackathon project came as Nicole evaluated seed policies in sub-Saharan Africa for her master’s final project; she wondered how automatizing this process and making the data available to everyone could help advocate for improved seed policies and have a positive impact on food security and agriculture globally. We used this idea to apply for the #HackAgainstHunger, and within a week heard that we would be among the 80 participants accepted to attend the event, out of over 240 applicants!
We had 36 hours ahead of us to hack against hungerThe hackathon took place in Geneva as part of the annual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum of 2018, from March 18th-19th in the ITU building, located in the heart of Geneva. Our experience started one day before when we attended the welcome session in the Impact Hub Geneva. For the first time, our team, “Seed the Future,” had the opportunity to pitch the idea and meet others willing to help us develop it. Before arriving in Geneva, we had created a basic code in Python and wanted to make it a little bit more complex in order to create an interactive website. After pitching the idea, we recruited another team member, Yvonne Kraak, to join us, and we talked to several software developers willing to collaborate with us.
The countdown started after the official opening of the hackathon on Sunday morning, and we had 36 hours ahead of us to hack against hunger. During this time, we had more than 8 experts in the field of agriculture, technology, sustainability, and entrepreneurship visiting our working space to listen to our solution and offer their input. We also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teams and exchange expertise.
We had more than 8 experts in the field of agriculture, technology, sustainability, and entrepreneurshipTime flew by as we worked for an intense day and a half. By the end, we had developed a prototype, and we had to do a three-minute presentation to a jury of experts working at the FAO and the ITU. It was a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience, but our team did great and we received positive and helpful feedback.
The hackathon was an unbelievable experience– in a day and a half, we had the opportunity to develop our idea into a prototype, meet amazing young fellows who shared our passion and had incredible ideas, and learn from experts working in our dream jobs.
In a day and a half, we had the opportunity to develop our idea into a prototypeWe want to share this experience to encourage other students like us to explore their interests and keep an eye open for similar events. Personally, we can’t wait to apply to our next hackathon!
If you would like to learn more about the #HackAgainstHunger, and other projects participating in the event, we invite you to read and listen to the article and the podcast created by the ITU communication office.