Blog: Housing and Homeless Hackathon update

hackathon updateBy Tom Youll from Shelter Scotland’s Get advice project

So now the dust has settled, the chairs have been stacked, the tables collapsed and the Shelter Scotland Product Forge Hackathon has come to an end. I thought I’d bring you all up to speed with how the weekend went, who the winners were and thoughts about future events.

As already stated the weekend this was our first furrow into the world of hackathons, and I would like to offer a big heartfelt thanks and slap on the back to Allan and the whole Product Forge team. Product Forge did a great job of facilitating the hackathon and holding our hands throughout the whole process.

During Sunday afternoon we were feeding back to each of the teams after watching their practice pitch run throughs. What struck me was that the ideas were all intuitive, well thought through. The teams were fully tuned in to the task at hand, weren’t afraid to ask the apparent stupid question and seemed not to worry that their idea might be the obvious one (so obvious that is, that no one else had thought of it).

Fast-forward to the evening, all the presentation had been done, the room was cleared so the judges (Graeme Brown of Shelter Scotland, Janine Matheson of Creative Edinburgh, Nick Price of Bright Purple and Kate Ho of FreeAgent)  could decide on a winner and a runner-up. I wasn’t part of this, as were none of the mentors, but from what I understand it quickly became apparent that two ideas were coming out top. Soon, we all troop back into the room for the announcements from Allan of Product Forge…….

The winners – Team Acey

Team_Acey-300x200Modelling themselves after ‘Ask Izzy’, an Australian service that helps people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to find the services they need. Team Acey created an ‘I need help button’ for the Shelter Scotland website. Using signals such as the time of day and your location, it takes the service user directly to the most relevant resources. The need was identified after examining the user experience for those in need of immediate advice about their circumstances which often involved lengthy searches through different web portals.

The runners-up – Team Xtreme

Team_Xtreme-300x200Taking inspiration from the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books of the 1980s, Team Xtreme created an interactive online resource/game, which would take participants though real life situations (that would be uploaded by people who had experienced homelessness), which is hoped would raise awareness of homelessness. (On a side note, Team Xtreme were made up of 3 female under graduates who are all studying at the University of Edinburgh, nice to see the nerdy geeky all guy stereotype being broken down).

What happens now? Well hopefully we can take these ideas forward and develop them to fruition in partnership with the winning teams.

Throughout the weekend It truly was humbling to see all the time and effort the teams put in, and in my mind any of them could have ended up as winners, thank you again!

So now thoughts go to what should we do for the next Hackathon and one question I would like to ask is this: Should we be more prescriptive in what we ask, for example, should we suggest something along the lines of ‘we would like you to come up with an app that will help tenants in the private rented sector, or should we keep it wide and open as ‘housing and homelessness’?