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Defining your hackathon objectives

The power of the people

Have you asked yourself why do you want to hold a hackathon? There’s a lot which can be achieved at a hackathon but the secret sauce to holding a successful hackathon is to clearly define your objectives. Here is what we did for GovHack Sydney in 2016.

GovHack is about encouraging and celebrating technical and creative capacity, connecting citizens with government for great outcomes, and building upon the social and economic value of open data published by government. Last year it was held at 31 locations in Australia with over 2200 participants. I’ve been participating at GovHack for the past couple of years and this year, we were fortunate enough to help run the local Sydney event.

After a great conversation with last year's organiser Thai, we had our first team huddle at Fishburners where we used a design thinking to ask ourselves why we were holding GovHack Sydney. We wanted to empower our team and uncover what success meant for them (and us!).

Here’s our 5 step guide:

1. Firstly, we asked questions. How you want to see, think, feel and do after the hackathon? To create meaningful innovations, you need to empathise, know and understand how and why your team are here. After doing this exercise, we were able to identify each other’s beliefs and values. Put these points on sticky notes on a wall.

2. Then we defined our 'why'. Using your sticky notes, group them into the most common themes. Here is what GovHack Sydney’s organising team came up with. We want to:

  1. Connect the community

  2. Make a difference

  3. Move useful solutions forward

Doing this activity gave us clarity and focus. Our team’s inspiration, motivation and decision making will stem from these themes.

3. Ideate. We spent 5 intensive minutes on each theme to think about what GovHack Sydney will look like in 2016. With a diverse mix of people from different industries, age groups, and abilities, the mix and collaboration enabled us to have rich conversations. Then we voted for our top 3 ideas and these became our core tasks (after event logistics).

4. Since we’ve had a bit of background with organising events, we determined our SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives. We listed the essentials of running a hackathon and inserted our core goals around the hackathon date: 29-31 July. Then we asked everyone to ‘own’ a couple of tasks based on their strengths and outcomes.

5. Working in a group means everyone is open, trustworthy, transparent and willing to share experiences. Make the effort to get to know each other, their backgrounds, what their experiences are and work on each other’s strengths. Some useful tools to communicate are Slack, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger. We formed a team in last week’s AngelHack to produce Topo VR, visualising cloud infrastructure. We also met , and since meeting one of the organisers of The Innovator’s Club meetup at AngelHack so we’ve decided to have our meeting at their 1st year birthday party!

After completing this workshop, our team felt really excited! Remember to organise a hackathon using outcomes. Give the power to the people.

Angela Bee Chan

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