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Hack it.

By Manjul Rathee

15 June 2015

Imagine being thrown at the deep end with total strangers for 2 days, in a place you are not familiar with, working on challenges that aren’t directly connected to you, for organisations that aren’t going to pay you, and you are tasked to collaborate and develop solutions for challenges that may or may not have anything to do with you – this is a hackathon.

Organisations across the world are realising the need for business innovation, from creating new products, services and communication campaigns, to spending thousands to consultancies in an attempt to solve deep-rooted challenges. Where traditional methods have either failed to generate truly groundbreaking solutions, or the cost of it would make any organisation succumb to the challenges – hackathons are a great platform to harness the power of collaboration (pretty much for free*).

From students, curious professionals to established experts – hackathons bring together a diverse mix of individuals who are either motivated by the ‘kick’ they get from the unpredictability of the time they spend collaborating with others, or by the sheer learning and networking opportunity that hackathons present. Of course, there is the ultimate shared goal of solving BIG problems together.

Hackathons have what I call an ‘elastic band’ structure, lose enough to allow the collision of ideas, unrestrained creativity, debates and some serious work, to being structured enough to keep all activity on track and on schedule. In return, organisations benefit from a reservoir of ideas, ready to test solutions, working prototypes of apps, communication campaigns, digital platforms to capacity building and improving existing products and services.

The Met Police, Cancer Research UK, Bet for Good, WebVisions, Macmillan Cancer… are a few organisations I’ve attended hackathons for.

Watch this video to get a glimpse of what hackathons are like (stories of one day hackathons organised by Macmillan Cancer):

*Excluding the hackathon organising costs