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Hackathons: Innovation in Knowledge Exchange


Hackathons, a combination of ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’, is the notion of bringing to life concepts elaborated by computer programmers and software developers.

From ideas to reality

From several hours to several days, teams of participants collaborate intensively on an identified challenge, and in developing a working prototype from scratch. After time runs out, teams present their project to a panel of
subject-matter experts and industry leaders. The winning team is rewarded and its solution implemented. Through technology, hackathons, also called “hackfest”, provide a venue for self-expression and creativity through
technology, in an informal atmosphere. In less than 20 years, hackathons have become significantly common to companies and organisations as a way to develop new areas for innovation and funding. They have spread to
almost every industry sector.

Hackathons for associations

Hackathons are about community and collaboration. For associations, hackathons have become a powerful tool to promote engagement and collaboration with attendees, especially because the core mission of hackathons has endless possible applications. They can be a powerful motivator, such as coming up with better ideas to bring the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to life.

Several areas are key to organising a successful hackathon:

  • Define a reasonable and realistic challenge
  •  Carefully select candidates (so you don’t expose projects’ content to competition)
  •  Limit the number of participants
  •  Identify the judges and the reward offered to the winners. These can be monetary or in-kind!
  •  Ensure strong internet access and appropriate bandwidth for the exchange of live information during the hack
  •  The room layout should encourage interaction, idea-sharing and facilitate teamwork.
  •  The environment should be flexible and adaptable, informal but yet professional

*This article has been contributed by MCI Brazil and published on the latest issue of The PCO.

Read the full version here.

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