20 students from Edinburgh Napier gathered for a 24 hour Hackathon at Edinburgh Napier University on Friday 3 to Saturday 4 February. Cyrenians, Bright Red Triangle, Scottish Institute for Enterprise, and IBM co-hosted the Hackathon, along with staff from Edinburgh Napier University who also provided the facilities.
Ann Davidson, SIE Innovation & Enterprise Programme Director: “At the Hackathon we wanted students to think “people first” then apps, so they were given the time to walk in other people’s shoes and understand the real issues. There were some great ideas emerging with the potential to make a difference and all of the participants left a little bit wiser for having taken part.”
The Hackathon kicked off with students working in groups to identify the key problems faced by charities working with homelessness in Scotland’s capital. Cyrenians volunteers with lived experience of homelessness and representatives from other charities working with homelessness shared their insights with the teams.
On Saturday, students posed their technical questions to IBM Watson, an artificially intelligent computer system which is capable of answering questions in natural language.
Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians Chief Executive said: “The Hackathon’s been an incredible adventure for me. The teams have shone new light on what I have the privilege to work with every day. The students asked hard questions about what appears to be an intractable problem, but if we can invent the Internet and put someone on the moon, surely we can find a solution to this issue as well.”
The winning team identified that with many charities working with different aspects of homelessness across the city, it can be difficult for potential supporters to tap in to volunteering or campaigning opportunities. Their idea, creating a website which gathered charities’ social posts and sorted them according to subject, won due to its simplicity and potential as a sustainable platform which would be utilised by organisations across the Sector.
All four teams, however, were given the opportunity to develop their ideas further, either with Cyrenians or with SCVO’s One Digital Team.
The 24 hour Hackathon was a truly collaborative venture, with many charities coming to share their knowledge and expertise. Cyrenians would like to thank Move On Scotland, The Rock Trust, Streetwork, Fresh Start and Grassmarket Community Project for doing just that.
Nick Fannin, Head of Bright Red Triangle at Edinburgh Napier University said: “The Homeless Hack was a fantastic success exceeding all our expectations. In a complex and uncertain environment we saw real commitment from the students, and terrific interaction with all the partner organisations resulting in 4 ideas, all with the potential to be taken forward.”