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A common question now being asked as we look to find new ways to address and overcome pandemic-related issues and other social changes is, “How can we use open social innovation to help tackle societal problems in our modern day world and society, such as climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice?”

Although these societal changes affect everyone, they impact each of us on a personal level in different ways. If this wasn’t understood before, COVID-19 has made it crystal clear. Now, more than ever, we need not only new types of innovation to collectively combat these challenges, but new ways to innovate.

“Hackathons” are one of these new approaches. They are sprint-like design events, where computer programmers and others involved in software development, such as graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and domain experts, collaborate intensively on a given software project.

As a paper published in Stanton Social Innovation Review explains, hackathons are “open spaces for creative thinking, assembling teams, and collaborating on ideas under time pressure. Their potential lies in generating a sizable collection of useful ideas, if not prototypes.” The paper highlights a recent hackathon in Germany referred to as “WirVsVirus” (We Versus Virus), which focused on finding ways to effectively and quickly digitize health-care services, help citizens cope with lockdown-induced isolation, and respond to and handle cases of domestic violence.

Watching the world come together to form new ideas and methods of innovation to create solutions to events we never imagined we’d experience, underscores how much is possible through collaboration and collective action.

 

 

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