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Hack4Good brings the world together to tackle climate change


This weekend I was invited along to the Hack4Good global hackathon by Fauna & Flora International’s Gavin Shelton, a judge at the event.  The event aimed to bring developers, designers and anyone other interested parties together to help tackle the weighty issue of climate change.

To provide a bit of direction to what is a huge topic, the weekend was focused around 15 core topics:

  1. Public Awareness
  2. Personal Impact
  3. Digital Activism
  4. Compelling Visualisation
  5. International Negotiations
  6. Resilient Communities
  7. Extreme Water Impacts
  8. Intense Heat Impacts
  9. Ecosystems and Nature
  10. Collaboration
  11. Consumer Behaviour
  12. Energy production
  13. Responsible Finance
  14. Sustainable Business and Energy Efficiency
  15. Reforestation

Some 3,000 people were said to have participated in the project across 40 locations around the world, with all teams given the weekend to pull something valuable together.

It was fascinating to see the formation of the teams, with location proving no barrier.  It was common for teams to have participants joining in from far flung places, and it lent a very international air to proceedings.

What did the hackers produce?

I was a little skeptical about the kind of products that could be produced in such a short space of time, but listening to the pitches given by the teams last night I was pleasantly surprised.

Low carbon councils

The first saw the team develop a website that would rank each local council in the UK according to the level of renewable energy they generated as a percentage of their overall energy.  The team created an interactive map that would allow users to hone in on a particular council, and various bits of data would be provided about them, together with how they rank against other councils in the region.  You can also contact the council via social media to ask them to raise their game.  Sadly, my own borough was not only one of the worst performing in London, but also in the whole country.


Another interesting site was very much attempting to piggyback on the pledge style interest generated by the recent ALS ice bucket challenges.  Wepromi.se is a pledge site geared around more eco friendly behaviours however.  It allows you to challenge your friends to do things, with various forfeits to undertake should you fail to complete.


Another innovative approach came via the Treevotion project.  This was billed as a matchmaking site, albeit one with a difference.  The site was developed in partnership with Fauna & Flora International, and users would complete a simple user profile survey, after which they would be paired up with a particular tree that matches their characteristics.  The aim would then be to engage in some kind of activity around that species of tree, whether it would be conservation, fresh planting or merely education.  The hope is that the project will eventually be fleshed out sufficiently to become a standalone site at Treevotion.org.

So overall some interesting ideas produced, and the hope has to be that many of them will find sponsors willing to help take them a bit further.  There were some interesting projects around things such as carbon footprint reporting and sea level rises that I think could be very valuable with a little more work.  Hopefully the event will prove the catalyst to ensuring that happens.

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