What it takes to organise India’s largest Covid-19 Ideathon
Estonia started with a 48 hr online hack on 15 March to respond to COVID-19, then a few days later Germany and Finland followed. 42000+ people participated in the German edition ending up crashing Slack! We also wanted to respond to the crisis in a meaningful way by doing an online hackathon in India, called an IDEAthon! The event started at 6:00 PM on 26 March and concluded at 6:00 PM on 29 March. The original plan was 48 hours and it stretched to 72 hrs because of the overwhelming response.
The three themes of the proposals solicited were, Saving Lives, Saving Communities and Saving Businesses. Through a rigorous process, we could shortlist the top 20 out of the 5000+ applications. Seven entries in the student track, six entries in the educator track and seven in the startup track, each faced an international jury. Eighteen out of twenty received a cash prize and are now being considered for various government grants to further accelerations to their solutions.
Outreach – Reach more people through partnerships!
When you are in a crisis, traditional models of outreach don’t work. Best way is to work through partners who already have your stakeholders. In our case, we started with the Ministry of Human Resources, Innovation Cell run under AICTE. Every year they organise the world’s largest hackathon. Along with them, we partnered with an incubator based out of Coimbatore, called FORGE. Then we onboarded various national and international agencies like iHub Gujarat, UN Technology Lab to World Startup in the Netherlands.
The few days we had (four days to be precise) to do outreach we had 5400+ teams and 350+ mentors applying for the IDEAthon.
Technologies to Collaborate
We used a variety of tools. Depending on your need you may use the same or alternate.
Curating Challenges We reached out to many experts for articulating challenges through video messages. Below is a list of compiled video messages on Youtube. It enabled a quick understanding of the context to participants.
Mentors are the soul of any such program. People genuinely wanted to help, and if you can map their expertise efficiently they can be utilised better by the participating teams. Also, for mentors to stay online without being utilised is not good.
|Primary tool for onboarding the community, announcements using public channels, Q & A, private channels for managing the selected teams during various phases and internal
|To collect registrations from Participants, Mentors and Jury
|To run various phases of challenge for submissions and evaluation
|Google Drive, Docs and To Spreadsheets
|To exchange information among Spreadsheets organisers, Teams and Mentors
|Zoom, Google Meet and others
|For video calls with jury, mentors, among organisers etc
|Twitter, Linkedin, Email, Instagram
|Outreach by organisers and partners
Many of the teams we observed wanted to stay with the same mentors as they moved along with the various phases. Most of the mentors were available throughout the night to help the teams.
Cyber is a great equalizer, for our startup track we had jury members from 4 different time zones. India, Singapore, the Netherlands and USA (East Coast). You can make your event international without any extra effort.
COVID-19 is a global crisis, it is an opportunity to build bridges for innovative solutions by bringing international perspective to your work. The startup / team you helped through the event might get global assignments.
Social Media posts generated from Community Content
In the world full of fake news, how do you do outreach for a cause? As you need to recruit more supporters and make the outcomes more visible, putting together the community content into a meaningful shape (like short videos) is a method that can take you a long way.
The selfie collage post on first page: the filtered participants who burnt the midnight oil to try and find solutions to fight COVID-19.
Composed by: Sachin Gaur, Executive Editor, InnoHEALTH Magazine