With many thanks to Courtney Petry, MSc Enterprise and Business Creation Student for contributing to the NBS Blog.
6:30 am, the time I started walking to Centrum to prepare for Norwich’s first health hackathon. During the 30-minute early-morning jaunt, I reflected back on the last 8 weeks of the highs and lows of planning and implementing Hacking Health. You might be wondering what is a hackathon, don’t worry I didn’t know what the term meant in the beginning either. Hackathons originated at the MIT University in the states; they were primarily for computer programmers to work on coding problems in a short period of time. Now, hackathons tend to be a collaborate event involving different sectors to come up with innovative solutions to pressing problems. This hackathon platform has been adopted by other sectors such as health, environmental science, and so on. As part of the Enterprise and Global Health and Social Care module, our main assessment was to create and implement Norwich’s first health hackathon; this could be on whatever health topic of our choosing. The very first week, my team chose healthtech as the topic of our hackathon, because as entrepreneurs we felt digital innovation in healthcare is lagging behind the times. MIT’s Hackathon Handbook suggests a minimum of 3 months to plan; we had 8 weeks. In this 8 weeks we raised over £8000 in cash and donations, recruited 5 esteemed judges, registered over 100 delegates, organized master classes and mentors, scouted out four healthcare problems within the community, and had appearances on several media outlets. Oh and did I mention, our class size was only 6 people. It was a lot of hard work, but in the end it all paid off.
Part of this event was geared for our own personal entrepreneurially learning, the other part was its greater impact on Norwich’s health, technology and business communities. According to the literature, hackathons are producing more than software demo’s; they are creating powerful entrepreneurial subjects (Irani, 2015). I’ve had the privilege to witness this first hand. We saw teams bonding with each other and excited for what the next steps hold. Ashraf Mumin, one of the problem presenters for medical compliance, emailed us after the event saying,
“It was truly a humbling experience, provided that I hadn’t even heard of the word “hackathon” couple of months ago. Excited to see how we can take forward the ideas with the team(s) and we are already setting up future meetings”
Members of the winning team, Playwell, mirrored this exact attitude. They were overjoyed they had won and were ecstatic to keep working on the idea for their presentation at the Doctors 2.0 conference this May in Paris. To hear the teams wanting to continue their ideas and watch them develop an entrepreneurial attitude towards healthcare is exactly the result we hoped for. In terms of the hackathon’s impact on Norwich, I think it helped bridge gaps between industries, sparked some entrepreneurial spirit, and created some very interesting solutions
Looking back on yesterday’s event, I’m relieved, happy, buzzed, tired, energized, and a lot of different emotions. Most importantly, I’m proud of my team and what we created in a mere 8 weeks. After the long 14-hour day, I crawled into bed at 10:00 pm and scrolled through the positive responses of attendee’s experiences all through one simple hashtag, #hackinghealthuk.
Some of the responses on Twitter were:
“@hackinghealthuk I’ve had an amazing time, and the pleasure of working with some brilliant people! Thank you all!”
“Went to my first ever hackathon today! Got to work with some great people on MY idea and had to present it too! Thank you #hackinghealthuk”
“Really enjoyed @hackinghealthuk today in Norwich, thanks to all the team who organised it”
“Well done @hackinghealthuk team, awesome day, well organised and some great ideas.”
“An amazing experience participating in Norwich’s first Health Hackathon – such talent and great ideas – thank you!”
This is only a glimpse of the feedback we received. I’m ecstatic to hear that people had very good experience and already making plans to continue working on their ideas.
Today’s economy is constantly shifting; healthcare and other communities will need to start making necessary movement to keep up. As Seth Godin, author of Linchpin, stated, “We seek out experiences and products that deliver more value, more connection, and more experience, and change us for the better.” After seeing the feedback and reflecting over the event, I believe Hacking Health gave a valuable experience to the attendees and a platform for Norwich to connect and work together on innovative, patient-centered solutions which can lead to the first step to changing healthcare for the better.