Green Hackathon is an open series of events where hackathons are organized in different locations and by different organizers using the same branding to create a bigger green hacker community. Events can be either branded as Green Hackathon, with the greenhackathon logo, twitter and subdomain website; or branded with their own name and website and being just part of the “greenhackathon” network. Do you want to organize a Green Hacakthon? just contact us.
This checklist was written by Agro-Know based on their experience organizing the Athens Green Hackathon. Originally published in their Wiki. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assess Financial Plausibility
Depending on the scale and duration of the hackathon you are going to organize, there are different costs associated. For a small, one-day hackathon, in your own premises, the cost is not big. In the case of a two-three day hackathon with venues for hosting 70-100 people along with social events, etc., you will be looking at a number in the proximity of 8-10.000 euros, not including the cost of the personnel involved in organizing it. This also depends on what you decide to give up in the process, i.e. getting speakers from abroad or hosting social events, etc. The following list can help you get down to some specific costs that can be calculated before you go around announcing hackathons to people!
- Venue Cost
- Coffees & Catering (full day for the hack day)
- Social Events
- Printings/name tags
- Prizes for the winning hacks
Once you calculate all the aforementioned costs you can get an estimation of what you need and decide which of these items you can fund and which not, seeing ultimately if you are willing to go ahead and organize a hackathon as the one described here AND here.
Select the Event Location
For a two-three day hackathon, you will be needing the following spaces per day:
- Day 1: A big space, holding from 50-70 people with the ability to move chairs/things around and enough space for 2-3 teams to work in it
- Day 2: A space with an office set up more or less that can accommodate groups of 2-3 people to work around tables, with access to power outlets and comfortable seating
- Day 3: A room that can hold up to 100 people that will be used for presenting the outcomes of the hackathon and the prizes
In our case in 2012, we went with three different spaces due to limited availability of the venue of Day 1, but in general it should be possible to use the same venue for days 1 & 3. A small checklist that will allow you to sort out the places you already have in mind for the hackathon is the following:
- Venue has to be near public transportation (preferably metro, train)
- Venue of days 1 & 3 has to be easily re-arranged (not fixed positions of chairs, etc.)
- Venue of day 2 has to be used from early morning to late night (or if possible through the night) exclusively from the participants of the event
- Venue of day 2 has to offer options for participants to relax a bit, walking around, going to another nearby place, etc.
Create an Event Team
As the Green Hackathons are intensive events in the sense that help is always wanted with faulty internet connections, practical issues of any kind, etc., it’s better to have from day 1 of the organization of the event, a team set up, that will be handling the whole event, prior to its organization but most importantly during. Apart from the people in charge of the program, venues, etc., it’s really crucial to have people that are in charge of anything that happens while the event unfolds.
Creating a detailed agenda and a scenario (mentioned earlier) is a great help for this as you can then go over it in detail and assign people to specific tasks. One person that will be overlooking everybody is also needed here.
Financial Support of the Hackathon
A hackathon of this proportion can be quite a costly event. For this purpose, reaching out to the industry and other sponsors is of paramount importance if you want to cover some of the costs of the event through sponsoring. To do this in a professional and structured way, you have to assess all the costs involved in this endeavour and then ask for targeted sponsorship that will cover for example, the t-shirts of the event (also printing the logo of the sponsor on it for example). Once you get a cost estimation for each item in your budget list, it will be easier to talk to potential sponsors.
Coming up with a sponsorship scheme of “gold” VS “silver” sponsors, might also be an incentive for bigger companies to take a part in this, looking to be the overall sponsor for the event for example. But most important of all, remember that each sponsorship package goes hand in hand with the respective promotion of the sponsor through the event, so plan this carefully and offer online and offline placement of the sponsor’s logo.
Registration to the Hackathon
Knowing how many people you are going to accommodate in such events is always really helpful in terms of planning for supplies, t-shirts and other items that are closely related to how many people will actually show up. In this case, you will need to set up a simple and straightforward registration process that will work on its own and will let you know how many people are actually coming to the event. The platform we used in Athens was Eventbrite. Some advice to keep in mind when using this or any other similar tool:
- Describe the event thoroughly, with all the details needed but not too detailed – for this, you have the event wiki or website
- Make sure that the directions on how to reach the venue of the event are solid
- Limit the number of maximum participants and allow each person that registers to purchase only one ticket to avoid people booking half of the event and never showing up
- Set a small payment for the participants to register which can be the value of the t-shirt they will get, or some more (i.e. 20 euros) that they will get back when they show up at the event
- If you don’t feel like following the previous advice, then once someone registers, communicate with them to ask their CV etc and start a screening process that will allow you to have a list of participants and some alternative to whom you will open the event once someone from the initially registered cancels on you
Create Awareness around the Hackathon
The steps that were followed in the Athens 2012 Green Hackathon related to making people aware of our event, were:
- Created a dedicated event page on the Green Hackathon website
- Created a wiki page with detailed information on the event and its process
- Started a Facebook group for the event
- Published news and announcements through the Green Hackathon Twitter account
In general, make sure that you create these channels in time (or take advantage of the existing ones) so that people get to know about your event and plan their participation. Having also a nice announcement text that can be reused in portals, blogs and other websites, along with the logo of the Green Hackathon series, is helpful to get some publicity around the event through different media.
Make sure that you create an informative practicalities’ document that contains a detailed description of the venues (as well as photos of them) and information on the hotels that the participants can look for accommodation at. The practicalities’ document has to be available both online and also sent to the participants offline.
Information on the social events during the hackathon have to also be provided in the document.
Program & Scenario of Hackathon
For the hackathon event, a program has to be prepared that accounts for all the sessions of the event and describes them in detail so that it can be distributed to the participants. This program is public, i.e. open to everyone attending the event or not. In parallel, a scenario is useful for the hackathon. All the main sessions of the event are described in detail but from an event-internal perspective, meaning that the practicalities and responsibilities for each session are defined in it. This scenario is used so that all the responsibilities for running a smooth event are assigned but it’s also used in real time, as the event takes place. Experience has shown that when the event is prepared in such detail, it’s really easy to carry out when it takes place.
In our version of a Green Hackathon, during the first day, speeches of “Data Owners” and “Data Users” are hosted! We give to the speakers 10 minutes with no questions in the end, to talk to us about their data in the first case, and about their needs related to data available in their domain (case of Data Users).
For this session, local holders of data have to be contacted, like environmental ministries, national projects, etc. whereas for the data user part, people working on environmental education are a good case. You will be needing eloquent speakers with great experience in their domain that can serve as inspiration for the hackers so that they come up with inspired ideas for their hacks. Especially the data users are the ones that will bring real needs into the event, making the time spent on hacking more worthwhile! Examples of similar speeches will be added into this section from the Athens Green Hackathon as we go!
The Athens Green Hackathon organizing committee gave away three (3) awards for the best hacks created during the event as well as one featured award. The awards were given based on a pre-defined voting process that involved all participants to the event. The panel members are the main actors behind the awards, deciding on two out of four awards whereas another one was given by the entire audience of the event and one more were special awards, funded by a specific project that are given based on the decision of both the panel members and the representative of each project/initiative.
More specifically, the panel members, prior to the presentation of the hacks, were given a form containing three (possibility to extend to four) metrics that evaluated different aspects of the proposed hacks. The metrics proposed are the following (in the AGH 2012, only the third one was not used):
- Environmental Impact: This metric assesses the degree to which the hack proposed will be beneficial/influential to the environment
- Idea Innovation: This metric assess the degree to which the idea is new and presents and approach that is novel to the problem it attempts to tackle
- Technical Maturity: This metric assesses the degree to which the hack has been developed from a technical viewpoint and shows the technical work behind it
- Business Idea: This metric assesses the business value that lies behind the hack idea in terms of possible business models that can emerge from it, making it sustainable and financially viable
The panel members provide their evaluations using a Likert scale from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. In parallel, the audience is given a couple of white papers, prepared especially for the ceremony (so no duplicates can be made) and a marker. When the presentations are finished, all the hacks are reminded to the audience by their title and their creator(s) standing up so that everyone remembers everyone. Additionally, a list with all the hacks is prepared and posted in the room, next to a big box that would accept all the audience votes. Each member of the audience could note down two numbers (corresponding to hacks) and put the pieces of paper in the box, under the supervision of two assigned persons from the organizers. In the end, all votes were also counted and noted down.
The awards that were given, along with the explanation related to the voting processes that took place, are the following:
- Best Green Hack: The hack that sums up to the highest score from the panel members,
- Biggest Environmental Impact Hack: The hack that sums up to the highest score in the dimension “Environmental Impact” based on the panel evaluations (if the same one was also voted as the “Best Green Hack”, the runner-up was chosen),
- People’s Choice Hack: The hack that collects most votes from the audience of the event. Again, in the case that the most popular was awarded one of the previous awards, the runner-up was awarded instead,
- Best Cultural/Educational Hack: The hack that was related to environmental education/culture which means, that it made use of an education/culture dataset and was evaluated the highest from the panel members among similar/relevant hacks
Document the Hackathon
One important aspect of every event that also comes into place in the case of a hackathon is the one of documenting everything. Photos and videos of the event are really necessary for letting people that were not there, know what you have been up to. This material also helps with future events when people that want to attend them search for photos from previous years so that they know what to expect.
One person has to be around at all times, documenting parts of the hackathon such as:
- Speeches of invited data users and data owners
- Group work
- Hacking process
- Presentation of hacks
- Presentation of awards
Additionally, make sure that you also set up the appropriate Youtube and Flickr channels or just provide tags to the participants, asking them to use these to upload all the material they create during the event.
All these “small” things
To make this guide as compact as possible, we decided to focus on the main parts of a hackathon to create the checklist above. For all the other stuff that had to be in here and we did not want to go really extensive about them, we created this section. Please find below a list of all these “small” things that might be common sense to some, but still they are quite critical for organizing a green hackathon so they have to be mentioned, just in case! If you have answers to these questions, on top of all of the above, you’re most probably, good to go!
- Did you assign someone to transport all the needed material and food to the event venue(s)?
- Do you have a really solid-strong connection in the venue, or more? (one 4Mbits connection is not considered such)
- Do you have enough plugs/power outlets to go around?
- Did you cover all the catering options? Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks…
- Do you have one person in charge of all the incidents that might happen during the hackathon?
- Do you have name tags for all registered participants and invited speakers?
- Did you arrange your social event(s)?
- Did you think about vegetarians and special food requirements during the social events as well as everyday catering?
- Did you upload all your APIs and Datasets on a website for the hackers to get easy access to? Are they working properly?
- Did you organize a sleeping/relaxing facility?
- Do you have a backup laptop in case one of the teams needs one?
- Are all the registration processes set up and prepared? Registration at the start of event/hack registrations/presentation registrations.
- Did you print the hack evaluation forms and all other material needed? (participants’ lists, etc.)