Emerging Trends | ICT4SDG | SDG12
March 20, 2017

Hacking the SDGs: #Connect2Effect Hackathon for sustainable consumption and production

By Joseph Gaylord

“What would be revolutionary is if they hacked it so it could be used as a global model.”

“I think they need to focus more. Bring it to the skinniest point and work it from there.”

“Is this a business, or an outreach campaign? How should we look at this?”

These were some of the quotes I heard from fellow judges at the Connect2Effect Hackathon, discussing 10 projects that had been proposed as innovative ways of working to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.

Connect2Effect is a global hackathon, the first in an annual series in partnership between Influx Trust and the SDG Action Campaign of the UNDP. It brings together participants in nine locations – Bali, Bahrain, Geneva, Rio, London, Chandigarh, Lisbon, Lagos and New York – each focusing on a different one of the SDGs.

The purpose of the global hackathons is to launch a crowdfunding site for open collaboration between the UN and the public around the SDGs all year round.

The winners from the nine regions are now competing to win trips to the UN headquarters in New York, to present to the General Assembly President at the Science Technology & Innovation Forum on 15-16th May.

The Geneva event was run collaboratively by the Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day association (G3iD), the Impact Hub, the Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

The results from the event were very exciting, with teams coming up with projects on urban farming locally in Geneva, supply chain management for small islands in the Pacific, and means of ensuring that travel choices are more sustainable. The winning team, 24/7, worked to ensure access to anti-retroviral medications to rural and traveling patients in South Africa through a system of vending machine style dispensaries linked to a national ID card system and electronic health records.

One of the participants, Carola Giannone said, “The Connect2Effect hackathon was particularly exciting as it united a group of makers in nine locations around the globe, with every participant sharing the same basic motive: creating innovative businesses for social impact, and rallying around the common goal of achieving the SDGs collaboratively.”

Why hackathons?

Hackathons are part of the modern toolkit of innovation. They are events where designers, technology experts, engineers, business people, and experts in the field are brought together for a marathon session of work on a specific problem. They usually run for between 48 – 72 hours, during which, the participants are expected to form teams, come up with ideas and develop solutions. At the end of that time, the teams generally either pitch or demonstrate their solution, and judges select a winner and/or provide next steps.

The winners, along with many of the other participants, were invited to attend the Geneva Global Goals Innovation Day, or G3iD on March 24. This is an event that brings together people working in fields related to the SDGs, to envision their radical acceleration, aiming to achieve the goals by 2020 instead of 2030.

A robust and dynamic innovation ecosystem is starting to develop in Geneva, with social business and technology experts, academics, UN organizations, NGOs and others coming together to collaborate on innovative projects, technologies and solutions to address major problems in humanitarianism and development, including working to achieve the SDGs.

* An earlier version of this post misidentified the hackathon’s winners.

Joseph Gaylord
Joseph Gaylord @jgaylord87 is an Innovation Support Officer with ITU-D Innovation, focusing on developing reviews of innovation ecosystems and tools for ecosystem analysis and development. Previously, he was the community manager for the ITU Telecom World Young Innovators Competition, and part of the Youth Advisory Group for the BYND2015 Youth Conference. He has worked with social startups in various roles and is part of several projects in the Geneva innovation community. Joseph has a Masters in International Affairs from The Graduate Institute Geneva. He can be reached via joseph.gaylord@itu.int.
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