Together with Manchester Digital and Sigma, we organised the Homeless Hack event. As Valtech’s new Manchester based Marketing Executive, it was great for me to be involved in an event which aims to tackle a local issue, plus it was the first event of its scale I had been involved with at Valtech.
The design sprint-like event has also taken place a couple of times in London, encouraging collaboration and helping support those currently facing life on the street. Along with the other organisers, we jumped at the chance to bring the Homeless Hack to Manchester.
Manchester has the highest figure of homelessness in the North West of England, with an estimated 2,000 people living on the streets or in temporary accommodation. The latest figures show that rough sleeping in Greater Manchester has soared by more than 40% in the last year! Together we aim to build a community that can offer sustained help and on-going support to charities and vital programmes of work.
Charity experts helped to compile the challenges for the Homeless Hack. The Hack Challenge themes were:
- Breaking the cycle
- Preventing homelessness
- Helping charities and volunteer groups
- Building on existing work
Attendees heard from Street Support Network, The Greater Manchester Homeless Action Group and Greater Manchester Police. They had the time to ask questions and share ideas with the experts before the teams formed and the hacking started. We were also honoured to be in the company of Mooch and Linda, who shared their experiences of living on the street. Other organisations who contributed were Transport for Greater Manchester, BT, The Albert Kennedy Trust, Swirrl, Manchester City Council and ukgovcamp. Having so much support from the experts really helped set the tone of the event and frame the issue in ways the participants could appreciate.
Loaded with pizza, the hacking commenced and #HomelessHack was trending on Twitter! (yes, I was very proud of this). The projects being brought to the table were incredible, from a system allowing the public to flag vulnerable people on the street helping them get the support they need, to a lottery-based fundraising app. It was fascinating to see that within 24 hours, teams had carried out user research, had designed logos and had even built prototypes. It was inspiring to see the amount of effort that went into every project. We even suspected some sleepless developers returning the next day who looked like they had spent all night working away. On Saturday the hack teams pitched their ideas to the judges.
The high standard of results gave the judges a difficult job choosing a winner. After much deliberation, they chose ‘Stop the Spiral’ as the winning project. Their concept centred around preventing homelessness by offering those at risk a place to stay in a spare room. Based on a model that merges Air BnB with foster care, the system would match those in need with those who show empathy, ideally before they become homeless. The team even came up with a slogan “Don’t give change, create it”. We think with the right policies and procedures, it could work.
It was incredible to see people with different skillsets coming together to create positive changes. Nobody cared about winning, it was just genuine people collaborating and wanting to help make a difference. It was an absolute privilege to be able to host the Homeless Hack in our Manchester office. See you next time hackers!