“Three Days to Change the World!”

(Left to right) Caitlin Hafer and Sophie Benoit. Picture credit: Bryan Meade 

October 13th 2020


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” - American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978)  


Do you want to make the world a better place? Would you like to brainstorm how we might improve mental health in the workplace, the numbers of women in STEM or the corporate uptake of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? A fun place to thrash out these three deep and meaningful issues is at the upcoming Good Summit Good Hackathon which runs from October 21-23, 9am to 12pm.

What exactly is it? The Good Summit is an annual event “for people who know things can be done differently” and speakers this year include former President Mary McAleese and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull among many others. While tickets are free, donations to nominated charities are encouraged. The Good Summit also partners for the first time with Sophie Benoit and Caitlin Hafer (pictured above), founders of What the Hack, an organisation that offers tailored, sustainability-focused hackathon events for universities, large corporations or any other interested parties. Their three-day Good Summit Good Hackathon aims to better understand the barriers companies face when it comes to implementing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. 

“Everybody is welcome to sign up. I would love to have a mix of students, PhDs and professionals and to have different points of view and backgrounds,” says Sophie, adding that the hackathon is on in the morning and does not clash with the afternoon’s Good Summit speakers. 

Hackathon participants will be put into mixed-skills teams of five and tasked with researching and understanding the issues that affect their problem statement - either women in STEM, mental health or sustainability. 

If you want you can sign up as a team but most people sign up as individuals and we put them together,” explains Caitlin. “Each team will have a tech person, a business person, a marketing person...”

Teams will share their ideas in online break-out rooms – What the Hack uses Discord software and each team will have its own easy-to-use text and video channels. It is “an interactive online hack for good” with the aspirational tagline: “Three Days to Change the World!” 

But aren’t hackathons usually about data and not ideas?

“It’s the same process for problem-solving that you would apply to a data problem - What’s the issue? What’s the main cause? And you fix that main cause and open it up,” explains Caitlin.

The event will culminate in teams presenting their understanding of their assigned problem statement, their findings on the barriers preventing companies from implementing CSR best practices, and suggestions for simple solutions.

Other than changing the world, fringe benefits include gaining new knowledge, new skills and a strong network of like-minded thinkers. There are also more tangible prizes.

“For the problem statement around women in STEM, the teams will present their findings to Huawei and the winning team wins Huawei watches,” says Sophie. There are other opportunities and prizes, pitching to Gas Networks Ireland and Meaningful Business. 

But for Sophie, the ideal outcome of the hackathon is to see their fledgling ideas and tentative solutions further teased out and implemented by participating companies.

“That would really show what this co-creation can achieve.”


This article was brought to you by UCD Institute for Discovery - fuelling interdisciplinary research.