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How the Capsule Hackathon Bridges Sustainability and Corporate Innovation to Produce a Record-Breaking Event

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Hackathons are a special breed of events for their role in innovation. Originating in the tech industry, hackathons have been adopted across almost every segment and come in all shapes and sizes. The collaborative nature and mind share allows for rapid creation of ideas. Companies and industries continue to use hackathons to extract innovative ideas with individuals who can build them. If there is something that needs this innovative approach more than anything, its the climate crisis. 

Hackathons have become a crucial channel for generating new ideas and connecting with the people who can bring them to life. We’ve all heard how challenging it is for large companies to keep innovating, which is why Fortune 1000 companies are adopting hackathons as an integral component of their innovation pipelines. As large companies enhance their corporate social responsibility efforts, their interest in certain technologies overlaps with climate-focused solutions.

Seeing opportunity in the alignment of the need for corporate innovation, Experimental Civics is hosting Capsule 2020 with the participation of key partners. Capsule is a civic hackathon hosting over 4,000 hackers on June 20-21, 2020 in Austin, Texas to hack forward 500+ projects that all intersect with the environment.

Through various strategic partnerships with universities, corporate innovation labs, and non-governmental bodies, the innovation pipeline extends beyond the two-day hackathon event.

Early partner support

Nothing happens without the involvement of strategic and passionate partners. In the roster of community partners is Oxford AI Society, where VP of Partnerships, Ruben Drayton states, “Partnerships are very important for us in reaching more people and inching closer to our mission. Hackathons are where brilliant people come together to create novel solutions, and the spirit of Capsule reflects our goal of connecting AI talent with multidisciplinary problems for drastically improved answers to the most complex issues of our time. We are therefore excited to be able to see what comes out of the event, and hope to bridge Oxford’s AI knowledge with other communities around the world.”

An early partner of Capsule is The Earth Hacks Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to building grassroots environmental hackathons at universities. Also confirmed, is Tech Together, a student-run nonprofit that equips individuals with the tools and resources necessary to host an all-female and non-binary hackathon with the mission to end the gender hack gap in technology. Zero Waste Strategies, an Austin-based waste diversion, and consultancy group is a sustainability partner helping to reduce waste created at the event. Additional community partners include Welti, Youth Climate Leaders, and Key Conservation.

“Partnerships are at the heart of innovation. For Key Conservation, we are working to help conservation efforts on a global scale and to be able to do that we need to have our eyes and ears to the pulse of these efforts happening around the world. Our partnerships are crucial in allowing us to have these insights so we are not only building something that can be useful globally but they allow us access to local knowledge, personal in-field experiences, areas of expertise and to see the world from a different perspective, which is priceless. One of the more exciting features of the Key Conservation app is the ability for skilled professionals to use their skills to help conservation organizations. When we heard about how Capsule was bringing people from all over the world, from different skill sets to help tackle climate change we knew we had to be involved. We truly believe that no matter what you do for a living you can use those skills to make a difference which is exactly what Capsule is working to do.”

Megan Cromp, Director at Key Conservation

Innovation Pipeline

Capsule’s founder, Sarah Sharif, has successfully helped clients like Redbull, Google Fiber, and Mozilla to extract 6-figure ideas while also impacting their social bottom line. Sharif’s relevant, high-level unique experiences serve as a cornerstone in her efforts to execute on Capsule. Sharif is a former Director of ATX Hack for Change, winner of a Mozilla Science Grant in 2019 for her work with Life Sci Hack, and Judge for both the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund and City of Austin’s Gigabit Fund awarding over $310K to spur the generation of local social enterprises.

As an 18-month innovation program, Capsule uses the 2-day hackathon to bring together everyone that is involved throughout the process. Before the event, organizations and individuals are welcome to submit project ideas to lead and spread the word.

It takes a village

Hackathon projects are just projects at first, but the real goal is to see promising projects evolve into actual businesses. Diversity is key when it comes to organizing hacking teams with complementary skills. Participating hackers come from all sorts of backgrounds including students, developers, designers, scientists, entrepreneurs and more. 

A common misconception is that you need to have technical skills to participate in hackathons, but that is not the case with Capsule since the aim is to build a business that needs many diverse minds. Anyone looking to participate in Capsule to be a part of breaking a world record is welcome to share their project ideas during open call Jan. 27, 2020 – Apr. 15, 2020. Finalists will be announced on May 4, 2020.

“We need all the builders, doers, makers, creators, thinkers, and leaders to get involved now. The complexities of the climate crisis present certain challenges that I believe our hackathon formula is well equipped to overcome.”

Sarah Sharif, Founder of Experimental Civics and Founder of Capsule

Those who submit their project ideas will have their proposed idea go through the project selection process and finalists will have to be present at the event in order to run the project as a project lead. 

On-site support from a small army of volunteers will help the event run smoothly. Volunteers support all event functions from traffic control, runner duties, event setup, event takedown, greeter, information, etc. Volunteer training will be provided before the event and all volunteer-related affairs will be tracked using the volunteer management system, GivePulse. 

An ambitious goal of solving the climate crisis needs to be met with an equally ambitious approach. That’s exactly what Capsule offers with a civic hackathon, focus on open science, diverse participants, and a support network for the continued development of promising projects. 

Peter Salib is a Columnist at Disrupt, Thrive Global, Grit Daily, and several other publications covering events, tech, startups, gadgets, founders, and telling awesome stories. Based in NJ, he is an avid participant of events nationwide who's attended CES in Las Vegas consecutively for the past 8 years and was featured on BoldTV discussing tech trends. Peter currently works for Gadget Flow, a leading product discovery platform reaching 28M consumers every month. He also frequently works with startups on media, content writing, events, and sales. His dog, Scruffy, was a guest product model on the Today Show with Kathy Lee & Hoda and was dubbed "Scruffy the Wonder Dog."

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