Hack for Humanity is an annual humanitarian focused hackathon at Brown University that brings together students to learn about the most pressing needs in the human rights and humanitarian sphere and develop creative ideas for innovative programs or technologies that could help improve the lives of disaster and conflict affected communities around the world. There will be a $3,000 seed grant given to the winning team!
In the recent earthquake that took place in February 2023 in Turkey and Syria, UN agencies and International Non-Governmental Organizations alike criticized the humanitarian response and short comings of the response. Issues raised ranged from the slow pace of the response to critiques regarding the appropriateness of aid delivery. Similar to many prior emergencies, concerns were raised that the type of assistance delivered and the skill sets of international humanitarian responders did not match the needs of affected populations. Humanitarian assistance continues to employ a “cookie cutter” or “top down” approach, as opposed to one which is guided by the concerns and needs of communities affected by conflict and disaster. While a variety of needs assessment tools have been developed and promulgated by United Nations (UN) agencies and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in recent years, their use, especially in the early phases of an acute onset disaster, have been limited by the time and resources required to collect data from affected populations.
This year's hackathon will focus on how to better prepare for and respond to humanitarian emergencies through community centered design. Students will work together over the course of two days to develop creative ideas for innovative programs, systems, or technologies that could improve the humanitarian user experience when responding to disasters or conflict. While your team has the flexibility to address any area that is applicable to the overarching topic of community centered design, we have provided a list of potential subtopics that you could draw from to narrow your focus. It will also be important for your team to consider the cross cutting issues mentioned below as you work towards developing your project pitch.
Potential Sub-Topics to Consider
These listed sub-topics have been provided to help your team get started in identifying a focus area to address. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives an indication of the potential areas where community centered design could be applied Your team is welcomed to focus your efforts on one of these sub-topics or identify another area altogether that is applicable to the overarching theme.
Use of new technologies including social media and mobile phones to identify affected populations, collect data on their needs, or transfer aid directly in the form of cash or mobile credit
Ensuring quality and confidentiality of data collected from populations in humanitarian emergencies, especially when their government is a party to an ongoing conflict
Types of local organizations to consider: National organizations; Community based organizations; religious and secular organizations; professional associations and trade unions; advocacy groups
How to work with local partners in locations where the government pushes back or may be the cause of a situation that requires humanitarian response.
Early warning systems; Anticipatory funding mechanisms; Adaptation and resilience strategies
Possible use of new technologies or revisit old methodologies.
Developing AI algorithms that can be applied ethically and responsibly to humanitarian response efforts
Application of AI to visual data such as satellite or drone images during emergencies
Humanitarian responders need to consistently listen to and advocate for those most negatively impacted by humanitarian crises, including but not limited to racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous communities, elderly, women, children, and marginalized groups. As such, a proper community centered humanitarian design supports and ensures the rights of these groups as well as the adherence to internationally recognized human rights.
We ask that your team take these following issues into consideration as you work on your project pitch to ensure your solutions are inclusive and reach those that are disproportionately affected during a humanitarian emergency.