Operating a digital hackathon

Operating a digital hackathon

DWP Digital lately organised a digital hackathon. We be taught the map it went, and the fundamental takeaways

Cliff Saran


Revealed: 27 Jul 2021 14: 45

The pandemic has made it almost very now potentially now not for organisations to flee in-person hackathon events, where developers can take part in groups on an view, relish pizza and drink beer.

Earlier in July, the Division for Work and Pensions (DWP) ran its first digital hackathon, Hack2Work, which ran over three days and used to be staged on a Microsoft Groups collaboration platform supported by MongoDB.

Discussing how the hackathon used to be situation up and flee, Jacqui Leggetter, head of integration at DWP Digital, said that previous events had been hosted in DWP digital hubs, which brought collectively groups of developers. But as a result of the pandemic, this hackathon match wished to be operated remotely.

“Our first on-line hackathon spread out a chance to of us that weren’t free to go,” she said. “Participants came from all corners of the UK, and globally.” In fact, some participants had been from India and the US.

Amongst the challenges of working a digital hackathon match used to be the supreme technique to manoeuvre of us into diverse rooms, conserving them concerned and the distribution of “swag” bags. Discussing the preparations, Leggetter added: “We checked out what style of platform we wished, studio capabilities and opening up the match to dealer partners and the broader world.”

DWP worked with MongoDB to fabricate the platform for the hackathon. The premise used to be to dangle a platform that provided interactivity for the hackathon groups who had been establishing code remotely, said Leggetter, and the ability to consume chunk-sized chunks of voice material that had been associated to the challenge the group used to be tasked with fixing.

“We wished them to deem the challenge we’re trying to solve, which is ready recovering from the pandemic,” she said.

In the hole presentation, the developers heard concerning the implications of Covid-19, job losses and the affect on Current Credit score customers.

This overview used to be followed by displays from work coaches, who talked about their challenges in helping of us bring collectively aid to work. This used to be followed by a sequence of “lightning talks”, said Leggetter, which integrated discussions on nationwide and native insurance policies.

TalkTalk confirmed a video about its Kickstart programme, which used to be funded by the DWP and created unique job placements for 16 to 24-yr-olds on Current Credit score. On the side of these lightning talks, DWP’s innovation lab spoke about unconstrained innovation and what Leggetter described as “the art work of the doable”. Every lightning focus on used to be flee twice and now sits on DWP’s voice material hub, she added.

Developer groups had been then formed around a explicit hack, with every having its dangle digital group station. Leggetter said the match used to be in a position to bring of us, about a of them total strangers, collectively as digital developer groups that worked on a hack for three days. “There used to be a range of fluctuate of groups, and every person upped their game,” she added.

Reflecting on the tips that had been created over the three days, Leggetter said: “I used to be blown away by the usual of the entries. All americans used to be working remotely alongside of us they’d by no map met (fair about) till the first day of the hack, and yet they level-headed came up with inconceivable tips and developed them to a in reality impressive accepted.”

Out of 24 doable tips, the groups that took fragment within the hackathon worked on 11 diverse complications to intention coding hacks for. “Every group had now not decrease than one work coach,” said Leggetter, “which in reality enabled them to dwelling in on the challenge assertion.”

The 11 groups, made up of 109 participants, comprised DWP workers and digital experts from organisations including GDS, the NHS, CreatorSphere, Solidatus and sponsors MongoDB, ScottLogic, Opencast, Kong, Crimson Hat and IBM. 

Leggetter said the groups benefited from fluctuate of thinking. “The groups had been now not heavily loaded with engineers or industry analysts,” she said. “They had a factual mix of abilities and a factual balance of starting up managers, engineers and work coaches.”

The developers who took fragment within the hackathon also had access to a range of DWP and start application programming interfaces (APIs). As an illustration, a couple APIs provided access to citizen take a look at data. For Leggetter, the utilization of APIs challenged the conventional technique to challenge fixing and featured heavily within the hacks submitted.

As an illustration, she said, developers wished to deem where they’d lunge, in the case of APIs, to bring collectively the working out that tells whether a job emptiness is within three miles of a postcode. This would possibly possibly maybe also fair require utilizing data held by Transport for Larger Manchester or Ordnance Look for.

In fact, idea to be a few of the successful tips, RouteToWork, uses APIs to tie collectively functionality from a range of govt companies, equivalent to the Nationwide Careers Carrier and data accessed utilizing the Build of job for Nationwide Statistics’ APIs. The appliance matches jobseekers to the opportunities that are associated and native to them.

RouteToWork used to be constructed utilizing the gov.uk prototyping kit, Nunjucks used to be used as a template and it used to be written in JavaScript and HTML, with an Explicit.js server aid-stop.

Leggetter said she used to be amazed by the “fully fabulous quality of hacking”. As as to whether any of the hackathon initiatives are inclined to be rolled out, she said DWP plans to intention some observe-up evaluation work on the tips submitted. “We can would like to intention a diminutive extra feasibility work, but we’re now not ruling out anything else,”  she added.

As a result of map the challenge areas for the hackathon submissions had been defined, the submitted code is granular, which presents DWP extra opportunities to encompass them into other initiatives. 

Digital and hybrid approaches

Be pleased an in-person hackathon, participants had been in a position to fragment free pizzas – albeit over a video hyperlink. They also bought swag bags, despatched within the put up ahead of the match.

With many organisations having a view at a hybrid technique to work, where of us consume about a of their time at dwelling, the Hack2Work hackathon shines a gentle on the effectiveness of digital group collaboration.

Andrew Morgan, workers developer recommend at MongoDB, says he misses genuine hackathon events where of us are locked in a room and fragment pizzas. “I feel extra concerning the challenge going ahead,” he said.

For an match lasting three days, Morgan said it is doable to dangle of us that intention now not know every other to collaborate fair about. The challenge is what occurs when fragment of the group is within the office, while some group participants kind money working from dwelling.

In Morgan’s journey, if of us dangle an existing work relationship, a faraway person is also brought into a gaggle and work successfully. But this is principal more difficult if faraway workers are fragment of group comprising office-essentially based completely workers that they’ve got by no map met.

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