130+ Youth Registered. 15 Countries. 5 Continents. 16 projects to fight climate change… It was exactly three months ago now that we did the Climate Change-Makers Challenge. And how fun, inspiring & a tad chaotic it all was, in the best possible way!
Partly as an update for some awesome things that have been happening since and even more to honor the incredible change-making youth who took part, here’s a bit of a reflection 😊
The Inspiration: Credit Ocean Bridge + Hack the Earth!
The year 2020 was tricky in many ways.
Yet, amidst all that engulfed our world, there were two silver linings that helped keep me going (Shitangshu speaking here): One, the chance to rediscover my environmental side at Ocean Bridge (bridge.ocean.org); and two, getting into the world of hackathon-ing, through events like Hack the Earth (which by the way runs again June 4-6, make sure to sign up!).
For me, Ocean Bridge was a life-changer. The program is designed to help Canadian youth take action for ocean conservation… And at a personal level, it was a chance to re-connect with my environmental side after doing a degree in environmental philosophy but shifting careers to the community development and recreation world as I explored other interests. However, when the #FridaysforFuture movement hit in 2019 & as I read more about how climate change was hitting home my country of Bangladesh (here’s some articles), the urgency to do something was there. And a program like Ocean Bridge challenged me to figure out what specifically to do.
And this led me to the hackathon world! Here were these 48-hour events where folks from different backgrounds came together to research, build and out innovations to solve some of our world’s biggest problems. Opportunities to explore ideas in a short time without making too much of a commitment. A chance as well to network & meet future collaborators!
Indeed, my current start-up KAYR, began at a COVID-related global hackathon which we “won” (Virtual Hacks 2020) & had met my co-founder for that at another hackathon where we “lost” but learned a ton from.... And the OATHE Project itself started at Hack the Earth, where we also learned a ton, met future board members & had a chance to explore an idea which doubled-up as a chance to get my service hours in for Ocean Bridge. And that weekend project grew from a seedling of an idea to an incorporated organization with five founding board members from four countries across ten time zones, alongside 400+ Instagram followers, a hired staff member (me, now Paris talking!), multiple sub-projects including a #TrashBeGone pledge campaign to pick up one piece of litter a day, a Global Clean-Up & of course Climate Change-Makers.
So, how did Change-Makers specifically come about? We were challenged by Ocean Bridge to do one more service project, and thought about how impactful hackathons had been to our own history… So, OATHE ideated a bit, put in the proposal, made up stuff since it was our first hackathon & sometimes you need to act like you know what you’re doing and asked for a bunch of funding. INCREDIBLE partners like SURGE, Earth Hacks & the Hack the Earth came on board, provided much-needed help/ support with their more extensive experience running eco-themed hackathons & put in countless hours to support. Ocean Bridge as an organization also believed & OATHE was fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible team to pull it off!
The Weekend Itself: What a Fun Time It Was!
And here’s what happened! On February 26th, more than 100 youth from all over the world gathered virtually for the opening ceremonies of the Climate Change-Makers Challenge. 48% of the participants identified as female, 70% of participants were considered hackathon “newbies”, having competed in fewer than 2 hackathons, a range of backgrounds ranging from engineering to environmental science to business were represented, and there were even three 10 year olds hackers! Through a virtual match-making session on Zoom and introductions on Slack, teams of 2-5 were made, and the challenge began. On the Saturday and Sunday following, teams met with mentors to discuss their ideas and gain expert insight, and also participated in workshops hosted by Zero Waste McMaster and Watering the Grassroots to expand their knowledge on the very issues they were trying to tackle. When Sunday night came, teams submitted their final 4 minute video pitch for the first round of judging.
The Grand Finals Weekend
After the first round of judging, a total of 12 teams qualified for the final round of judging at the Grand Finals, which happened at the Ocean Bridge National Conference on March 6th, 2021. 10 judges from diverse backgrounds ranging from industry to government had the difficult task of deciding which teams would win first, second, and third overall and the best of the rest for each theme. Each team pitched their solution live, and partook in a live Q&A session. After a difficult two hours of judging, the results were in:
Looking beyond the prizes, the hackathon proved to be an great experience for many:
What’s next for the OATHE project?
Update to Come!