Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Free Press Unlimited staff, designers, students and other experts have put their heads together for out of the box solutions to real-life challenges at our first ever hackathon.

Forty participants spent two days in October brainstorming, concept designing and pitching intensively around the theme 'Hack the media'.

Organised by Free Press Unlimited and Studio Why, the event was aimed at boosting innovation by enabling people to break out of their normal thinking routines.

"Part of innovation is getting out of your everyday way of thinking: thinking outside of the box, breaking things open, being pressured to come up with crazy wild ideas which you can then narrow down to realistic ideas," said co-organiser Bethel Tsegaye.

"It's interesting to see how people go through these change processes by having intense discussions, validating and re-validating, which we don't get to do on an everyday basis."

Four media challenges

Participants were tasked with tackling one of four challenges faced by the media by engaging journalists, technical and non-technical creatives.

They included developing a podcast to break the information gap on media in non-western countries and finding a way to search for missing migrant and refugee children in Europe using investigative journalism.

A series of short masterclasses on how to develop a concept guided participants through the process. Bringing the innovators together with their target groups gave their ideas a greater chance of success, said co-organiser Peter van Lier.

"Without checking with the people the idea is really meant for, you have a very big chance your idea stays what it is: a nice idea nobody wants," he said.

Augmented reality podcast

The winning concept, a podcast which relies on augmented reality to highlight key moments in the narrative, won €2.500 in seed funding to further develop the concept.

Team member Amy Vis believes fresh perspectives and critical questions enabled her group to come up with a better idea.

"Every time we thought 'Oh we've done it, time to have coffee', someone would come by and ask us a question - and everything would be thrown on its head," she said.

She added: "Hackathons are traditionally seen as a digital thing - when you're in a hackathon you're usually making an app or solving a technological problem. It was nice to see this format can be used for solving other kinds of problems and issues that our partners might be dealing with."

The hackathon was hosted by A-Lab in Amsterdam on October 17 and 18. To participate in future hackathons, follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Winners of the two-day FPU hackathon

Photos: Studio Why