Berlin Hackathon with Random Hacks of Kindness

It would not be fair to call our initiative social-digital if we only focused on the social part when incubating the projects. Don’t misunderstand me, a big chunk of the incubation program is about formulating a Theory of Change, ensuring your impact chain makes sense, finding your social business model, writing your business plan, learning about financing and marketing for social enterprises. But we did not pick the coolest social solutions building on digital tools for impact to then let that part go to waste!

To kickstart the conversation, we organised a day of workshops with Kaustubh Shrikanth  and Jan-Christoph Borchardt, both of whom helped us understand the difference between free and open source software, gave insights on the distinctions between licences for codes and content, what the benefits of being open source are, what legal help is out there… And first GitHub accounts were set up.

The hackathon would never have happened without the Global Innovation Gathering  network, where I met the fantastic Chinmayi a few years ago. Chinmayi and I have been plotting a lot about how to make technical solutions sustainable in the long term, and fortunately, the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Berlin chapter was being brought back to life just when we were looking for a tech partner with values similar to ours. So it made perfect sense to work together! RHoK has been very successful at working with the non-profit sector and bringing together techies looking for a purpose all over the world, and enabling them to create meaningful solutions. Although the hackathon was not organized for a few years in Berlin, a group of volunteers came together quickly and supported this cooperation.


A month of intensive outreach, a central Berlin location, liters of steaming coffee and some delicious Indian food did the trick: a group of people ready to hack for good gathered on a rainy Saturday morning to help develop some urgently needed prototypes:

  • Lensshift, working towards fixing the harm caused by misguided impact and aid, was looking for help with a scrolling infographic generator, 
  • Free the Data, creating a safer digital future by reclaiming data and privacy, pitched for help with integration of real-time data into an existing web-based maps, and 
  • FinTech for the Unbanked, a platform helping low-income people save and use their money better, needed to prototype a rotating savings and credit association (ROSCA) system.

Would it surprise you if I told you they came away with much more than that? In about 36 hours, Lensshift received a basic platform built on wordpress and a real time database was hacked for storing and distributing their data and documents, Free the Data demonstrated a working prototype showing different data tracked and visualized on a map and FinTech for the Unbanked got a lot of insight into how many participants’ mothers used the ROSCA system themselves, and came up with different incentives to retain users and create a credit history for previously unbanked people.

We all came away with the sense of belonging to a community, with new friendships and hopefully, future collaborations. Fingers crossed that RHoK is organised again soon in Berlin, we will be there to cheer them on for sure!