DIGIEDUHACK-101: Running an online hackathon with no budget?
Does online hackathon equal 0 expense? Let's check this out!
This title is definitively a click-bait: you cannot run an online hackathon with absolutely no budget. And if you manage to do it, this probably means that you're ripping someone off in the process, which is against all DigiEduHack values. But there are ways to lower your budget if you keep a rule in mind: last-minute fixes can be expensive, while well-prepared solutions will save you big bucks.
As a DigiEduHack (future) host, you have the responsibility to be fair with everyone taking part in your event. This applies of course to all your participants, but this also goes for all your crew, from jury members to volunteers: collaborate with people, don't exploit and exhaust your crew, have enough staff, don't save on human resources, and take good care of your crew members: provide them with food, drinks, resting time, ...). Trust your team and empower your team members. Acknowledge their input: planning/organising/promoting/running a hackathon means hours of effort and expertise. This time invested to make your event a success has value, especially when your team is made of volunteers. All your crew members invest time and skills in your event because they believe in it. Their contribution brings an immense added value to your hackathon. Don't take their participation for granted, be fair and thankful!
A great event needs a great team!
The more you can do yourself, the less you will have to pay for. As much as this may sound like a truism, this should be your motto when considering getting your core team and your event crew on board (you don't know what a core team/ an event crew are? Check our Complete Host Book): try to gather around you people that have skills that will be useful when crafting/launching/running your hackathon. Activate your networks, share the DigiEduHack vision on co-creating the future of digital education and appeal to convictions to get crew members joining your project. Gather enough crew members so that no one should be overwhelmed by the awaiting tasks: if you plan to recruit 200 participants to your DigiEduHack event, get enough jury members to assess all the proposed solutions. Having to do a last-minute scale-up of your event crew is a costly nightmare that you can and should avoid.
Engage and mobilize your own network!
If you're considering taking part in DigiEduHack as a host, chances are that you have something to do with education or technology or both. This also means that you have an existing network of partners, supporters, sympathisers, co-workers, fellow stakeholders, peers, who also have their own network. That's already quite a lot of people, which gives you a large platform for recruiting team members as well as participants and for communicating on your DigiEduHack event. And because this is YOUR network... you don't need to pay for it, you don't need to run ads or create time-consuming material. Use or get inspiration from the "Recruit participants!" tab in our Resources page, and spread the word. If you have specific marketing needs, we can help: drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Freemium and open-source to the rescue!
We explain it all in detail in a previous article: you only need three tools to run a successful DigiEduHack online event (you can use more, but these three tools are the minimum required!). These tools are your digieduhack.com event pages, an omnichannel chat board and an online visual meeting tool. And good news, all these tools can be found for free.
When you sign-up as a DigiEduHack host you have access to a set of your very own event pages on digieduhack.com This allows you to create the base platform for your DigiEduHack event: these pages will display all the needed info, from the detailed event day schedule to the name of the jurors to the detailed description of your challenge. Use these pages to recruit and register your participants so that at the end of your DigiEduHack event, all your teams can upload their solutions directly on digieduhack.com. This gives you a free, hands-on, practical judging platform.
There are two main types of omnichannel chat boards: open-source platforms and proprietary platforms. All open-source omnichannel chat boards are 100% free to use, provided that you can install and self-host them. Rocket.Chat, Mattermost belong to this category. Proprietary chat boards, such as Slack, are freemiums: you can use them for free with some limitations. In the case of Slack, if you intend to use the board solely to run your DigiEduHack event, the free version should fit your needs.
Online visual meeting tools
Last but not least, your online visual meeting tool. Here again, you have the choice between totally free-to-use open-source solutions such as Jitsi provided that you can install and self-host them or freemium solutions such as Google Meet, Zoom, Webex, Teams, BlueJeans... Check well and compare before choosing, as each freemium have different limitations (number of simultaneous participants, length, etc)
Your best incentive? IMPACT!
We're touching the nerve of war when it comes to hackathons: the prizes. Prizes are definitively important, but does it means that the highest the prizes the more the participants will join? And what prizes are we talking about?
Originally and historically, hackathons were organised for developers as a way to solve the issue(s), showcase their programming skills and activities for the common good. Period. During OpenBSD in 1999, the very first hackathon in history, participants even had to pay for their own travel (but were granted free accommodations and food) because the aim of this event was to co-create an innovation that would be made available for anyone to use: the final version of the IPv6 protocol
And that's the spirit behind these original hackathons. The only prize was the glory of finding a viable solution to a technical bug or co-creating innovations, and having this solution/innovation implemented "in real life" for anyone to use it. Hackathons have evolved to become, for some occurrences, cash machines focused on proprietary solutions/innovations (wink the still-controversial-to-this-day 2013 Salesforce-sponsored hackathon with a million-dollar prize.
DigiEduHack is different: it's a hackathon with a social dimension, focusing on co-creation, collaboration and innovation-sharing. Sure, as a DigiEduHack host, you can offer prizes: it's a form of acknowledgement and appreciation of the work done by the teams. But the main motivation for participants to join and take part in your DigiEduHack event should be that their co-created solution could have an actual positive impact on people's lives.
And THIS is priceless.