From July 10-12, 2016 the Posner Center held its second annual Poverty Hack. This 2.5-day event challenged participants to develop innovative solutions to address challenges faced by our Tenants in their work internationally. The event brought together nearly 50 full event participants from a broad array of sectors, including tech, education, international development, and journalism. One participant shared that the Poverty Hack “wasn’t just a thought experiment – our efforts were going toward something useful for the organization in the real world.”
This year, the Posner Center selected the challenges of three Tenant organizations. These ‘Challenge Organizations’ were: Africa Agenda, Starfish, and The Women’s Bakery. Africa Agenda’s challenge asked participants to create a new digital strategy with the aim of presenting a more holistic perspective of the continent. Starfish’s challenge focused on creating a monitoring and evaluation platform combined with a social network to improve contact between Starfish and their graduates and strengthen program outcomes. The Women’s Bakery wanted a SMS messaging system to enable their entrepreneurs to keep track of sales, increase accountability, and remain safe.
Each Challenge Organization had three teams of 5-7 people working on their challenge. Teams brainstormed, debated approaches, mapped out new strategies, and began coding solutions to the challenges. Posner Center organizers, Challenge Organization representatives, and supportive “Sparks” provided guidance to teams as they worked through challenges. By Tuesday in the early afternoon, each team presented their proposed solution to their respective Challenge Organization. Each Challenge Organization selected one team to advance to the final round.
An impressive judging panel was tasked with the difficult job of selecting the event winner from the three finalist teams. The judges spanned different professional backgrounds including Ann Hudock, the VP of International Programs at Plan International, Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water for People and Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz, lead Android Developer for Tack Mobile. Ultimately, the judging panel selected final team for the The Women’s Bakery (TWB) challenge. The winning solution developed by the team was a simple, text-based mobile tool that will increase the effectiveness of the TWB entrepreneurs. In just 2.5 days of coding, the team developed a prototype that was simple for end users, relying on short characters or codes to indicate sales transactions, while providing rich and detailed information to the mobile tool administrators.
The Poverty Hack’s generous Innovator Sponsor, Cognizant Quick Left, committed a $5,000 cash prize to be provided to TWB for the implementation of the proposed solution. TWB is currently building upon the solution provided by the winning team using Azure as the central platform. They are completing initial work domestically, then will utilize a Rwandan developer to finalize the product for launch. Simultaneously, TWB is working directly with their entrepreneurs to further assess their technological capacity, develop effective training content, and create a roll-out process to ensure effective implementation.
Stay tuned on the Posner Center Blog for updates about all of the Challenge Organizations and the next steps emerging from Poverty Hack 2.0!