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A Weekend of Hacking

/ Posted By Amy Hinchliffe

Product Forge is a hackathon where, over a weekend designers, coders, makers, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals come together to solve a problem. This weekend’s theme was working in partnership with Shelter Scotland  to form possible solutions to Scotland’s housing crisis. I offered my involvement in user experience to mentor the teams at the event. 

The focus of the weekend was to develop digital solutions through prototyping. On the first night everyone worked together to identify a set of problems around homelessness and teams were formed. Some products evolved as a service to directly help the public facing homelessness while; others were made to encourage awareness and to educate.

Hackathons throw together people from a range of backgrounds, experiences and sectors. Condensing the process into three days produces energy, breaks standard ways of working and the environment promotes innovative thinking. I love that the theme was focused around a social problem and in my experience this made the hack very focused and tangible. The team at Shelter offered amazing insight and guided the teams to real life solutions making the collective a powerful resource.

I participated in the first 
Product Forge . Since then I have been to many hacks and I’m comfortable with how the weekends flow. Helping to problem solve through understanding users, testing quickly, combining creativity with digital, service design and tools to generate ideas quickly. Hacks force participants out of their comfort zones and it was really gratifying as a mentor to help form ideas into thought-provoking solutions.

After a considerable amount of hard work the teams presented their solutions to a judging panel of tech leaders, entrepreneurs and housing professionals. The outcomes ranged from an app for budgeting, a website helping to find temporary accommodation, a game to inform teenagers about homelessness, an inbuilt help features living on 
Shelter Scotland’s website, and a Chabot working between the user and shelters case workers.

The weekend made me think about how design in its simplest form can engage, inform, changes opinions, offer services, and help make challenging information simpler. The process offers a mutual exchange in skills demonstrating what can be achieved with limited time and resources. Thanks to 
Product Forge for hosting an amazing event, the enthusiasm from the Shelter team and the effort of the participants.

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