Thursday, 30 October 2014

Hack-a-what????

FURCA logoIf you haven't heard already, the Festival of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities - affectionately known as FURCA - starts on Monday, 3 November and runs to Friday, 14 November. One of the many exciting events planned is Tomorrows Ideas, Now: Hacking Social & Cultural Innovation. My first question when I heard about the plans for this event was, "How do you hack social and cultural innovation?" I had heard of hackathons before, but always in relation computer programming. I now know that the concept of bringing people together to collaborate in creating innovative solutions to problems or opportunities can be applied broadly.

In planning the hackathon, the fearless FURCA team sent out a call for challenges just waiting to be hacked. Responses included creating a campus to which international students feel welcome, combating cheating and plagiarism, promoting connections among U of A students and marginalized populations in our City in order to have an impact on social justice, and developing a social strategy to combat homonegative language on campus.

These and other challenges will be presented on the evening of Friday, 7 November after a keynote presentation by Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell titled "Students as Leaders for Social Change." Students will then have the opportunity to network and form interdisciplinary teams that will meet the following day to tackle the challenges. Facilitators will be there to work with teams and connect them to potential resources (e.g. funding, mentorship, courses) to support their project.

Why should you spend a Friday night and Saturday hacking social and cultural issues with my peers?

I can think of lots of reasons:
  • It's an opportunity to make a social contribution: Who knows what positive impact you and your peers might have on our campus and beyond?
  • You're bound to learn something: Who knows what interests might be sparked and where they might take you?
  • You'll will find out about resources available to you as a U of A student that perhaps you were unawares of: Who knows how you might access those resources in the future?
  • You'll meet new people: Who knows what those connections will lead to?
  • You'll be challenged to think outside of the box: Who doesn't love a challenge?
  • We will feed you: What student doesn't doesn't jump at the chance for free food?
  • You'll have fun! Need I say more?
If you're interested in taking part but feeling a bit nervous, here's are some general guidelines about what to expect:
  • It's OK to start simply.
  • No matter what you do, it cannot be all things to all people.
  • Experience matters as much as expertise. (Knowledge comes from many places, not just university).
  • Technology stunts participation -- face-to-face dialogue & interaction are encouraged.
  • Each person participates differently. Listening is itself a valuable form of participation.
  • Safe and inclusive spaces are created, not stated.

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