#beRemarkable

Last week had the opportunity to participate in a Hackathon. A really special one, organised by Remarkable, to explore problems that people with disabilities face on a daily basis. I’ve been in other hackathons, all of them provided me a great experience and useful take-aways, but this one really touched me deep inside. It was the Enabled By Design-Athon 2017 in its first corporate edition in Sydney.

60 people from different organisations came together leaving for 2 days their jobs to be part of this incredible experience.

First day started, after some coffee and chats with other participants, with a bunch of inspirational talks that gave us powerful bits of information about Market Context, Mindfulness, Universal Design, Neuroscienceetc. Do you know that 85% of us will suffer a disability sooner or later? Do you know the disability market in Australia is over $50bn? Do you know every 15 hours a baby with cerebral palsy is born in Australia? Do you know that social exclusion effects, like loneliness, are as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes per day? Do you know how to achieve a Universal design? Hips of insights that started resonating in my head, and rest of participants’, as an unconscious mantra preparing us to face a big challenge.

Next sessions were imho the most mind-opening experience of the whole event. The hackathon teams would be mentored by people with disabilities. We’d be working on real problems of real people and they designed some empathy stations to put ourselves in their shoes and feel, for few minutes, what living with their disabilities means. I chose the Dexterity station where Sophie asked us to wear a pair of garden gloves to execute basic tasks as filling a lotto, opening a sealed jar and, the impossible test, opening and applying a bandage. Frustation was the general feeling among the group. How hard could it be living 24/7 with fine motor impediments? How many thinks and behaviour must change in order to allow them live a normal life?

During the event i hated myself every time i was referring to non-disabled people as normal. Bad habit to unlearn ASAP. Sorry.My second one was the Autism empathy station. There was Ashlea, amazing always-smiling lady who realised just 18 months ago that she was autistic. She invited us into one special room and asked us to stay there during few minutes. The room was warm. Intense lights were pointing to us not allowing to see clearly. Different speakers were playing, with medium-high volume, different types of music simultaneously. the sensory overhead was overwhelming. After few minutes Ashley asked us to solve some riddles. OMG i was unable to focus on the task! The situation was stressful. i felt my heart rate was really high, and it stayed there for more than 15 minutes after this session. How hard could it be living 24/7 with autism?

On their own words: These experiences were really accurate and realistic.

During the coffee break, mixed with my high heart rate, another feeling start emerging: How lucky i was! How ridiculous my problems looked compared to Sophie and Ashlea’s ones! At that point all participants were willing to help. To take one real problem and find a good solution to it. A good solution for them.

To create the Teams the organisers shared 2 important tips:

  1. Creativity comes from Diversity, so creating a team with different skills and background was key. We all were tagged as specific roles or characters so we used them to create our Dream Team: Good balance of Hackers (the Analyticals), Hustlers(the Go-Getters) and Hipster (the Creatives) would be key to achieve great outcomes.
  2. A meaningful Purpose, able to transform a group of strangers into a high performance unit. So they gave us a bunch of purposes to choose and work with. A bunch of real problems: Education, Justice for All, Digital barriers, Transport, Finance support, etc. I joined Yvette, Claire, Nelly and Gav to try solving the Social exclusion problem. Claire and Nelly were working close to Cerebral Palsy Alliance so we reframe our goal to achieve Social INclusion of people with Cerebral Palsy.

So there we were, starting our startup journey using the Design Thinking Kit provided by the organisation. Lots of tools that i use with my teams during their ideation processes: User Personas, Empathy Maps, Surveys, Business Model Canvas, Pr(e)totyping, Customer Interviews, etc. All tools designed to help us validate our hypothesis on the potential Solutions and also on the Problem statement itself. Is this problem really a problem? Who should be our target? Will our solution(s) help them to solve the problem? Who would pay for this product?… and more and more questions waiting to be answered to confirm our progress, or to tell us our approach was wrong!

Our assumption was that we must focus not in the people with the disability but on the people that didn’t know how to interact with them naturally. Our assumption was that trying to change behaviours and mindsets in grown-ups was kind of a Mission:Impossible. Our assumption was the earlier we were able to impact the better so we decided to focus on kids aged from 5 to 9…

So we started to give life to Charlie.

Charlie is a 7yo girl. She studies at Woopi Public School. She loves playing with everyone but there, on the other side of the playground, is Peta. Peta looks different. Peta has cerebral palsy, and Charlie doesn’t know what to do, what to say. When Charlie sees someone with a disability in the supermarket and ask about them their grown-ups say: “Shh! Don’t stare! Don’t ask! This is not correct!“. Charlie is confused. Charlie is willing to play with Peta.

How can we help closing the Gap that is preventing Charlie and Peta to play together?

We started to work on the validation stream, talking to our own kids who requested a fun activity, not a boring class about the importance of inclusion. checking existing solutions in this space where there were lots of activities focused on schools but nothing with the gamification component. So, here came our main assumption: We must create a Game! When you think about games in 2017 your brain jump directly into the Apps space, an interactive platform blah blah blah… bullsh*t! We thought that to properly achieve social INclusion we had to design a Face2Face experience, our social network would be real physical networks, so we decided to create a Board Game to be used in schools with students with cerebral palsy. It look a little bit weird proposing a no-Tech solution in a Tech hackathon but who cares, we really believed it was the right proposal so, next step: Would it work?

We invested our remaining energy from evening to early next morning (i was overexcited and unable to sleep for more than 2 hours) posting surveys, talking with the Department of Education, with teachers, with organisations who were already working in these environments and with similar or identical purposes. Every conversation was validating a piece of our big puzzle. We were completely exhausted but completely pump’ed!

Almost 24hrs non-stop! I realised i couldn’t remember last time i had been working so hard for a Goal that really matters.

On the second day we focused to make our Pitch ready to be presented to judges. Organise all the information we gathered. Complete the pretotype of the Game. Edit video and audio footage. Prepare the speech and the Role play of the game. Everything must be done before 3pm. No pressure!

All Teams presented their proposals to the judges, all of them great Solutions to big social Problems. We didn’t win. But we won. Everybody won! We close the event in a big circle with all organisers, participants and mentors, sharing our personal thoughts and feelings after such an amazing experience. Absolutely proud of everyone who made it possible and willing to repeat the experience next year. And willing to keep collaborating with initiatives designed to help people with disabilities live their best lives.

Thanks…

Hackathon starts…

Inspirational talks…

Our challenge…

AIM.IN Team. Work in Progress…

AIM.IN Team. Organising Pitch…

Introducing Charlie…

Final Pitch…

To be Continued…

Diversity is who we are. Inclusion is how we treat each other.

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