Hacking the Future

Harnessing the power of people to improve a city.

This is the story of how Glasgow harnessed the power of people to improve their city...

Over four weekends in Glasgow, 240 members of the public joined forces to hack the future of their city. Fusing their experience, talents and boundless enthusiasm they created 33 product and service ideas to improve transport, health, energy and public safety in Glasgow - and ultimately enrich the lives of its citizens.

And not forgetting the the important stuff..
116 pizzas, and 25 bean bags.

An exciting opportunity to innovate and shape the future of your city.

What is a Hackathon?

A hackathon is an event format, popular within the tech community, where groups of people come together to collaborate intensively over a short period of time to work on challenges.

A new Way of Working

Future City Glasgow is all about putting people at the heart of the process, so what better way to do this than by gathering citizens to work together to solve some of the challenges that every large city faces.

As a listening council, we wanted to engage people with the project and tap in to the incredible talent that exists within Glasgow. With its roots in open source projects, the hackathon format allowed us to create the ideal setting to bring ideas to life.

Hackatons foster a spirit of lean and agile working, something that is not always present within public sector organisations, so we were interested in looking at the potential to adopt new way to working, developing solutions and iterating intensely over a short period of time.

The core benefits of the hackathon format was the ability for participants to form teams quickly, the generation and iteration of many different ideas with the key outcome of a presentation from all teams at the end of 48hrs. Overall, the hackathons offered the ideal format to bring people together and work with data to uncover ways in which they could improve the city.

Opening Up Data

A core part of this project was giving the public access to data streams that would allow them to identify the challenges and opportunities within their city before ultimately using the data sources to drive solutions.

Our data team worked hard on the hunting and gathering of data sources before organising them into themes and threads to give the data meaning - and shape it into a usable format for use by teams at the events.



Incentivising Innovation

In addition to bringing people together one of the main motivations for the hackathons was looking at innovative ways to fund startups within the public sector. With this aim each of the four events had a £20,000 prize fund for the winning team - £80k in total across the four events. The aim - to act as seed funding for a new enterprise and reach out to people who were looking to start a company based on their idea.

The prize fund changed the dynamic of a normal hackathon event, as the participants were competing for money. While this had a potential downside of discouraging collaboration between the various teams during the events, it has the major upside of optimising the events for well produced ideas as the teams compete to produce well formed ideas in order to win.

Public Safety

Eleven teams came together to explore what public safety within a city could look like in the future. The hack was won by MSGlasgow who developed a mobile app to simplify interaction between the public and public services.