You know us at Matter of Form – we like a challenge (we’re inspired by it, if you want to quote one of our values). So, instead of deciding to ease ourselves in gently for our first 24-hour Hackathon, we went full steam ahead and got two of the UK’s leading charities – Unicef UK and Nordoff Robbins – involved. No pressure.
The walls of MoF Towers are no strangers to witnessing crepuscular mischief, particularly on Fridays. But a different kind of Friday energy took over the office as our 50-strong team of strategists, designers, developers and project managers descended on our Old Street studio space to kick off our first-ever #MOFHackathon. Four teams worked tirelessly throughout the day and night to deliver a working prototype in a matter of hours. Here’s a one-day-diary of how it went down, from one member of the Hack who survived until the bitter end.
09:00 – 10:00 – Breakfast Briefing
The charities verbally briefed us on each of their challenges and opportunities.
Unicef UK asked us to explore ways for them to engage children with their charity work directly by creating a child-friendly, fun and empowering space, as an extension of Unicef’ UK’s existing digital universe, that would prioritise engagement over fundraising. We were also delighted to help them with their first ever Hackathon.
“We at Unicef UK are excited to be working with Matter of Form on this Hackathon. Bringing their expertise to some of our organisational challenges and opportunities enables us to engage and work with innovative and leading edge programmers, strategists, designers and marketers. We are all looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labour”
Nordoff Robbins tasked us with raising awareness of the power of music therapy for children of all abilities, and to empower parents to apply therapy exercises at home. They were also interested in providing an entry point to the possibilities of music therapy; broadening reach outside of South East UK; and encouraging interaction between parents and children.
Team names were drawn out of a hat to find out who would work on which brief. Please feel free to award points to the team name you think is the best. 🏆
Another One Bytes the Bug: Nordoff Robbins
Return of the Hack: Nordoff Robbins
The Overnight Sensations: Unicef UK
Jefferson Hack Unicef UK
10:00 – 11:00 – Initial Brainstorming
Off to a good start – I’ve drawn some lines on an A3 sheet of paper in a bid to come up with eight boxes. I’ve ended up with nine instead. That means I have to come up with nine ideas in the space of eight minutes.
The person next to me has only got six.
Representatives from each of the charities listen in as we talk through our ideas. We’ve managed to pull it out of the bag and come up with some solid foundations (some not-so-solid – but that’s the beauty of a brainstorm. It’s a safe space). We discuss our initial ideas with the charity.
11:00 – 13:00 – Idea Development
Each section of the office is abuzz with activity as teams huddle together to develop the plans. Is a digital agency even a digital agency if there aren’t Post-Its being plastered all over the walls?
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch & Presentations
Our Hackmaster announces it’s time to present our ideas to the rest of the agency – and the client. Uh-oh. Account Manager JP is inexplicably dressed as a feline deviant, and it’s only lunchtime. Send help.
17:00 – 18:00
Some of us are lulled into a false sense of security with the arrival of beers and tequila. We’re quickly reprimanded by the Hackmaster and his increasing sense of self-importance.
Our COO, Fred, has brought his guitar in – ostensibly to help with plans for music charity Nordoff Robbins, but really, we think, to relive heady university days. We sit, grim-faced, as he makes his way through Wonderwall, No Woman, No Cry, and Fast Car.
Back to our groups to continue with our prototypes. Designers and coders work together with strategists and copywriters to solidify our scribbled notes and drawings into legible and functional forms.
From a digital art gallery to inspire children to use their creativity for good, and an app with its own original theme tune; to a complete reskin of the Unicef UK website to make it ‘child-friendly’ and an interactive app for parents to use with their children, each of our outputs was viable as an end result – not just for 5am on a Saturday – but as projects in their own right.
After some much-needed sleep, we presented our finalised prototypes to Unicef UK and Nordff Robbins the following week. Here’s what they had to say…
“We were blown away by the ideas that came from Matter of Form: the sheer enthusiasm shown by the teams shone through and we’re thrilled with the outcome.”
This hackathon was a chance for our teams to hit the ground running with limitless possibilities in a truly agile environment. It was a way for all team members to explore skills they might not ordinarily have a chance to tap into. It was an exercise in team bonding; and most importantly, it was a way for us to empower two of the UK’s leading charities to advance their digital footprint with innovative and exciting uses of technology.