Design TED Prize

Unhackathon: The TED Prize City 2.0 Equality Challenge

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Why would 80 designers, technologists and business strategists give up their holiday weekend to collaborate with strangers on a pro bono project? Mostly because of Bryan Stevenson’s inspirational TEDTalk. When longtime TEDsters Christopher Ireland, Mary Anne Masterson and Nathan Shedroff heard Bryan at TED2012 in Long Beach, they did more than applaud. They contacted the TED Prize team with a proposal to host an “Unhackathon” where teams could work together to better understand the problems of low-income communities and design potential solutions. The TED Prize team gave their blessing and the trio got to work making it happen.

This past Friday evening, more than 80 attendees from companies including IDEO, Apple, Hot Studio and ESRI gathered at California College of the Arts in San Francisco to participate in the 24 hour “Unhackathon2: TED Prize City 2.0 Equality Challenge” hosted by Mix & Stir Studio. The audience listened to panelists speak about the lives, loves and longings of the 57 million Americans living at or just above the poverty level. They also heard clips from Bryan’s talk, including this passage that framed the evening’s challenge:

We love innovation. We love technology. We love creativity. We love entertainment. But ultimately those realities are shadowed by suffering, abuse, degradation, marginalization. For me it becomes necessary to integrate the two because ultimately we are talking about the need to be more hopeful, more committed, more dedicated to the basic challenges of living in a complex world; and for me that means spending time thinking and talking about the poor, the disadvantaged, those who will never get to TED — but thinking about them in a way that is integrated into our lives.

After the panel, people formed adhoc teams and began brainstorming ways to integrate the advances of technology in the parts of our society most in need of its potential. Roughly 24 hours later, 8 teams presented their ideas — all designed to address real problems in a feasible, financially sustainable and replicable manner.

The ideas will be posted to the TED Prize’s City 2.0 platform over the next couple of weeks; one may be strong enough to win one of the ten $10,000 awards TED is offering to encourage progressive ideas to improve cities around the world.

— Christopher Ireland