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During 2012/13 TheGivingLab ran a series of hack weekends in collaboration with Microsoft, Google Campus, General Assembly and others to test  whether they might be a vehicle for incubating new ways to generate income for UK charities.

Thanks to the over 300+ fun, intelligent and generous people who turned up with great ideas, bags of passion and some serious code and design skills. Find out what kind of ideas were generated here and how much it cost here.

Here’s our 6 top learnings:

  • Build a community/ eco-system – Some of our winning ideas came from participants who’d been to several events, slowly building their skills and team so be honest, consistent and open if you want people to come back.
  • Get a mix of skills in the room – to create viable market ready ideas you need a mix of skillsets; developer, entrepreneur, designer.  Events without one or the other generated lots of ideas, but not ideas with a revenue or business model.
  • Create teams with a mix of skills – Badging people with their skills and insisting every group has to be mixed is vital. Mixed teams generated the most viable business ideas.
  • Expert mentors accelerate good ideas – Mentors who created and run digital businesses mentored the women of the GeekGirlMeetUp and the ideas that came from that event were the most market ready. Each had a sense of who the product was for, how they would take to market and a business model.
  • Build the possible, don’t half finish the amazing  – giving participants a clear sense of what was possible to build in 48 hours and helping them focus their ideas is vital (expert feedback on ideas at the end of day 1 helps focus on the most critical elements of the plan and prototype too).
  • Have a path to market – great prototypes can remain just that. There’s a tough slog to get ideas to market. If your charity is thinking of organising a hack event you need to plan the route from hack event to the consumer. Will your organisation use the ideas as inspiration, will you pay for the winning team(s) to come work for you, will you back the development of the project stage by stage like a dragon from the den? Is your charity set up to manage the development and launch of new products. The hack weekend is the fun bit, but the valuable bit is when it starts generating money from the public for good causes.

If your charity is thinking about running a hack event and you’d like some help, drop us a line:

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