Learning about sustainability in Colfiorito with the Social Hackathon Umbria 2021

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Social Hackathon Umbria 2021 (SHU2021) took place in the heart of Italy, in the middle of the green region of Umbria, on the plateau of Colfiorito. The small village, known for its rich production of cereals, legumes and dairy products, came back to life after the hit of several earthquakes, by putting at the centre of its economic, cultural and social development the concept of sustainability. For this reason, Colfiorito has been chosen as location for the SHU2021 edition.

The SHU has been organised since 2016 and the biggest difference this year was that the hackathon (and training courses) are a part of the Erasmus+ project Social Hackademy (#HackAD), which aims to upscale and transfer Social Hackathon Umbria format and methodology in different European countries and contexts. To enable that #HackAD project partners prepared a formalized Social Hackademy methodology that enables anyone to implement this unique co-creation system for addressing social challenges and enhancing digital skills of young people.

Altheo Valentini, General Manager of EGInA Srl, main organizer of the event since 4 editions, together with his team opted to create a partnership which would bring a real impact. For that, they approached the local enterprise Fertitecnica Colfiorito and United Nation’s FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) which both welcomed the proposal enthusiastically.

After taking part in the training courses designed by #HackAD’s project partners, a group of young people from Umbria Region was selected to participate in the Social Hackathon. They became members of teams which were developing digital solutions for previously identified societal challenges. The development process was supported by the guidance of professional team managers, experts in the field of digital technology. All the results, from web platforms, apps to games were dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of good practices for sustainable development, in particular in the 4 selected areas: #zeroimpact, #zerowaste, #zerohungher, #zeroignorance. The event lasted 4 full days, while the hacking itself was done in 48 hours of Social Hackathon. All together, SHU2021 welcomed 300 people.

The hackathon jury was composed of the following experts in the fields involved: Erik Van Ingen, FAO Digital Innovation Consultant; Michele Santilocchi, Marketing Manager of Fertitecnica Colfiorito; Enrico Fontana, from the national secretariat of Legambiente Onlus; Valentino Bobbio, general secretary NeXt-New Economy for all; Emma Pietrafesa, researcher in the field of new technologies and member of the Stati Generali dell’Innovazione (General States of Innovation); Arjana Blazic, Member of the steering committee of DigiEduHack of the European Commission; Simona Grande, researcher at the management department of the University of Turin; Jan Rehak, National Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at Technológico of Monterrey.

 “This event is important for FAO because it allows us to leverage our knowledge and put it at the service of the food crisis we are currently dealing with. The passion and dedication of the hackers to find sustainable and innovative solutions to our actual challenges have impressed us a lot. ” said Erik Van Ingen, FAO Digital Innovation Consultant

The hackers’ teams ideas were evaluated based on 4 criteria: (1) local community impact, (2) social relevance and innovation, (3) transferability and openness and (4) adherence to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Agenda for 2030.

Out of the 8 projects presented to the jury, SHU2021 awarded Alimenta, an idea developed for the #zerohunger challenge. Targeting video games players, the project consists in a gamification app which uses data from FAO Hand in Hand initiative to build virtual scenarios based on reality to show the situation in developing countries, keep it updated with local involvement, in order to create awareness.

Zig4all project is the second winner and focuses on the #zeroignorance challenge. The idea is to build a social web platform available for all and dedicated to providing information about today’s world issues and challenges. The platform aims to translate the real community into a virtual one using blog, gamification and virtual reality (Mozilla Hubs)  in combination with storytelling

For the #zerowaste/#zeroimpact challenge, the award was delivered to the project Circular Colfiorito consisting in a web platform designed to showcase local stories and interviews by local people sharing their experience, knowledge and projects about sustainable development, and engaging in this process local organizations and NGOs. The project aims to create engagement among Colfiorito’s local people by using different multimedia, including gamification.

The teams which won the first 3 awards will be invited to a virtual meeting at FAO to pitch their ideas in fall.

The jury assigned 3 more special awards which as prize will give the designed project to have concrete follow up and development. The special award “NeXt-new economy for all” focuses on the contribution to the Aganda 2030’s objectives regarding social, environmental and economic sustainability, and was delivered by NeXt to the idea IMPATT0 Zero. NeXt will set up an incubation path for the project and will introduce it to the Civil Economy Prize in Firenze. The special DigiEduHack prize, was awarded to Zig4all giving the team the chance to participate to an international event on sustainable change and to further develop their idea. The 1st award winning project Alimenta also won the #HackAD prize, thanks to which the team will participate to a European competition with all the winners from the other social hackathons organized in the other partner countries of the Erasmus+ project.

“Sustainability is fundamental for us.”, emphasized Luca Mattioni, Vice President of Fertitecnica Colfiorito. “For this reason, we are strongly focused on circular economy projects regarding not only the packaging of our products but also a strong digital communication strategy in order to educate consumers on good practices of reuse and reduction of food waste. “

Altheo Valentini opened the award ceremony, highlighting the importance of the return of this event in Umbria with a stronger structure and potential outcome. “Finally, after more than one year of pandemic, we are able to come back with an event that allows us to foster our community and take it forward” said Altheo. “We want to thank Colfiorito for having contributed to the conception of the initiative since the very beginning with the support of FAO in the context of the memorandum of understanding that exists between them”.

The collaboration between FAO and Fertitecnica Colfiorito goes back to 2016, “Our collaboration with FAO is based on three fundamental themes” explains Alessio Milani, General Manager of Fertitecnica Colfiorito. “he work with cooperatives in developing countries; the promotion of aspects related to agriculture and sustainable development in these countries and the help to small businesses to enter our market. It is important to be aware that everyone can do something, from the consumer to the company and to involve people in this project, especially youth.” he concluded. Both EGInA and Fertitecnica efforts were enthusiastically recognized by FAO: “It strikes me very much how well Fertitecnica Colfiorito has integrated the sustainability model communicated by the United Nations and how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were successfully communicated during the Social Hackathon by Altheo with EGInA’s team” commented Erik van Ingen.

A round table on “Colfiorito 4 SDGs” with senior representatives of FAO and Fertitecnica Colfiorito was also organized on Saturday morning as one of the main activities to trigger an even more important impact of the work realized so far by the different stakeholders engaged, connect it and share it at the national and then global level.

In addition to the conference, several workshops were held on the themes of the 2030 Agenda including: Gender equality, and the role of women in work; Education on sustainable development with a focus on STEM engineering and technical science careers; Presentation of the Refugee Card at the CAS of Colfiorito. CRHACK Lab Foligno 4D, the cultural association affiliated to EGInA created also a mixed reality village for the enhancement of cultural heritage, where the event guests could enjoy VR and AR experiences with high quality tech equipment.  A Green Lab and a creative campus on SDGs was also organized for the little ones, to enhance their creativity and bring them closer to digital technology in the context of sustainability.

The Social Hackathon Umbria 2021’s goal was to promote collaboration and co-creation in the future for a systemic innovation of the agricultural and cultural sector of the region, spreading and strengthening digital and social inclusion, and empowering youth with tools for a stronger involvement in the research of sustainable solutions for a better food future for all.

Author: Linn Rasimelli, EGINA
Photo: EGINA

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