Image by Tetsuya Nagato.

Over the past few years, hackathons have taken Australia by storm. What was once an exclusive pastime for caffeine-fuelled tech-heads has now well and truly moved into the mainstream. Large corporates like Qantas, Johnson & Johnson and NAB have all taken up the concept. While some host and sponsor hackathons as a genuine means of overcoming organisational lethargy and inculcating innovation, others are taking advantage of the obvious marketing and PR benefits. Overseas they have become so popular that anti-hackathon hackathons are starting to pop up.

A hackathon is a short intensive event, usually between 24-48 hours, where people with both technical and non-technical expertise get together and find creative solutions to various problems. If you’ve seen The Social Network, then you’ve seen a micro version of a hackathon. They can be a quick, effective and cheap way to transform ideas into action. By encouraging collaboration and experimentation, hackathons can be a great a conduit for self-expression and creative problem solving.

Social good hackathons are now springing up, breathing new life into what has traditionally been a commercial concept. Such hackathons present a unique opportunity for people from a variety of backgrounds to engage with and expedite potential solutions to a diverse range of social issues – from empowering persons with disabilities to addressing women’s rights. The shift is predominantly being driven by non-government organisations and not-for-profits who are in need of solutions, support, or expertise. Hackathons like Techfugees, which aims to develop effective solutions to the issues facing refugees settled in Australia, are growing in popularity and provide a unique opportunity to awaken social innovation.

Founded in late 2015 and now part of a global movement, Techfugees is the tech community’s response to the refugee crisis. The hackathon brings together concerned community members who co-design solutions with recent refugees to the challenges they face settling in Australia. Many of the solutions developed in previous Techfugees hackathons – refugeetalent – are now operating as tech start-ups in their own right.

The next Techfugees event takes place on 5 and 6 November in Sydney. It is completely free and promises a truly memorable experience. If you’re not available, here’s a list of some other hackathons for social good that are coming up.


29 October

Climathon is a global, 24-hour climate change event which will take place simultaneously in major cities around the world. It brings together the challenges of the world’s cities with the people who have the passion and ability to solve them. Participants gather to take direct climate action in their own cities by coming up with innovative solutions to local climate change problems.


28 – 30 October

Questathon is a weekend hackathon focussing on four primary problem areas that affect refugees and newly arrived migrants: Employment, Education, Media Representation, and Social Cohesion. It provides refugees, and other newcomers to Australia, with the opportunity to identify issues that affect them, and create their own solutions. Participants work with entrepreneurs to come up with a range of products and services that can make a difference in the community – and they don’t necessarily need to be tech-based. The top four teams will be awarded a place in Quest Lab.

Sustainability Jam

4 – 6 November

The Global Sustainability Jam is a response to the sustainability crisis. At each location, teams of ‘Jammers’ are formed to work on real-world ideas using design-thinking, start-up business model tools and other techniques. Teams ideate, make meaning, rapidly prototype, test, learn and reflect, re-design, iterate and, finally, pitch their solution.

WWF Designathon

19 – 20 November

Join some of Sydney’s best and brightest to create, innovate, and ideate around two big issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable Food and Clean Energy. The winning prototypes will be profiled in front of hundreds of industry leaders at the Sustainable Development Goals Conference and Banksia Awards on November 29 – 30.

Grad Hack

25 – 26 November

Grad Hack is looking for thinkers, makers, and leaders, to build a way to reduce the empathy deficit. More specifically, the hackathon will focus on finding innovative ways to “make teams better”. There will be a variety of stations with mentors focusing on different areas including design, coding, ideation. Hosted by Industrie IT, a leading consulting and venture company, Grad Hack is for those interested in learning, sharing and meeting new people while coming up with innovative ideas that can shape the future.

Random Hacks of Kindness

26 – 27 November

RHoK is the largest and longest running social hackathon in Australia. In the last four years, the RHoK community has helped over 50 charities and social enterprises find tech enabled solutions to pressing social problems. Coming to a RHoK event is a chance to see what good collaboration looks like. After years of iterating they’ve learned how to make the process run like a well oiled machine. Sometimes it can be complicated and frustrating, but mostly it’s fun, rewarding and makes a real difference. For many, RHoK is a place to learn – not just coding, but business analysis, design, user experience skills and more. RHoK encourage people from all walks of life, and with varying levels of skill sets and backgrounds to join.

TOM: Melbourne

28 – 30 November

TOM is a global movement that drives assistive technology innovation through affordable open source solutions to real-world challenges facing people with disabilities. In collaboration with communities, organisations, and corporations worldwide, TOM brings together social activism and open innovation to work directly with people in need to address areas where market forces fail. During this 72 hour makeathon hardware and software product prototypes will be designed and developed to meet needs that people with disabilities identify are important to them.

If you know of other upcoming social good hackathons not on the list, add your suggestion in the comments section below.

What the Hack are Techfugees!?