Hack the Camp, Part I


Last weekend, Campfire Innovation was at Hack the Camp as a community partner, supporting Impact Hub Athens, Onassis Cultural Centre and the US Embassy at the two-day event. The hackathon attracted experts and activists from the volunteer, technology and refugee communities. This resulted in two days of innovative projects that covered a broad spectrum of different specialisms, as the teams worked to find smart, sustainable solutions capable of supporting Greece’s refugee community.

We were on-hand to provide our guidance, with our Field Coordinator Norman acting as official mentor to the event’s hackers, along with our partners ERCI and RefuComm, who we recommended as mentors, and the Khora and Habibi.Works representatives invited to develop their next steps in this creative environment. We caught up with some of our friends to see what they thought of the event.

We first spoke with Campfire Innovation’s Norman Hering about his role in the event. Having spent a month working at the Port of Piraeus in the winter of 2016, and the past six months in Skaramangas, Norman provided some integral assistance to the “Hackers” coming to develop smart solutions to the refugee crisis.

“I was honoured to be asked to attend Hack The Camp as a mentor and representative of Campfire Innovation, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of participants were more grounded in in the reality of helping refugees than I might have anticipated…

…one group in particular had the idea to create an information platform, which would make it possible for camps to know what each is doing. This was particularly exciting for us from a Campfire Innovation perspective, as we know our contacts in Skaramangas, Oinofyta, RefuComm and other refugee groups are already expressing an interest in and need for developing such resources.

Listening to the variety of ideas being expressed and discussed was a very heartwarming experience. Working in this refugee crisis can be draining and quite disheartening at times and the only way I’ve found to avoid getting too discouraged is to be with like-minded people who offer support and energy towards the human race.”

We also sat down with Khora’s, Panagiotis Tzannetakis, who gave us some insight into the projects he was representing at Hack the Camp. Work at Khora Community Centre has seen the team develop practical community resources, classes and events for refugees based in Athens, with the centre now hosting a cafe, cinema, workshop and classrooms, and in the process of extending its services to include dentistry and legal support.

He discussed the value of Hack the Camp as an opportunity to collaborate and to identify areas beyond an organisation’s usual area of expertise that could support its project. This is particularly useful in Khora’s work with other grassroots organisations to build on its current resources.

“I’ve been at Hack the Camp representing Khora Community Centre, and we are working on a project with Habibi.Works in Athens. The project involves setting up commercialised skills in the MSA workshops each of our respective organisations run, and we have been sourcing partners and workshops around Greece. Today has been useful in that we have had a good opportunity to build our strategy with Habibi.Works, and we have connected with developers, who would form a necessary resource on both projects.”

It was interesting to see the influence of projects such as Khora and Habibi. Panagiotis told us about how they are making this work for Khora, which is set to become a centralised information point, in partnership with RefuComm.

This collaborative aspect to the grassroots volunteer community in Greece was reflected in each of the team projects throughout Hack the Camp. With so many smart, creative ideas helping drive humanitarian aid in Athens, the value of sharing expertise, insight and resources cannot be overstated.

Whether this is in the small teams that comprised the two day hackathon, or in the smart aid innovators that guided the groups and collaborated with one another during the event, it’s encouraging to once again see the community spirit that drives sustainable smart aid in Athens.

This is only the first step. Participating teams will present their progress and next steps in December for a chance to receive in-kind support from Intel, Microsoft and Impact Hub and funding!

See you all in a month!