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Hackathons. What comes to mind is the image of a bunch of sleep deprived programmers huddled over their laptops frantically working for 48 hours to come up with the next big innovation. More often than not, this is an accurate picture. But after a recent Hackathon we attended in Austria, What The Hack?, which brought together participants from 6 different countries and 6 different coworking networks, we saw an incredible potential for utilizing hackathons, or similar events, as a way to enable cross-border collaboration.
By Amanda Gray - Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Big benefits for coworking space operators and members

Firstly, don’t overlook the important networking opportunities that hackathons provide. Sure, it’s a competition, but that’s just one part of the whole experience. Thrown together in a highly productive and somewhat stressful environment, teams find ways to come together and also feel a sense of solidarity with the other participants. Via personal relationships formed in a semi-informal professional environment, this can lead to the creation of new networks, and long lasting collaboration.

For space operators, hackathons and meetups are an excellent way to come together as well. It gives those working in the coworking sector a chance to exchange knowledge amongst one another, in addition to hands on experience when it comes to  developing a breeding ground for innovation by observing the interactions between participants.  

Hackathons can display talent and innovation

Coworking spaces are often professionally diverse, and thanks to a boom in nomadic workers, they are also increasingly culturally diverse. They offer everything that European cities and communities know they need in order to grow, economically and culturally. By encouraging applicants, both coworkers and the general public, to apply for these types of events, coworking spaces are able to offer something extra to their community. Using the example of, What The Hack?, participants were offered travel, accommodation and meals, add above all the chance to expand their horizons.

Thanks to the organizers, sponsors and funding from the Carinthian government, it goes to show that it doesn’t take infinite cash, but rather cooperation between various entities to tap into the potential offered in coworking spaces. Several participants expressed that it was these types of meetups that gave them the feeling of hope for the future of their region, which in turn, could help to reduce a loss of local talent by giving them opportunities to grow and benefit the overall community.  

Investing in talent leads to regional, and overall, development

In order to gain more traction from your events, it is essential to reach out to partners who can make this a reality. Local governments, investors and partners are the ideal target, yet make sure you have a proposal that will get them interested.

In the case of What The Hack? The Carinthian regional development agency were looking to streamline their transportation system. Envisioning ticketless transport, making life easier for locals and offering something new for tourists, the government in Carinthia was unsure how to take the next step into the future. Luckily, the Alpe Adria coworking network came up with a solution to host a hackathon. Showcasing talent, cross-border collaboration and the power of coworking, which ultimately came up with some amazing results from all participants, but also showed promise for future support for coworking networks.  

Ultimately, organizing a hackathon can be an example to local governments and investors to see the value of coworking networks, allowing them to look beyond traditional growth, i.e investing in corporate entities, real estate, etc. Watching a coworking community in action gives a concrete example of what they can offer (a lot!). And of course, for the coworkers, it gives them exposure to professional opportunities, and the chance to go beyond their own community,  which is what cross-border collaboration is all about.

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