Celebrating our winning Hackathon team

By Hannah McIntosh

The PA Consulting Women in Tech team have successfully hosted their first ever Hackathon on the ‘rise of the conscious consumer’. The event was run in collaboration with GoCodeGreen, Pret, and Unilever; opening with an interesting presentation on Conscious Consumerism and the Cost-of-Living Crisis and ending with GoCodeGreen demystifying what the most and least sustainable coding languages are.

The day in a nutshell

Teams were challenged to design a solution to create a more positive and transparent relationship between consumers and businesses. The teams were carefully assembled as cross-functional and made up of front-end developers, back-end developers, user-experience designers, sustainability experts, consumer experts, and product managers.

The impressive solutions ranged from giving shoppers clarity on the carbon footprint of their baskets and offering eco-friendly alternatives, to allowing users to compare the price and carbon footprint of items across local, independent, and mainstream grocery partners. The winning team’s solution was to build a food sourcing platform called ‘Commun-e-share’, which allowed local communities to coordinate the buying and distribution of bulk-buy goods between its members. This would allow communities to capitalise on cost efficiencies as ‘bulk buy’ products are cheaper per portion, reduce packaging consumption and carbon emissions, while building a sense of community amongst neighbours. The judges were impressed by the quality of the outputs given that the teams had only six hours to develop their ingenious ideas.

Our Hackathon winners

We spoke to some members of the winning team to hear more about their backgrounds, interest in technology, and their experience at the event. What’s evident from the interviews is the diverse career paths of the group participating at the event.

Consumer Expert and User Experience: Phoebe Canning

I’m a Human Insight Consultant. I use technology for a purpose, to provide innovative solutions to unmet needs, as opposed to innovation for innovation’s sake.

As the ‘consumer expert’ in the hackathon, I was responsible for ensuring the consumer stayed at the heart of process. I used my expertise to drive user-centred thinking and build the product with the persona of a ‘working mum’ in mind. This ensured that the needs and challenges she faced day-to-day were being addressed by the team.

User Experience Designer: Eve Collett

As the ‘user experience designer’, I was responsible for designing the user interface, which is how the application looks, and determines how the user interacts with the product.

As the duration of the hackathon was one day, I found that time constraint was the biggest challenge. We were under time pressure to generate, design, and present our solution. However, we made sure to keep referring to the brief to remind us of the key elements to deliver and avoid deviation into too much detail on particular aspects.

Key learnings

From the keynote speeches on conscious consumerism and green coding, we learnt:

  • Despite an increasing focus on sustainability, 36 percent of consumers say their choices are mainly driven by budget and 15 percent say they worry these constraints will force them to choose less sustainable options. When the choice is to ‘eat or heat’, society risks having to de-prioritise the transition to green energy. Solutions such as ‘Commun-e-share’ would enable more people to choose purchasing options that promote sustainability, while helping to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their households.
  • Digital does not necessarily mean green. For instance, Bitcoin production generates 22 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year which equates to almost 1 billion trees being required to offset it. This is caused by the infrastructure required to verify these transactions being complex and energy intensive. One way to improve the energy and carbon efficiency of Bitcoin by 99 percent would be to implement a new software design from ‘Proof-of-work’ to ‘Proof-of-stake’, according to the Ethereum foundation. But it’s not software engineering choices alone that impact the consumption of energy, leading to higher levels of carbon emissions. Companies should enhance their use of cloud platforms and hosting providers which operate solely on renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint of their software.

While we’ve only spotlighted a few participants from the winning team, we’d like to say a huge well done to all participants for taking part. Diversity in teams is said to foster innovation and speed up ideation which has been evident in our hackathon’s output. We look forward to hosting another in the future but in the meantime, check out our video and look out for our upcoming events.

Women in Tech Hackathon - ‘Rise of the Conscious Consumer’

About the authors

Hannah McIntosh PA digital expert

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