The First Limerick Climathon
Limerick’s first Climathon was organised by Space Engagers as part of the +CityxChange project, under its citizen engagement remit, alongside the same event in its fellow Lighthouse City of Trondheim.
A Climathon is an intensive collaborative event, open to anyone to join, where participants work on developing solutions to climate challenges at local level. It usually runs over 24 hours, with teams forming at the start, brainstorming ideas, and pitching their solutions at the end.
A team from Space Engagers led the organisation of the event, and Limerick City and County Council provided space to host the event at the Innovate Limerick Engine building. The Limerick Climathon ran simultaneously with 130 other cities around the world, on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October.
We had two priorities when organising the Climathon: first, that the challenges we set (challenges are the starting point for the work done at the Climathon) must be local and specific, and second, that the ideas and projects generated by the Climathon should be supported and developed.
Breandan MacGabhann and Sarah Newell came on board as our mentors, and they devised the two challenges for the event, based around issues of travel (Breandan) and housing (Sarah) in Limerick.
We kicked off at 11am on Friday morning, and participants were introduced to the concept of the Climathon and the local challenges set by their mentors, and four teams of participants were formed. The teams proposed solutions to the challenges and were guided by facilitators to begin developing their ideas — through ideation, discovery, and testing.
We were really excited to see how teams got together and started working — this is often the messiest part of any hackathon-style event, and our facilitators (Mairin Murray, Susan Moran, and Philip Crowe) worked hard to make sure everyone was heard and included.
After an amazing lunch (thank you Bobby Byrnes!), our teams worked on developing their ideas and thinking through different possible solutions, guided by useful design templates. Visiting experts (see full list below) came later to give support and inspiration, providing subject expertise and pushing the teams to keep refining their projects. We broke up after pizza and some staggered home for a rest — or, as Philip Crowe told teams — to let their resting brains come up with newly creative ideas overnight. Some others staggered to the pub, creativity notwithstanding.
The highlight of the event came on the Saturday, when everyone gathered together to hear the project presentations. The teams had arrived early for final preparations, and at midday we were joined by a jury made up of local experts (and one international expert, Trondheim’s +CxC project manager, Dirk Ahlers). The Mayor of City and County Limerick, Michael Sheahan, who had launched the event the day before, came back to hear presentations too, as he had been so intrigued by the work being done. It all created a great buzz.
The four teams presented their projects: a plan to reduce traffic pollution around school zones, a shared energy community using a water turbine in the Shannon, a project to use Minecraft to help children get involved in urban design, and — the winning idea — an online portal to give information and share stories about bringing vacant properties in Limerick back into use. ReStory, the winning group, will receive supports to develop their project, including a digital web platform from WP Engine, a consultation with communications company Piquant Media, and support from five expert mentors (see full list below).
After the presentations, people were too excited to leave, staying in the room and talking about how the ideas might be implemented in future. Of all the things we learned this year, one of the most important is about the power of moments like these.
So what about next year? Bigger and better? We hope so! We’ll be joined by five other +CxC Follower cities, and will try to implement some of the lessons we learned this time. We know now how much potential the Climathon has to bring interesting people together, to give space for people to work through innovative ideas with support from experts, and to embed those ideas in the city’s future plans. We’ll work to bring Climathon work into the Innovation Playgrounds that Space Engagers are developing in Limerick, too. Limerick Climathon 2020 here we come!