Another Tomorrow in Almedalen: prototyping solutions to large scale societal problems

Sweden’s annual political week — Almedalen — is a unique meeting place for individuals from all across society. During a week that for the most part is focused on talking about problems, we wanted to switch focus to collaboration and solutions.

Presentation of prototypes gathering a large audience at Almedalen Weekend venue. Photo: Derry Philip

At Another Tomorrow, we run innovation processes like hackathons and design sprints on a regular basis where the aim is to quickly generate ideas and prototype solutions to complex problems.

Weather we are working on themes such as the future of connected home, or run projects that are sustainability related, they tend to be of business critical character. When it comes to the problems and issues critical to society, however, we had yet to put our process to the test.

With political week Almedalen coming up, we decided it is the perfect place for us to answer to the following question:

Can innovation processes like hackathons be used to address the complex, interconnected problems in society?

We partnered up with the political-week experts at Almedalen Weekend and arranged the event Från folkhemmet till Framtidslandet Sverige; a cross-disciplinary hackathon where participants from different backgrounds, organisations, companies and political parties were invited to join us for three hours of ideation and prototyping.

Team of hackers. Photo: Derry Philip

Large scale problems

Democracy, integration and the labour market — the problems we set out to hack were broad, if not to say humongous. To narrow them down to something that felt manageable to work with was a big challenge in of itself.

We decided to focus on human empowering activities; actions that are easy for any individual to take in order to be part of the solution.

Our goal with the hackathon was to generate prototypes that could be implemented in the near future and that were accessible to anyone in society.

To help frame the briefs for the teams, the day began with a short introduction of each area by invited experts Ann-Therese Enarsson, CEO of Futurion; Edna Eriksson, Deputy Chairman of MR-stiftelsen; Lars Lööw, GD of Swedish ESF Council.

From problem to prototype

The teams were each given one theme to work with and had three hours to go from problem to prototype.

After aligning on most critical pains, gains and question to be solved in each area, we facilitated the teams through ideation and rapid prototyping.

Team Labour Market hard at work. Photo: Derry Philip

The ideas developed during the hackathon were presented in the form of video prototypes to be presented in front of a distinguished panel of judges; Per Bolund, Deputy Finance Minister; Ann-Therese Enarsson, CEO of Futurion; Per Schlingmann, communications expert; Ishtar Touailat, Head of Innovation at Tieto and Ahmed Abdirahman, founder Järvaveckan and The Global Village.

Based on their respective perspective and areas of expertise they gave the teams feedback and asked questions about their ideas.

Team Democracy presenting their video prototype. Photo: Derry Philip

The Results

Team Democracy showed a prototype with a group of people discussing who scored best in a knowledge game about the Swedish constitution, as well as ways of voting and signing referendums digitally through their smart phones.

Labour Market presented ideas on re:skilling and specifically how people can share networks with each other in order to help one another to transition between careers.

The team that hacked Integration gave the audience and panel a taste of how AR/AI could be used to help immigrants improve their language skills. Their prototype showed a smart phone scanning a room and Swedish words appearing next to objects and concepts being explained in their native languages.

So, what did we learn?

After an intensive half-day of hacking, everyone was proud to have achieved both great collaboration and innovative ideas. The final presentations of the prototypes attracted a large audience and sparked interesting discussions.

Our conclusion after Almedalen is that in a world caught up in rapid transformation, we need more structures where it’s safe to fail. Structures where we can come together and collaborate across sectors, functions and political ideologies and focus on solutions, rather than problems.

When it comes to addressing large scale structural problems, processes like hackathons do have their advantages. They are fast-paced, high-energy events where you get the opportunity to collaborate across functions and get insights from diverse perspectives. But we are also aware of it’s drawbacks. The time constraint being the most important.

Places like Almedalen attracts brilliant minds from all parts of society. To not put them together in problem-solving mode and use their collective intelligence is, according to us, a lost opportunity.

A hackathon will not save the world or solve all our problems, but it is a good place to start.

“The challenges we are facing today require us to act fast. If you want to get more transformative solutions, I think this way of working, starting from scratch and ideating together, is the only way forward.”
Per Bolund, Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, Deputy Finance Minister
Prototypes getting applause from a happy panel. Photo: Derry Philip

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––Another Tomorrow facilitate processed that decentralise innovation, enabling anyone to participate — which is vital when you want to create disruptive ideas, launch products and services or transform your organisation. To learn more about us, visit www.anothertomorrow.io