Obuntu Hub
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Obuntu Hub

10 Tips for Organising Online Trainings and Hackathons

The Corona pandemic has been a catalyst for all things digital — should one be ready to adapt. As Obuntu Hub we were determined to not let the crisis prevent us from supporting young entrepreneurs. We’re excited to have just concluded training our first cohort of Ibua Innovation Accelerator; a six-week programme to help technical university students develop their entrepreneurial skills. During this time we’ve also participated in 3 international hackathons which collectively brought over 27,000 participants (Africa Vs Virus, MIT Takes on Covid and Pan African Digital Assembly).

Here are our top 10 key learnings that may help you organise an online training or hackathon:

On online trainings:

Use tools that participants are already familiar with

Any great idea or programme should be anchored in empathy to understand the user in order to develop something suitable for them. Using tools that participants are already comfortable with reduces barriers to adoption. In our case, we found using YouTube to disseminate pre-recorded training videos worked best as participants are familiar with YouTube and it provides flexibility as on when to watch them.

Encourage motivation through personal follow-up

The scale advantage of online trainings should not replace the opportunity for participants to ask their questions which is important for motivation. Depending on the number of participants you have, do calls or direct messages which allows you to check their progress and collect feedback.

Build an online community for participants

Learning online can at times be lonely and lack the peer-to-peer support that physical classrooms have. A WhatsApp group dedicated to the cohort you are training can help facilitate this digitally; animated by the trainers to keep the momentum going and keep participants moving through the course at a similar pace.

Leverage international speakers

Expert speakers for your field could be anywhere around the world and out of reach in a world of physical events. Online events allow you to include these speakers, factoring in time zones, offering your participants different experiences and skills.

Factor in the costs of data

Data costs remain high in many regions around the world in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa where the average price of 1G of data is 6% of monthly income, three times the 2% ratio considered as affordable (A4AI). Design the programme to minimise data costs by reducing the amount of content communicated through high-definition videos by e.g. sending content as audio notes or images with text through WhatsApp.

On online hackathons:

Prepare the team, tools and goal in advance

Build the hackathon team including participants, mentors and partners providing guides for each stakeholder to know the agenda, tools and steps post-hackathon. Onboard all these stakeholders onto the hackathon space e.g. Slack Workspace, before the start of the hackathon, so that participants familiarise themselves with the tool to save time when the hackathon actually begins.

Deep-dive into the problem first

The primary aim of a hackathon is to rapidly brainstorm and test new ideas to a specific problem through co-creation. Focusing first on the problem e.g. participants to pitch problem statements at the start, will encourage a deeper analysis of the problem that can bring new dimensions even to ideas for solutions conceived before the hackathon.

Divide into smaller groups to facilitate team formation

The team formation process is a messy process especially as you want participants to self-select into teams to encourage ownership and motivation. Provide a funnel that participants can easily navigate down e.g. Slack channel for different themes based on responses on sign up sheet, then sub-channels / Whatsapp groups for different problem statements within the themes to continue working in smaller teams.

Provide resources to support the hacking

An online hackathon allows you to draw in very diverse participants in terms of experience, level of education and exposure. Empower the teams to work at similar levels by providing simple tools such as templates for deliverables e.g. BMC or access to functional/sectoral experts who can serve as mentors responding to specific questions from the teams.

Make the final deliverable clear

From the beginning of the hackathon let the participants know what is expected from them as final submission so they know what they’re working towards. This could take different forms from a 7-page pitch decks to be presented live over Zoom (which allows for live Q&A) or 3-minute pre-recorded videos submitted as YouTube links.

The Covid-19 pandemic will end but it has ignited digital transformation across all spheres of our lives. We continue to learn daily as we digitise innovation and entrepreneurship programmes. We're happy to learn from and share more of our experiences with other organisations to deliver more impact in this new normal.

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A youth innovation hub to empower young entrepreneurs in Arusha, Tanzania.

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Collins Kimaro

Collins Kimaro

Co-Founder of Obuntu Hub. Alumnus: Warwick | YALI | HEC Paris. Passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation to drive business growth and social impact.

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