I am taking part as a mentor at ConsenSys Health‘s Stop COVID-19 hackathon.

Oh, what was that? – Ah, yes. Why am I participating in a hackathon?

Hackathons aren’t necessarily just for coders. I’d encourage anyone to participate in such events if they feel they may have something to contribute. You can be sure to walk away enriched at the end.

Even though I cannot code, I’m not a complete virgin at this. I’ve participated at local hackathons, too, organised by Code the City. There I took the perspective of a user or commentator so that the hackers can refine their developments and get feedback on their output. I also performed some data analysis and visualisation. As far as I remember, the CTC hack events had no material prizes (well, free food is always a much appreciated bonus) and thrived purely on the participants’ enthusiasm. Also driven by everyone’s passion, the CH hackathon is a different ball game though. Not only is it global and fully virtual, there is also a sense of urgency due to the current pandemic and an awareness that an idea could become a functional, if not commercial, reality sooner rather than later. In addition, there are monetary prizes for the top 3 teams.

ConsenSys Health CEO, Heather Flannery, on the spirit of the hackathon

Somebody actually suggested that I volunteer as a mentor. Why? Well, I am a former immunological research scientist who still keeps an eye on the biotech industry. The concept of the event is to involve experts from healthcare and life sciences to support the hackers in building predominantly blockchain-based solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. So, there was a chance that my knowledge might be of use.

Check out Gitcoin’s YouTube playlist for some mentor intros and more.

So, what am I doing?

It took a few days to find my feet in the Gitcoin world and look for opportunities to get involved. Being active in the chat by sharing resources, insights and questions definitely helped. I ended up chatting to three teams and naturally gelled most with one. I’m hoping to write about the project at a later point. In addition, the CH team had a matching scheme in place to help assign mentors to teams. By the time this came round, I was sorted though. The organisers also run a good few insightful and engaging webinars and discussion rounds for mentors, hackers and collaborators.

I’m pretty busy as it is. So, is this worth my time?

Oh, so very much! It helps me tremendously to get a better grasp of potential blockchain applications in healthcare. I have set my sights on this topic more recently and have a lot to learn. Seeing all the project ideas and thinking about the details of the particular endeavour I am involved in, is a fantastic intellectual exercise and helps me visualise aspects of such a complex question. The thought that I might be contributing a tiny bit to the improvement of a niche in the healthcare system is not lost on me either. On top of that, I encounter people I would never meet otherwise, not only because we live in different countries, even continents, but also because our current personal worlds don’t overlap. So, despite lockdown this is a great opportunity to be socially active beyond borders.

Ah, I also discovered Gitcoin’s avatar builder. Finally, Blue Steens has a much prettier online face than the good old stick man. 😁