In July this year, LEAD students joined the wider student community at LEAD’s inaugural Social Impact Hackathon.
In a collaboration between the Western Sydney University’s LEAD Program and The Big Issue, students were asked to come together and create an additional social enterprise for The Big Issue, to create new work opportunities for Australians experiencing homelessness, disadvantage, or marginalisation.
The Big Issue is a non-for profit social enterprise that currently includes ‘The Big Issue’ magazine, the Women’s Subscription Enterprise, The Big Issue Classroom, Community Street Soccer Program and Homes for Homes.
The Hackathon required students to work in multi-disciplinary teams with team mates they had just met over a period of two days. Although challenging, the six teams formulated remarkable results and innovative solutions. The panel of judges spoke of how impressed they were with the calibre of students, noting that the pitches were equivalent to subjects where students had worked a whole semester on creating a pitch.
The winning team, “Giving Spades”, provided a solution which empowered those experiencing homelessness. They created a business model where playing cards are designed by local artists and then sold by people experiencing homelessness while encouraging the community to sit down for a game and challenge stereotypes around being homeless.
Overall, the Hackathon provided a remarkable opportunity for students to not only develop entrepreneurial skills, but also learn about the hardships that Australians experiencing homelessness, disadvantage, or marginalisation face.
On day one of the Hackathon, students heard directly from three speakers who shared their personal stories on how they became homeless. It was heartbreaking but also clear to see how people can slip through the gap and find themselves in this challenging predicament, particularly with the economic challenges we now face in Australia and globally.
In fact, according to the Salvation Army, “more than 278,000 Australians sought help from Specialist Homelessness Services in 2020-21. This number represents the homeless population in Australia, and the growing number of people who are at risk of homelessness and are seeking support to avoid becoming homeless.”
There are many ways you can get involved to help Australians experiencing homelessness, disadvantage, or marginalisation. To find out more please go to: https://thebigissue.org.au/get-involved/