HDB Hackathon

A hackathon to crowdsource ideas for stronger neighborly ties amongst residents in Singapore.

Photo from Padang & Co
Context: Helping Singapore's Housing Development Board (HDB) crowdsource ideas for building stronger neighborly ties amongst residents through participatory design.
Team: Padang & Co
Dates: May to June 2016 (8 weeks)
Role: Project Management, Community Outreach, Workshop Planning & Facilitation
Skills: Participatory Design, Generative Research, Facilitation

The Housing Development Board (HDB) is in charge of public housing in Singapore. Given that around 80% of the population live in HDB flats, this branch of the government plays a very important role in making its residents feel connected to one another and their neighbourhoods feel vibrant.

Client Brief

HDB was looking for new ways to foster a greater sense of community amongst its residents. As part of this, they wanted to engage citizens in the design process to better understand their needs as well as see what kind of ideas they could come up with. Ideally, they also wanted to work with citizens in the long run to bring some of these ideas to fruition. 

Creating The Conditions For Co-Design

We designed a wekeend-long hackathon that brought together people with different skill sets and backgrounds, such as experts in urban design, social innovation and community development, decision-makers at HDB, and other passionate citizens. 

Leading up to the hackathon, we organized a series of capacity building workshops to get participants familar with the overarching themes, introduce basic design thinking techniques for ideation and expose them to some tools and technologies available to them.

The themes for the hackathon were: 1) fostering neighborly ties, 2) connecting residents to news and updates, and 3) making HDB living greener. The themes stemmed from our requirements gathering sessions with various HDB teams that unearthed some of the common issues they faced.  The themes were crafted to be broad enough to leave ample room for interpretation yet sufficiently scoped to spark concrete ideas. 

Photos from Padang & Co

Facilitating Conversations

My role involved helping participants form teams based on their interests and backgrounds; we tried to create diverse, well-balanced teams as much as possible. Once teams began ideating, my role involved checking in with teams (especially if they appeared to be stuck) and mediating conversations amongst team members to help them frame and re-frame problems. Finally, prior to the final presentations, I gave teams feedback on their mock presentations and how to best convey their ideas.

Ideas & Prototypes

The ideas presented ranged from communication tools that connect people based on mutual interests and conversational UIs that deliver alerts and updates to residents, to event listing sites and  hyper-local marketplaces that enable underutilized resources to be shared. The winning ideas can be found here.

Below are some key takeaways from the hackathon. These insights came out of observations of people's behavior and attitudes towards the hackathon, as well as patterns that emerged from the kind of ideas teams worked on.
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