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Embarking on the second installment of our Virtual CAS Conferences, we would like to highlight one component of our signature digital events that we are particularly proud of. As we pivoted to online programing in the first quarter of last year, one of our primary concerns was how we would continue to provide exciting, dynamic, ethical, and legitimate international Service project opportunities to students. We knew we needed to develop a safe format while addressing the struggles we were facing as a society.

We believe we found the solution we were looking for in the focal point of our Virtual Conferences—our Charity Hackathons. The culmination of our weekend-long events, the Charity Hackathon Service Learning project, is preceded by vibrant keynote speakers and dynamic group discussions that provide the foundation for taking real action on day two of our conferences. 

Working together through a process of Design Thinking in a Hackathon format to develop a long-term solution-focused service project in response to a charity’s need, the student outputs from last year’s conferences were exemplary models of the curiosity and approach to learning that make the IBDP program so unique.

To better convey what takes place during our Charity Hackathons, we would like to provide an overview and update of how the Hackathon of our Americas Virtual Conference unfolded and how the winning team’s vision is currently being realized.

The Charity

For our Americas Virtual Conference, the students cooperated with The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development. AASD is a US-certified non-profit with a sustainable social enterprise model that supports agriculture initiatives in campesino (farming) communities and providing experiential learning opportunities in Peru. With a mission to harness collective intelligence to support community-led development in the highlands, AASD provided an ideal platform for participating students to apply their creative problem-solving skills.

The Challenge

Students were presented with four areas requiring action: COVID-19, Climate Crisis, Local Impact, or Awareness and Growth. After reviewing each category, students were split into groups to begin their process of Design thinking by selecting a problem, formulating questions, identifying the root cause, and coming up with ideas for the solution that would serve as the basis for their project proposal.

Tasked with the mission of submitting their plans by midnight of the same day, students had to work against the clock to conceive of an implementable CAS Project collectively. Working together and communicating efficiently was crucial, as students endeavored to identify and utilize fellow team members’ strengths to deliver their project idea on time. 

The Winning Team

After reviewing each team’s work, AASD ultimately chose the project they felt was most aligned with their organization and offered a resource that would provide maximum value to campesino farmers. 

The winning team, 24 Alpha, put forth a proposal that took into account the charity’s needs and the isolated communities they support in Peru’s Sacred Valley. 

Their project outlined the creation of an agricultural handbook, which would address the effects of climate change and provide local farmers with the necessary knowledge to grow economically via technology and sustainability in the years to come. They intended the farmer’s manual, which offers a concrete reference point to different methodologies and biointensive approaches to agroecology, to be a component of AASD’s accelerator program that they provide to various communities. 

Current Project Update

Over the past several months, students have been working closely with AASD and local farmers to bring their idea to life. With the help of community liaisons, students have received clear instruction on how the manual will be used and how they can most impactfully organize its content with visuals and valuable information. Once completed, the manual will be translated into Spanish using local Quechua words. 

By creating this manual, the students have established a foundation and launching pad for AASD to incorporate even more technical information and cultural context into their programming. 

They plan to extend this resource’s use to reference everything from various farming methodologies to step-by-step how-to information and even recipes for soil health and management. Through participation in this Hackathon, students were able to look critically at an area of focus and develop a project that can be utilized and implemented in communities for many years to come.