Engagement in Practice: Social Performance and Harm in Civic Hackathons

Angela L. Chan, Molly H. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Civic hackathons are time-bound events where participants develop prototypes and ideas to tackle a social issue. Hackathons are practical tools for experiential learning and can provide opportunities to learn technical skills, network, and generate interest in a topic. While organizers adjust formats to democratize similar events, issue-based hackathons are largely inaccessible to relevant stakeholders and failures to make actionable change in the topic reinforce underinvestment of the populations impacted. Hackathons prize technological solutionism over reinvestment into existing systems, and historical harm is perpetuated by not designing technology with those most disadvantaged. We analyzed multiple attempts to improve hackathons and suggest mindsets and practices for minimizing harm. Organizers should only conduct civic hacks if they have sufficient financial resources and support to create an inclusive event that fosters discourse and tackles systems. Outcomes should be explicit reinvestment into relevant communities. Organizer goals should be better defined to assess whether series of targeted workshops may be more appropriate than a hackathon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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