Six students win £1,500 prizes and entrepreneurship support for their Islington-based social enterprises.
Six City students won £1,500 worth of prizes and business support from CityVentures at the first ever Sustainable City Hackathon.
Over the course of 16 hours, City students and Islington residents came together to develop ideas for a social enterprise that would address a sustainability issue in Islington.
The social enterprise pitches had to answer to one of three topics: the night-time economy, the circular economy and food waste within the borough.
The event was a joint project between City’s Sustainability team, the University’s entrepreneurship arm CityVentures, and Islington-based coworking office Better Space.
Sustainable City Hackathon
The winning team, Bien Manger, won £1,000 in prizes and business support. The team was made up of City students Jonathon Ryder-Weldon (MSc Data Science), Angelina Puri (BSc Computer Science), Mariella Hilton (startup founder and Islington resident) and Rebecca Somer (MSc Organisational Psychology).
The team came up with the idea to open a healthy and affordable food store in Islington to cater to the borough’s thriving night-time economy, which includes NHS workers and students.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect because I had never taken part in a hackathon,” said Angelina. “I had a lot of fun gaining more experience, addressing the issues at hand and networking.”
Third-year BSc Economics student Luke Beckett and foundation year BSc Computer Science student Wael Khafagi formed the runner-up team Educatex, which won a £500 prize.
Their enterprise aims to refurbish e-waste and provide Islington children experiencing digital poverty with much-needed laptops.
“I have learned so much and we get to attempt to build our own social enterprise now which very few people get to do,” said Luke.
As part of the inspiration and insight session, attendees heard from Dr Christian Reynolds, Reader at City’s Centre for Food Policy, Lamia Sbiti, Business Transformation Officer from ReLondon and London’s Night Czar Amy Lamé.
The panel of judges who made the final decision on the winning team included Islington Councillor Santiago Bell-Bradford, Matt Nicol from the Social Enterprise School and City’s Students’ Union President Gesmina Tsourrai.
“The Hackathon looked at the big challenges we face and how to crack them with ingenuity, innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Arthur Shearlaw, Sustainability Engagement Officer at City. “It provided an opportunity for students, staff and Islington residents to come together to make progress on the UN Global Goals in a local setting with support from the expertise City has to offer.”
Entrepreneurship as a tool for social good within Islington
Having identified a lack of healthy and affordable food options in Islington late at night, the winning Bien Manger team came up with the idea of creating a night-time healthy food outlet.
The highest percentage of people who work at night are healthcare workers, followed by professionals working in entertainment such as bars and clubs. Islington in particular is active at night, with many people travelling, socialising and working after 8pm.
Night-time workers tend to work in shifts with irregular hours and are more likely to experience poor health outcomes. Bien Manger hope to address that issue and cater in particular to NHS workers and students.
Runner-up team Educatex addressed both the circular economy and e-waste. The Islington borough experiences 18.5% of child poverty (based on Department for Work and Pensions data from 2014-2022).
Children in digital poverty, which means a lack of access to tech, face difficulties succeeding at school because many class materials need to be accessed online and a lot of school research happens online.
Technology waste is a growing environmental concern, so giving old tech another lease of life through refurbishment is one way of contributing to the circular economy by reusing materials that have already been used once.
“In a post-pandemic world, students are more interested and engaged with entrepreneurship,” said Rui Barros Silva, Enterprise Education Projects Manager at CityVentures. “We can see students want to see their work having an impact.”
“The energy at the hackathon has been great. Over 70 people applied, so there is a great appetite among young people to use entrepreneurship to solve social issues,” said Ralph La Fontaine, Head of Entrepreneurship at City.