Who are SGCH?

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed
vibewire logo

With our social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness kicking off tonight! (15-17 September 2017) We thought we’d go behind the scenes to talk with our sponsors SGCH (St George Community Housing). With over 30 years experience, SGCH are a community housing provider who develop and manage sustainable, safe and affordable homes to create vibrant, inclusive communities. They have provided a place to call home for more than 8,500 people across 4,4000 properties in the Sydney metropolitan area.

SGCH knows the people impacted by homelessness and housing affordability. They’ve listened to their stories and know their families and their pain; “It is heartbreaking to fathom that over 105,000 individuals are homeless on any given night in Australia”.

SGCH were motivated to come onboard as a sponsor as they think Hack4homelessness is an important way to amplify the voices and the stories of people who have experienced homelessness and to shed light on the disturbing link between homelessness and Australia’s acute lack of affordable housing. As young people are disproportionally represented in these figures they resonate with the “particular focus on connecting young people with opportunity. It is about bringing creative thinkers together to come up with solutions.”

SGCH are in the midst of delivering more than 800 new, social and affordable and energy efficient homes, across Sydney by 2021, providing more housing and more opportunities for low income families and have worked with other services providers to house people who are homeless through a number of different programs. In 2014, they launched a pilot project with the Mercy Foundation, called Project Sustaining Tenancies Around Youth (Project STAY). This provided subsidised private rental accommodation and wrap around support services for homeless/at risk youth in the Bankstown area.

One of the great challenges is there is simply not enough affordable housing for lower income and vulnerable households to rent. The sheer length of social housing waiting lists across the country indicate precisely how many people in Australia are struggling to cover their full living costs and survive in the private rental market (currently, there are 59,000 applicants on the NSW Housing Register and this number continues to grow).

In a country as prosperous as ours SGCH believe “it is simply unacceptable that we do not have an adequate supply of housing to cater for the needs of all people in our community and are looking forward to hackathon participants “coming up with ideas and solutions that may give more people the opportunity to access what is a basic human right – a safe and comfortable home”.

Vibewire hope that we can make a difference by bringing together the community, like-minded businesses, government, the private sector and housing providers like SGCH to deliver more social and affordable housing and connect people to opportunity.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

Introducing Jackie Coates

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed
vibewire logo

Our social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness kicks of tomorrow night! (Running 15-17 September 2017). In the lead up, we asked Jackie Coates, Head of the Telstra Foundation, why she was keen to get involved and support the event.

Homelessness is an issue that affects all ages, all genders and all backgrounds. As a seasoned corporate social responsibility leader, Jackie is passionate about “tech for good”, which she describes as the intersection of social innovation and digital technology. Advocating for the transformative power of tech to help solve social problems, (particularly challenges impacting young people) is why she was motivated “to support this co-design process that brings different sectors together to work on solutions”.

Jackie will be on Sunday’s judging panel and as head of the Telstra Foundation manages a community investment portfolio that supports young people and the non-profits that help them. Understanding that homelessness is a complex issue connected to affordable housing shortages, domestic and family violence; financial poverty, long term unemployment, exiting prison, mental illness, addiction, and disability – to highlight just some factors.  She believes “to make a difference, we need to pull together as a society and create better scaffolding for people as they face into tough life challenges so things don’t escalate to homelessness”.

Telstra Foundation is committed to working with non-profits that support vulnerable people and helping to skill up these organisations in service design to drive better outcomes. This includes design thinking, user experience, research and prototyping, and also business design; digital design and product development.

Jackie is looking forward to us “busting some myths about homelessness through empathy and understanding; getting more people connected and engaged around this issue; and bringing to life some innovative solutions that have been co-designed with people who have lived experience of this challenge”.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

Introducing Mark Cohen

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed
vibewire logo

#Hack4Homelessness, our social impact hackathon, begins tomorrow night! (Running 15-17 September 2017) We spoke to Mark Cohen, CTO for our sponsors Domain Group, who has always been bothered by the lack of energy our society puts into homelessness.

Domain Group sees getting involved with #hack4homelessness as a light bulb moment!  They offer an ecosystem of leading multi-platform property solutions and provide a service to help people get themselves and their families into homes – whether buying or renting.  Therefore, supporting our #hack4homelessness is a logical extension of who they are and what they do. It sits perfectly at the intersection of personal passion and Domain’s mission.

Mark is a vocal champion of innovation and capital-A Agile as cultural values, and believes all business needs a higher purpose. He was also motivated to get involved on a personal level as whenever he walks through the CBD he gets “the feeling we spend way too little energy on homelessness within our own community – As the old saying goes, charity begins at home – and this is a problem in our own streets, affecting our own people”.

Mark will be on Sunday’s judging panel and believes homelessness is not a problem that requires a big bang solution – every little bit can help, so “If we can help one person find their feet and get them off the streets, we’ve made a difference to the world.  If we can get a few people who were queuing to get into a shelter every night to get into a share house together, we’ve made a difference to them and the people who take their places in the shelters. That’s part of the beauty in trying to help”.

Domain Group are looking forward to seeing some lateral thinking come out of the hackathon. Mark suggests, “ideas that could be pursued to create finished products, maybe by looking into alternative sources of accommodation beyond the usual sources and by tapping into disused commercial metro land or building with basement spaces that could be plumbed and used, who knows what great ideas people may come up with!”

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

Hacking Data to Solve Social Challenges

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed

They say that “data is the new oil” – that it is becoming the world’s most valuable resource. For years, policy makers have been capturing data and using it to make decisions – that’s the concept behind the Census. More recently, businesses and social networks have been using data to make organisational and marketing decisions – changing their supply chains, investment plans and sales strategies.

But what if we could use data to solve social problems?

Back in July, when we were first planning Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness – a new and creative attempt to solve the social, technical, cultural and behavioural challenges of homelessness, we knew we would need data. Having run dozens of hackathons and innovation programs for large enterprise clients over the last few years, we knew that data wasn’t just an option. It was THE oil that makes the difference between a good idea and an amazing solution.

So when the Minerva Collective came on board as a partner, we were very excited. It is clear that homelessness is an intractable problem – programs have been developed and resources created. People work tirelessly to solve it. And yet, it persists. We need a different approach.

Last week, the Minerva Collective assembled over 60 data scientists at Stone & Chalk to explore how data may be able to be used to create new solutions to homelessness. Breaking into “swarm” groups they were able to draw upon the public data sets that we found and were able to access. They were also able to register for access to the new Domain Group APIs to find data about agencies and listings, content from the Domain Group editorial team and properties and their locations.

Out of this “swarm”, the data scientists some great ideas to help the the solving teams during the hackathon. These include the following:


We were told that it takes several years for a homeless person to get affordable housing and therefore off the waiting list. One idea that came to mind (but might not be feasible) is to make use of available (and under-used) living spaces rather than waiting for more apartments to be built. I was thinking of matching up elderly people living in big houses/apartments with homeless people who are willing to work and get free accommodation in return.

I can imagine that there are many elderly people in the Sydney area who’d rather stay in their own home rather than moving into an old age village. However, they are often lonely and need help around the house. This is where homeless people could come in. An app could be built that matches up profiles of homeless people with elderly people. This whole process would of course have to be monitored (as many homeless people deal with mental illness). Also, this would most likely only provide short-term accommodation, but gives the homeless people more time to focus on finding a job without having to live on the street.


One member in our group mentioned that it is difficult to reach homeless people and that they are often not aware which documents are needed to be added to the list to get affordable housing. Maybe an app for homeless people could be built with all the important information available. This could consist of check-lists of forms needed, GPS locations of food-trucks, and lists of help services available for the homeless.


Our concept is already made progress. At Refugees Welcome we aim to connect people seeking asylum or people of refugee backgrounds to homes with spare rooms, so that it is a more affordable (or sometimes free) living arrangement where they can have a sense of belonging, be treated with dignity and feel safe.  We currently are doing a lot of this work manually ourselves but envision technology to play a bit part of the screening and filtering process.


  1. Housing theme :
  • Consider how to provide a fixed address, for people to maintain their ids.  (i.e fore Work with Services &  AusPost to ensure that a place is available to receive and collect mail.
  • A co-op body with access to rental properties and allow for price control rental (i.e. Similar to Defence Housing Co-op).
  1. Community theme:
  • Access to unused land for a community garden to grow and farm to address issues of access to fresh and healthy food services and the potential to provide employment.
  • Consider the issue of Youth without a place to call “Home”, young people with no permanent place to call home during critical education period Year 10 to HSC. These are young people not yet sleeping rough, but a moving from home to home. How are these young people identified and what can be done to prevent permanent homelessness.
  1. Identification theme:
  • Consider tackling how people could maintain a 100 pts check with no fixed address to allow access to services such as bank account, apply for a private rental.
  1. Data Unification Theme:
  • We propose a close look at how to bring the various data sources together to give a complete and holistic picture of homelessness, to allow research and policy maker to map, identify, understand & take action to prevent or circumvent homelessness.
  • A visualization of the various issues related to homelessness to be highlighted these infographics/data visualization could be made available various agencies or peak body to use to highlight homelessness

We are looking forward to seeing how the hackers, hipsters, hustlers and humanitarians at the hackathon bring this all together. Be sure to follow along with the #hack4homelessness hashtag during the event.


Gavin Heaton is the founder of the Disruptor’s Handbook, the strategy and innovation firm that helps enterprises shift mindset, innovate products, and transform their organisation. He is also voluntary President of Vibewire.

Meet Rob Holt from The Wayside Chapel

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed | No Comments
vibewire logo

Our social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness is this weekend 15-17 September 2017. In the lead up Rob Holt from The Wayside Chapel was kind enough to share his personal journey through homelessness with us in the video interview above. Rob details his struggles with loneliness, isolation, and separation from community and loved ones.

The Wayside Chapel has community service centres in both Kings Cross and Bondi. Each year, thousands of people visit Wayside for assistance in gaining equitable access to essential health, welfare and related services. They create a healing community by breaking down the barriers of judgment and providing a safe place where people from all walks of life are welcome. People marginalised by homelessness, mental health issues and substance abuse can turn to Wayside for compassion, tolerance and support.

Rob’s motivation for getting involved with #hack4homelessness is to support his “brothers and sisters by drawing the community into the fold”.

He believes “recognizing the human being – not the alcoholic or the drug addict – and saying hi is more powerful than putting money in a person’s hand” and wants organisations to allow their employees time off to volunteer with their families.

Rob thinks if kids – our future voters and leaders – get involved volunteering with their parents from a young age and can see and share in the issues being experienced by homeless people that those who are suffering now might have a better chance in future society.

You can read more about Rob’s story here.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

Meet Rabbi Mendel Kastel from Jewish House

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed | No Comments
vibewire logo

Vibewire’s social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness runs from this Friday 15 September to 17 September. In the lead up we had a chat with Rabbi Mendel Kastel, CEO of the Jewish House Crisis Centre, our amazing partners.

Jewish House is a non-denominational, not for profit organisation that offers accommodation, counseling services and other essentials for people in crisis. Jewish House provides an inspiring framework to look at innovative ways to measure and implement new ideas. Rabbi understands “we need to have an open mind to look at how we can do things better and I that a hackathon gives an opportunity to get different young minds to come up with ideas”.

Jewish House are one of the leading independent agencies taking a holistic and community based approach to addressing the immediate distress, causes and outcomes of homelessness, to then break the cycle and seek a permanent stable housing situation.

Rabbi believes “that we should not have a homelessness problem the way we do in Australia and every person should have their basic needs facilitated in this country and making a difference to homelessness is a good start”.

Over the weekend’s #hack4homelessness Rabbi wants to see new ways of thinking develop to “help those who are in contact with those experiencing homelessness – for them, their families and the community”.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

Introducing QBE’s Mark Baxter

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, The Feed | No Comments
vibewire logo

Ahead of our social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness scheduled next weekend (15-17 September 2017), we thought we’d catch up with QBE Australia’s Chief Risk Officer Mark Baxter who resonates greatly with this initiative having been touched by homelessness on a personal level.

QBE Insurance Group is one of the world’s top 20 general insurance and reinsurance companies, with operations in all the key insurance markets. They employ more than 14,500 people in 37 countries. Mark explains “QBE has a proud tradition of supporting social causes and have done a lot around homelessness in the past”.

Mark had a difficult childhood, growing up in a poor family in country Victoria, his father struggled with alcoholism and they were kicked out of their family home. They moved from house to house relying on others “grace and favor” to keep a roof over their heads. Mark’s father died when he was just 11 years old and later due to cancer his mother died when he was 15 years old.

He is committed to ending the stigma surrounding homelessness. He remembers going past Martin Place a few weeks ago and feeling as if the people had been demonized by the misconception as to why they are homeless. Thinking, “but for the grace of god it could’ve been me”. His aim is to educate the community that “They’re not bad people and I get really, really annoyed that people do think they’re bad people because the majority are not”.

Mark is very excited about the upcoming Hack4homelessness and “to see some pragmatic real solutions to come out of this that actually help people”.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.

vibewire logo

How to Hustle at a Hackathon

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, The Feed

They say that every startup needs a hacker, a hipster and a hustler. The hacker to build your technology. The hipster to make that great tech shine. And a hustler to package up and sell it. For our upcoming #Hack4Homelessness hackathon, we also need the fourth “H” – the humanitarian. It’s a vital role within any social enterprise.

At almost every event we have run, seen or participated in, these core roles are on display in the hackathon teams that win.

But even if you don’t have the confidence of the hustler, there are some ways that you can really make a hackathon work for you – and it’s not only about winning the pitch session.

Here are some tactics you can use to put your best foot forward:

  1. Solve the problem: At the heart of every hackathon is (or should be) a clear problem. Use the Disruptor’s Handbook’s Problems Worth Solving handbook to question the organisers, mentors and subject matter experts to drill down into the heart of the problem and then work to solve it with their help. (Note: One hackathon super power that you should develop is collaboration. Ask for help. Leverage expertise. Take every offer available.)
  2. Make mentors your friends: A good hackathon will have the support of respected industry mentors. These people give up their time and lend their expertise to help you make the most of your hackathon experience. Listen to them like you would an old friend. Remember, that beyond the intensity of the weekend, these are people who can help bring your idea to life. Impress them with your willingness to learn and creative approach to implementation.
  3. Ask for help: It’s amazing how often a hackathon team can close down during an event. The combined pressures of a fixed timeline and public scrutiny can challenge the most confident hacker. As soon as you hit a road block, find a way around it. Tap the mentors. Ask for insights from subject matter experts. Chat to other teams (you might be surprised how collegiate a competition can be). But don’t go around in circles – the hackathon spiral of death can be fatal to your team’s chances.
  4. Divide and conquer: You each have your roles and responsibilities. Get on with it. Let the hustler hustle, the hacker hack, and the hipster stroke his funky beard.
  5. Seek out the best opportunity: Hackathons are fertile grounds for networking. That’s where you put your best foot forward. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. Bring a copy of your resume. Bring business cards. And when you see someone walking around observing the action, casually ask, “what brings YOU to this hackathon?”
  6. Find your people: Sometimes you have to take a chance – turn up to a hackathon where you don’t know anyone and join a team. Speak with others. Offer to help. Get a vibe for the other people in the room. And track down those who seem “like minded”. These are your people. And together you will do great things.

Hackathons are not just about the prizes

Hackathons are more than just a chance to test out your ideas and win some prize money.

Hackathons are a great way to showcase your skills to potential clients, meet other developers and collaborators and even kickstart your new startup social enterprise. Be open minded and you’ll find that deep inside, there’s a hustler waiting to get out.

Other hackathon hustling tips?

Be sure to share in the comments.

Announcing the #Hack4Homelessness Prizes

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, Social Impact, The Feed

We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to bring the right people, mentors, supporters and experts to help you build the most amazing solutions to the challenges of homelessness. But right now, we’d like to share information about the prize pool for the #Hack4Homelessness. Remember, you can register to participate here.

The prizes will help extend your project well beyond the weekend of the 15-17 September. They include:

1st Prize

  • $1500 in cash
  • 3 months co-working space at Vibewire for up to 6 members (valued at $3000)
  • 1 free part time AcademyXi course for one of the team members or ($1,250 credit for each member)
  • $100 AcademyXi Bootcamp ticket for each winning member
  • Premium membership to Social Change Central

2nd Prize

  • $500 in cash
  • A copy of ‘SPRINT: solve big problems and test new ideas in just 5 days’ by Jake Knapp for each member
  • $100 AcademyXi Bootcamp ticket for each winning member
  • $1,000 credit for each team member  (part-time courses)

3rd Prize

  • $100 AcademyXiBootcamp ticket for each winning member
  • $750 AcademyXi credit for each team member (part-time courses)

Conditions of AcademyXi credits:

  • 12 months expiry
  • Non-transferrable to others
  • Can’t be used with other offers

Check out the AcademyXi courses available including growth marketing, virtual reality design and product management!

Don’t forget to register!

If you have not registered as yet, you can do so as an individual or as a team.

Introducing SSE

By | Hack4Homelessness, Hackathing, The Feed
vibewire logo

With our social impact hackathon, #Hack4Homelessness scheduled for 15-17 September 2017, we thought we’d go behind the scenes to talk with our partners and sponsors. To kick off we spoke with Stephen Rutter, the Head of Experience with Sydney School for Entrepreneurship.

With more than 20 years in global business environments covering logistics, entertainment and education management under his belt, we wanted to understand what motivated him to become involved in our Hack4Homelessness hackathon next month.

“SSE is an unprecedented new partnership – with 11 NSW based universities and TAFE NSW”, explains Stephen. “This is our launch year thanks to cornerstone investment by the NSW Government.

Stephen is committed to cultivating and expanding the SSE community and noted the importance of “providing the voiceless a voice. Sydney School of Entrepreneurship is committed to building a community that not only serves the member institutions but our entrepreneurial partners for a wider social impact”.

The aim is reduce the amount of people in a state of homelessness and provide intervention methods to reduce people being forced onto the streets. Stephen believes we can make this difference by having the homeless ‘as a part of the community and looking at their needs as we would other stakeholders’.

Stephen is looking forward to action coming out of the hackathon with ‘new ideas that can be translated into solutions to solve homelessness’. With SSE having just launched as part of the entrepreneurial community we are excited to see them tackle many more social impact opportunities like #Hack4Homelessness in the future.

Vibewire’s #Hack4Homelessness brings Australia’s leading technology, engineering and social impact students, social entrepreneurs and startups together to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Running from 15-17 September 2017, you can register as a participant here.