Gaza Sky Geeks

About Project

I was a mentor and judge on The Gaza Sky Geeks hackathon in Gaza City to help women affected by gender based violence.

Live Project
Gaza Sky Geeks
December 2019

In December 2019 I travelled to Gaza to volunteer with Gaza Sky Geeks, a technology hub set up by Mercy Corps to help local people gain skills that help them get jobs in the global digital economy.

GSG organised a hackathon to help develop digital products and services that could help women affected by gender based violence.

Along with several other international mentors, my role was to provide training and support to the various teams, which consisted mostly of women. I drew upon my experience with many other humanitarian hackathons around Europe since 2015, helping the teams to:

  • Clarify their ideas
  • Focus on user experience and in particular, safety
  • Project manage during a very short development window and focus on priorities
  • Develop their prototypes
  • Present their ideas clearly and persuasively in the form of a final pitch
Delivering a workshop on pitching
On the judging panel, listening to the final presentations

This was also an incredible learning experience for me. The local context is extremely challenging, with a 12+ year blockade of the territory, regional instability, only a few hours of electricity per day (and you never know when it's going to be available), extremely high unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure.

However, I was very impressed with the way people adapt to the limitations and uncertainty, their constant thirst for knowledge, amazing resilience, ability to problem solve creatively, and humbling levels of hospitality.

My movements were heavily restricted while I was there due to security issues. This made me appreciate the freedoms I usually take for granted (it was also useful training for the pandemic lockdown!). I've also seen how much it's possible to accomplish with very limited resources.

On a more personal level, it was very interesting to visit a place that is very poorly understood. Here's a TEDx talk I gave on the subject:

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