Where did this idea come from?

Several of the organisers in the hackathon have been engaged with conversations around social justice and data feminism; in part through the Crisis Interrogatives collective and the Critical AI and Data Justice in Society course offered at Aalto University in spring 2021. It was in these spaces where we first heard of Our Feminist Futures, a feminist hackathon happening in May 2021 in the US, organized by a team of researchers at MIT: Alexis Hope, Catherine D’Ignazio, Melissa Teng, Josephine Hoy, Jennifer Roberts and Laura Yona Zittrain. When we saw that they were organising this hackathon, we were instantly intrigued. However, as you had to be a US resident, we could not participate. This is when Nitin Sawhney suggested we organise a hackathon here in Helsinki. We were immediately inspired and quickly got in touch with the team at MIT, and before long we had brought together a team to organise the Feminist Futures Helsinki (FFH) hackathon.

Before and during the FFH hackathon, we were lucky enough to receive mentoring from Alexis Hope from the MIT team, and we ended up running the FFH hackathon in parallel with Our Feminist Futures. Our work builds on theirs.

Something that also made this an extra interesting project to do exactly here in Finland is the fact that there is a very established innovation scene with various events and companies attracting a lot of international attention. We would argue, however, that those spaces are still very exclusive in nature, and are not always welcoming to a broader range of people and experiences. There is also a tendency to try to fix big societal struggles with apps or other forms of technology, but we wanted to challenge this approach (#techwontbuildit), and instead focus on long term perspectives. We have a lot of participants who have never participated in a hackathon before, and who were even a bit sceptical about the concept, but we hope we’ve been able to show them that the format can actually facilitate a lot more than what we’re used to seeing in the Silicon Valley type of hackathons. For example, this hackathon runs for 2,5 weeks to allow more time for people with work and care responsibilities. We have also prioritised getting the participants to listen to a plurality of voices by having different mentors.