On 7-8 January 2021, HAS University of Applied Sciences in Venlo held a Hackathon of Hope. During the hackathon, second-year HAS students met online every hour with a total of about 80 agrifood professionals and students from 40 countries around the world. The students interviewed the professionals about their personal lives, business and careers. Of course, it was also about the impact corona was having on them. They also talked about opportunities for internships and minors, as well as career possibilities.
The participating students are all studying Business Management in Agriculture & Food, and the hackathon is part of the International Business module. Within this module, students learn how to carry out business abroad and what this involves. What are the interesting countries for export of a particular product or service? And how do you organise the export of a product to this country as part of a project for a real company (this year, students are working on projects for Satori Holland, Kanters BV and Vitalvé)? Students are speaking to foreign employees and their managers to learn more about what it’s like to work in the Netherlands, and to get an idea of intercultural communication.
Normally, an international excursion is part of the module. Unfortunately, the current corona measures mean this is not possible. So, lecturers Esther Vennekens and Peter van Gastel came up with the alternative of the Hackathon of Hope: a completely online event that lasted 24 hours. “This was our intention,” they tell us. “It teaches the students that business continues 24 hours a day, and that the time zones mean you can be in touch with someone somewhere in the world at any time of the day or night.” The partners involved in the discussions included around 80 entrepreneurs, managers, professors and students from about 40 countries, for example Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Moldova, Belgium, South Africa, India, France, Turkey, Norway, Poland and the Philippines. What is particularly special about the event is that all the professionals involved came from Esther and Peter's own network. "We know each other through international minors, exchange collaborations, as former students, or personally.”
Peter van Gastel
Esther and Peter received many enthusiastic reactions to the hackathon from their international partners and the students who took part. “It was also great for us to 'visit' everyone online in person around the globe, and to speak to each other in this special setting. Activating our network in this way also generated a whole series of discussions for the coming weeks about projects and collaboration.” The lecturers are really proud of the students who took on the challenge of conducting the interviews, carrying out their own battle with their team and also taking on activities to sponsor the Basa School in Nepal. “The students experienced for themselves how small the world is, how many wonderful people live across the globe, the importance of a good network, and that you can also call these people for an internship, or if you have any other questions. The 24 hours really went by in a flash."