Global Shapers Oxford is hosting a ‘policy hackathon’ to solve local challenges arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ‘hackathon’ invites participants to create data-driven solutions to help Oxford recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The online event, called Policy Hacks Oxford, aims to unite the city’s academic, business, and government sectors and to “ensure all stakeholders have a voice in the solution-building process.” Its goal is to create higher levels of civic engagement and to build solutions around shared values.

Open to students, professionals, and members of the community, the ‘hackathon’ will take place via Zoom from 22nd to 25th May.

Participants will work over the weekend to create policy proposals to address key challenges facing Oxford. On Monday evening, they will present their ideas before a panel of judges consisting of city councillors, experts, and DPhil students.

The event focuses on four challenge areas: mental health, local economy, homelessness, and community engagement.

Project leader Juhi Kore consulted stakeholders around Oxford to decide on these areas, which resemble “the most pressing challenges” facing the city. The panel of judges is composed of experts in each area, including the CEOs of the Oxford Hub and the housing charity Aspire Oxfordshire.

Juhi, an MPhil student at St Anthony’s College, had planned the ‘hackathon’ in December but adapted the event after the emergence of COVID-19.

She told Cherwell: “It was when the pandemic started to take over the news cycle that we decided to look at which problems had least resources devoted to them and the challenges which will arise. This is a first of its kind event at the University, that is bringing stakeholders together to collectively shape the local response to the pandemic.”

In addition to uniting the public and private sectors in the city, Juhi hopes that the solutions will inform future decision making, both in Oxford and elsewhere.

“We’ve talked to local government and councillors, and some of them will be judging the event. This makes it easier for us to implement solutions. We want to have a very tangible outcome, with realistic policies, and to make sure we build solutions which can be scaled elsewhere.”

Global Shapers Oxford, the local hub of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community, has partnered with local organisations for the event, including the City Council, Oxford Hub, Aspire Oxford, Students Against Corona, and several University departments. Participants can sign up on its website.