OPSI COVID-19 Innovative Response Tracker

Cambridge University (UK) students organise #CamvsCovid hackathon for small local businesses

Innovative response

MPhil students from Cambridge University organised a hackathon, #CamvsCovid, to seek solutions to problems stemming from COVID-19. Entries focused on local shops, the virtual shopping experience and remote health diagnostics.

Each team entering the event had 72 hours to draft its response to a pressing problem by video and text, and their 750-word text solution went through a juried review process. All the 750-word solutions, which totaled 11 entries, are being assembled into a portfolio.

Specific issues addressed and anticipated impact

The winner of the event was entitled “Localing”, submitted by an eight-member team (five of them current Cambridge MBA students), which involves a platform for connecting customers with local businesses again following the temporary closure of many small shops.  The platform gives community members the ability to pre-purchase discounted goods from local businesses now, which they will receive when the businesses re-open. This provides the businesses with the cash flow that they need in the short term to maintain operations and increases the chance of them being able to open again in the future. The plan’s business model calls for Localing to operate as a limited company, with each pre-purchase from a local business involving a small service fee on a tiered pricing model to support Localing’s operations.

The joint runner-up was “Swipe Street”, submitted by a seven-member team of computer science, engineering and economics undergrads at the University of Cambridge, which aims to help small businesses and their customers adapt to social distancing through a platform that recreates the feel of High Street browsing.

The team proposed an app through which customers can swipe through shop fronts and chat with shop owners. “Our app allows customers to personally ask for recommendations or arrange delivery without losing the unique attention that small businesses can provide,” the team said. The business model is a not-for-profit with a small fee on platform sales to pay for server hosting.

Organisations/institutions involved

Cambridge University Judge Business School; HackCambridge Foundation

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Level(s) of government:
  • Non-Profit/Civil Society