Skip to main content
Supporting fair and ethical business in partnership with The Co-operative Bank

Stories from the Co‑op Hackathon 2023

The Co-op Hackathon presentations

Hear from two of the ‘hackers’ who came to the first Co‑op Hackathon – about their experiences at the event and what’s happened since… 

In October 2023, Co-operatives UK held their first Co‑op Hackathon, bringing together co-operators and ethical tech developers to work on digital solutions that boost the co‑op movement – and society in general.

Remote video URL
Video from Co-op Hackathon, October 2023; Filmed and produced by Alex Evans Productions

We caught up with two of the participants to see how their day went and how their ideas developed during the event and afterwards.

Worldschooling Quest

Jessica Marsh came to the hackathon with an idea, Worldschooling Quest – a community platform to connect families and educators interested in alternative and more holistic educational experiences. 

“We see school systems in different places but with similar issues and problems, so we wanted to create a meaningful community. There are groups on Facebook but there’s no single cohesive, go‑to place for resources, connection and idea exchange,” she said. 

The hackathon was Jessica’s first experience of co‑operativism, and she came to the event with an idea, some research and an open mind as to how the day might unfold.

Quote mark
The atmosphere, open vibe and nature of everyone there was so refreshing, I appreciated that. I felt as a newcomer, and even by myself that I could talk to anyone about anything.
– Jessica Marsh, Worldschooling Quest
People collaborating at laptops

“I had loads of questions like, ‘How do we create something that’s accessible for as many people as possible?’ And I had my ideas and assumptions challenged. That was great and really pushed my thinking.” 

Thanks to the conversations and connections made at the Co‑op Hackathon, Jessica pushed on with her idea and found an affordable digital platform on which to build Worldschooling Quest.

The platform offers a database of learning materials, a calendar of events and map of learning places. It’s also a place where people can share their own ideas, connect with like-minded global citizens and collaborate on projects that create real global impact and meaningful experiences.

“We softly launched in November 2023 and we already have more than 300 members. The community is growing every day,” she said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to connect with the lovely people at the Co‑op Hackathon, which helped move me along significantly with the project.”

Oracle Owl

The Animorph team holding up an Oracle Owl sign

The ingenious team at north London based Animorph Co‑operative produce augmented reality and virtual reality solutions that create a positive social impact.

For them, the Co‑op Hackathon was an opportunity to create the time and space away from client work to develop passion projects of their own. The day was all about making new connections too.

 “It was brilliant to meet and speak with people we didn’t know. The facilitators really made an effort to introduce people to each other and that was really appreciated,” said developer Szczepan Orlowski.

Quote mark
For some people, this was their introduction to the co-op movement – and it was inspiring for them. We’re thankful to have had the space to do this – hanging out and mingling with people in the wider co‑op movement is a great way to kick start future collaborations.
– Szczepan Orlowski, Animorph Co-operative

One of Animorph’s ideas was Oracle Owl, an innovative conversational AI app, as Szczepan explained: “We went in with the concept that we could use an open‑source large language model (LLM) and combine it with a speech interface, so you can ask it questions and it can speak back to you.” 

With a day at their disposal and plenty of technical and design work to do, the project soon began to take shape. “We managed to integrate the large language model, communicating with it via speech and creating an owl who would embody the AI. LLM produces the text response and the owl reads it,” said Szczepan.

“We worked a few hours to get the core logic wired. The owl adjusts its movement based on the user’s face expression. The app tracks your face and the owl is superimposed on it. We really got into the design aspect during the hackday. 

“We got to the stage where the owl could respond in text – it speaking back to us is for the next stage of development. It will be another day of work to get it to a demonstrable state, potentially more if we want it to look convincing. We could bring it to the next Hackathon to get it finished. It was good fun achieving what we did.” 

The Co-op Hackathon is part of Co-operatives UK’s Business Support for Co-ops programme, delivered in partnership with The Co-operative Bank

The 2024 Co-op Hackathon is being produced in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University’s Design Factory. 

Join the FREE Co-op Hackathon – there’s more than one way to take part...
8-9 May 2024 in Manchester. Bursaries available!
Related content