Thinkathons and Hackathons: How new ways of thinking could solve the plastics problem
With awareness of plastic pollution at an all-time high, the onus is now on corporates to harness young and creative minds in innovative ways to solve the issue. Could 'Hackathons' and 'Thinkathons' hold the key?
They could, according to renowned plastics campaigner Dhruv Boruah, who wants corporates to think outside of the box to tackle single-use plastics - and as such, is supporting edie's Plastics Hackathon at the Sustainability Leaders Forum next month.
Businesses from virtually all sectors have come under immense scrutiny and pressure to find alternatives to single-use plastics, leading to many big-name brands publicly announcing commitments to phase-out single-use plastics and switch to alternative materials for their products and packaging.
While numerous firms have begun phasing out plastics and replacing them with alternatives deemed more sustainable, corporates are largely acting within their own operations.
According to Boruah, who is the founder of venture capital and private equity firm Common VC’, the next level of plastics action involves addressing a huge behavioural change challenge and looking beyond the current alternatives – some of which carry their own environmental complexities and are not always a sustainable option.
“Every corporation I speak to wants to make change, but any small change is extremely expensive and a wrong move can definitely do more harm than good,” Dhruv told edie. “Traditional corporate innovation is not working any more. We need new ideas and new perspectives and bring in the next generations that have ideas without boundaries.
“We need unprecedented ideas that will shape the future. They bring in new angles that wouldn’t be suggested in a boardroom. Bringing these ideas together with human change elements is so interesting. Only then can everyone achieve their full potential.”
Dhruv, who has embarked on various awareness campaigns to educate the world on plastics, will be involved with edie’s Plastics Thinkathon at the Sustainability Leaders Forum next month (5 & 6 February). Taking place at the Business Design Centre, the live Plastics Thinkathon will spark new ideas and actions to solve one of the most talked about topics of 2018.
A 'Thinkathon' is similar to a hackathon but does not require computer programmers or software developers to solve a challenge. edie's Plastics Thinkathon will facilitate a gathering of people from a variety of perspectives and expertise to think, collaborate, share ideas and innovate; to find radical new approaches to the tough problem of single-use plastics.
And just a few days later (9 February), Dhruv will be hosting his own plastics hackathon at Imperial College London to generate solutions, replacements and alternatives for plastics used in on-the-go food, personal care and online deliveries.
For Dhruv, thinkathons and hackathons can act as an enabling environment to put corporates in touch with new minds, sectors and organisations in order to think about solutions differently.
“We want to inspire people and most importantly, we want to trigger those innovations inside the mind,” Dhruv added. “It gives people a whole new angle to a problem they are trying to solve, and through a new mindset. They can go back to their offices with ideas, new ways of thinking and a chance to change the way they are working.
“We are building this accelerator with some key corporate partners from packaging, retail to waste management to discover, pilot, fund and scale these new ideas, be it new materials or business models. We are now looking for founding corporate partners and startup portfolios.”
How edie's Plastics Thinkathon works...
The solution to all of these challenges is innovation and new ideas. Led by a professional thinkathon facilitator, edie's Plastics Thinkathon will bring together a select group of sustainable business leaders and external thought-leaders and experts to co-create ideas that will solve plastic pollution.
Over the two sessions, the group will explore how businesses can play a leading role in eliminating unnecessary single-use plastics from our society through behavioural change, product redesign, alternative materials and new technological innovations.
Day One: 5 February 2019, 11:00 – 13:30
Session title: “Packaging innovations: Unlocking new sustainability opportunities”
Day Two: 6 February 2019, 11:10 – 13:40
Session title: “Consumer engagement: Bringing people on the journey towards a circular economy for plastic
The results will be presented on stage at the end of the second day of the Sustainability Leaders Forum as part of a live panel discussion involving the participants. This physical output will be digitised, and made available on edie as part of the new Mission Possible Plastics Hub.
Apply to join the Plastics Thinkathon here.
For more information about the Sustainability Leaders Forum, click here.