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Annual Hackathon

What are policy hackathons?

  • A day-long, annual policy problem-solving event where you get to work in teams comprised of students (public policy and beyond), policy and other industry professionals.

  • Opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with the goal of formulating innovative policy solutions

  • Learn/utilize different strategies at the forefront of policy innovation

​Take a look at our previous hackathons and stay tuned for upcoming details on this year's hackathon!

2018 Hackathon: "Food for Thought"

On March 25, 2018, the Policy Innovation Initiative hosted its second annual policy hackathon, Food for Thought, which aimed to explore possible solutions to some of the most difficult food security issues facing Toronto, including:


  1. Institutional Food Procurement: How might we encourage healthy and sustainable food procurement in public institutions?

  2. Food Literacy: How might we strengthen food literacy for at-risk populations in urban centers?

  3. Home-based Food Businesses: How might we support urban home-based food businesses?


In an intimate and collaborative setting, 15 participants including graduate students and professionals representing the public, not-for-profit, private, and academic sectors co-designed solutions to the challenges. Achieving a 50:50 ratio between students and professionals, groups worked together with Challenge Leaders who facilitated discussion on each of the three issues to develop, refine, and present new policy solutions.


The day-long event provided valuable food for thought to address just a few of the many challenges in providing access to a secure and sustainable food supply in urban areas. The solutions that were ultimately put forward, with their intimate focus on the specific intervention and the end-user, illustrate the potential for solving these problems through the public, private, non-profit sectors, or through another partnership model. 

2017 Hackathon "Hack4Health"

In March 2017, the Policy Innovation Initiative hosted its first Hackathon. The event, Hack4Health, was a policy-based Hackathon that aimed to explore possible solutions to some of the most difficult public health issues facing Ontario, including:


  1. Alleviating pressures in downtown hospitals.

  2. Delivering service to rural communities.

  3. Developing alternative models for delivering medicine.


The 60-seat event was sold-out and included both professional and student participants from a variety of backgrounds. Students represented departments of public policy, public health, and urban planning, and came from as far as Guelph to attend. Professional attendees came from the public service, private sector and high-tech start-up space, and most expressed an interest in civic tech-driven solutions to public policy issues.


Hack4Health acted as a forum where this diverse group of innovators could bring their sector-specific skills and knowledge together to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing our healthcare system.


Following opening remarks from our organizers, industry challenge leaders and keynote speaker, participants were sorted into groups to address one of the three specific challenges mentioned above. In developing solutions to their challenges, they were encouraged to use their own expertise and to seek advice from members of other challenge groups, challenge leaders and event facilitators.  At the end of the day, groups presented their proposals to the entire forum.


The success of the event, demonstrated by the diverse group of attendees, the variety and quality of proposed policy solutions, and the ability to connect provincial policy-makers with these solutions, has motivated the Pii executive team to pursue future Hackathon events on an annual basis.

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