Hack For Humanity

This year’s lens: The Ongoing Rohingya Refugee Crisis


Dear Hack for Humanity Participants!

After much deliberation from our panel of judges, we are excited to announce the winners of this year's Hack for Humanity!

Prize: Humanitarian Innovation Initiative Seed Grant ($500)

Group 8 - DRR - Vetiver Grass: Fortification and Stabilization

Prize: Brown Design Workshop Maker Grant ($500)

Group 35 - WASH - JerryPot

Prize: Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship Explore Grant ($500)

Group 26 - Education - LIVE

About Us

The inaugural Humanitarian Hackathon at Brown University will bring together students from across Rhode Island to learn about the most pressing needs in the humanitarian sphere and develop creative ideas for innovative programs or technologies that could help improve the lives of disaster and conflict-affected communities around the world. Students from all disciplines and concentrations are encouraged to participate!


Organized By the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative

Improving the effectiveness and accountability of disaster preparedness, humanitarian response, and post-emergency reconstruction through interdisciplinary research and educational programming that fosters collaboration between academics and practitioners both locally and globally.

Sponsored By

Student E-Board
Priya Shetty

Priya Shetty


Vandhana Ravi

Vandhana Ravi

Vice President

Shuyan Wang

Shuyan Wang

Publicity/Marketing Chair

Aric Zhuang

Aric Zhuang

Website/Graphics Chair

Julie Webb

Julie Webb

Logistics Chair

Yufeng Xu

Yufeng Xu

RISD Liasion

Zachary Tabb

Zachary Tabb

Brown Medical School Liasion

Keynote Speaker

Kirsten Gelsdorf

Senior Lecturer and Director of Global Humanitarian Policy, UVA

As Director of Global Humanitarian Policy, Kirsten brings 19 years of experience working in the humanitarian sector; most recently serving as the Chief of the Policy Analysis and Innovation section at the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Her career includes long-term field postings and operational deployments to numerous emergencies including the international responses to Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the Ethiopian Famine, the South African Regional Food Crisis, the Liberian War, the Tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina, the Pakistan Earthquake, the Timor-Leste Security Crisis, the Global Food Crisis and the Haiti Earthquake. She also served as a humanitarian advisor to President Clinton in his role as the UN Special Envoy for Haiti and as a policy advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the global food crisis in 2008.


In order for each team to be able to gain a better knowledge on the issues they will be addressing, each Challenge for the hackathon will have at least one designated mentor who has extensive experience addressing the issue presented in the challenge. The mentor will serve as a valuable resource to teams to better understand the issue and create a solution that more accurately addresses it. In addition to mentors, each team will be assigned a Facilitator. The Facilitator is someone with experience in the humanitarian field and/or hackathons and is meant to guide the group in more technical aspects of their pitch as well as providing an outside perspective for them to discuss their ideas.


Registration is open to Brown and RISD students. Students that are interested in participating must register under one of the listed challenges that they are interested in addressing during the hackathon. We will accept registration from both pre-formed teams as well as individuals. If registering as a team, we suggest 3-6 members and strongly encourage interdisciplinary representation. If registering as an individual, we will place you in a team with others individuals that have registered under the same challenge.



  • You may either submit an individual or a group application
  • Groups may be 3-6 people
  • For group registrations, please submit only one form per group
    • One person must register for the group as the group leader and put down the contact info of all other members
    • The rest of the form should be filled out by the group leader only
  • You must submit your application under one of the challenges of the conference (see challenges here)
  • Afterwards you will receive a confirmation email when your registration form has been received
  • Individuals will be placed into groups beforehand and assignments will be sent out a week before the conference.

Registration Deadline: March 1st

Registration link: https://goo.gl/forms/zaqEN3ZwnqGYwqoU2


I don't have experience with coding/programming. Can I still participate?

Yes! We value the experiences and skills of people from various backgrounds and believe in their potential to produce interdisciplinary ideas. Humanitarian work relies on the intersection of many different people including those familiar with policy, design, engineering, programming, medicine and much, much more!

I don’t have experience with humanitarian work. Will we have any guidance?

Yes! Hack for Humanity will be providing mentors and facilitators to help guide each group as well as online resources beforehand so participants can familiarize themselves more with each challenge. For more information, visit the “People” section of the website.

What kind of projects will judges be expecting from this hackathon?

This hackathon is meant to be seen as a starting point for students to come together and brainstorm potential. Therefore we are not expecting fully formed and functioning ideas. Projects can range from physical inventions, digital solutions, web applications, policy-based solutions and much more! The judging panel will have a variety of experience so don’t be afraid to be creative! And remember the most important aspect of your project should be its effectiveness within the context of your challenge.

I’m not a Brown student. Can I still register?

Yes! This hackathon is open to all students in Rhode Island.

I don’t have a team. Can I still participate?

Yes! Register as an individual, and we will assign you to a group one week before the conference based on the challenge you would like to work on.

I missed the registration deadline. Will there be a standby line the day of?

Unfortunately no. Since groups are formed before the conference itself we will not be accepting interested students the day of. If you just missed the registration deadline and would still very much like to participate, please email us (brownhackforhumanity@gmail.com).

What should I bring to the hackathon?

Your Student ID, laptop, cell phone, power cords / chargers, notebook, pen/pencils, resumes, water bottle and lots of excitement!

How much does participation cost?

This hackathon is completely free to participate in. We will provide food and drinks.

What if I change my mind about the registration after I have submitted it?

If you would like to rescind your registration, please email us. If you would like to change your challenge preferences, please email us before March 8th.

What if I have a question that isn't listed here?

Feel free to email us at brownhackforhumanity@gmail.com with any further questions!



Increasing Access to Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Programming

Mentor: Maria Kasparian (Edesia)

Read More Here


Overcoming Deliberate Obstruction of Humanitarian Access

Mentor: Rob Grace (Brown) 

Read More Here


Enhancing Local Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction Effort

Mentor: Rabiul Islam

Read More Here


Providing Education Opportunities for Displaced Children

Mentor: Zein Tayyeb

Read More Here


Delivery of Adequate WASH Services in Situations of Severe Population Overcrowding

Mentor: Sangeetha Yogendran 

Read More Here


Contact us for anonymous comments only; if you would like a response, please contact us through email! (brownhackforhumanity@gmail.com)


More Resources will be posted leading up to the hackathon specifically relating to each challenge. Please continue to check the site for new material -

Information Platforms




Response Plans and Appeals







Understanding the Rohingya Crisis, Blog September 2017

Ending the Rohingya Crisis, What will it Take? Event, September 2017

Turning a Blind Eye: The Policy Response to Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia, Case Study, 2016

Holding the Keys: Humanitarian Access and Local Organisations, January 2018

A Design Experiment:  Imagining alternative humanitarian action , January 2018


Hack for Humanity is dedicated to providing a harassment-free/positive and inclusive environment conference experience for everyone regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, age or religion. We do not tolerate harassment of conference attendants including participants, staff, mentors in any form. Conference participants violating these rules may be sanctioned/separated or expelled from the conference at the discretion of the conference organizers. 

Code of Conduct (Watson/Brown)