The first Swiss hackathon to #ShakeUpGender

Written by
Cyril Martinot

The first Swiss hackathon to #ShakeUpGender

Un article de
Cyril Martinot

Just a week earlier, on March 20, the walls of the cultural center Progr in Bern were trembling from innovative solutions arising from Gender experts, called Gender Shapers in the context of the event due to their transformative power. Be You Network is proud to have hosted the Swiss Gender Hackathon, the first of its kind, which explored the many challenges and actionable solutions for a more inclusive and equalitarian society towards gender and LGBTIQ+ topics.

“To be honest, I took part in a lot of hackathons during my career. I’ve seen interesting ones, as some were total failures. But I assure you that this one really is pushing me to give the best of myself and in subjects that matter to all people reunited here. You can feel the willingness to deeply change things, and that’s thanks to Be You Network.” shared Olga Miler, a strategy consultant and social entrepreneur from Zurich, during a short coffee break.

An 8-hour journey towards inclusion and equality

The event brought together a diverse community of civil society representatives, social workers, students, political decision-makers, entrepreneurs, academics, health professionals, collaborators from the private sector, artists and journalists from across the country around 5 main topics: Politics & Rights, Culture & Media, Leisure, Sports & Religion, Health & Well-Being and Education & Employment.

After a short breakfast, the Gender Shapers were warmly welcomed by our team and by Barbara Krattiger, Director of the Equality Office of the City of Bern, co-host and sponsor of the event.

Shorty after, it was time to kickoff the day with the first challenge: in “Expert Mode”, participants were pushed to dig into the main barriers that they face daily in their field of action. Similar challenges seemed to appear across topics, such as the unawareness on gender topics, the discrimination of women, the intersectionality of LGBTIQ+ topics or a strong need for respect and understanding. Participants were encouraged to deep dive into those challenges and shed light on the root causes underlying them.

Next step: “Fresh Brain Mode”. This time, participating teams were shuffled so that participants were able to bring a fresh look onto challenges outside of their area of expertise. Finding a written recap of others’ struggles, they had to think of solutions without having the full knowledge of legal requirements, industry lobbies or any barrier of this sort, meaning that sometimes a disruptive idea could come up from anywhere and could convey enormous improvements in the solutions proposal. This mode allowed projects to gain a whole new perspective, bringing innovation and creativity to the table.

Innovation was particularly allowed by the diversity of people filling the room: 100 people from 80 organizations active in 11 different fields meeting and discussing beyond regional, linguistic, generational or thematic differences. Moreover, the event counted an almost perfect parity between representatives of the Y/Z and X generations, and 80% of the Gender Shapers were able to communicate in at least two of the languages of this trilingual event (French, German, English), which allowed them to overcome the "Röstigraben" with ease.

Linguistic differences were even completely overridden during “The Human Knot Experience”, where participants were shuffled once again and asked to form a circle with their new group, extend their arms and close their eyes. After a step forward, they had to catch two other participants’ hands. Once they opened their eyes again, the purpose was to untie the knot in order to recreate the circle, without letting go of each others’ hands. The activity created laughter and a sense of recreation, but its purpose was deeper: show participants that collaboration to achieve a common goal is doable, even despite linguistic diversity.


Joining back their expertise table, the “Development Mode” was the opportunity for the participants to discover the fresh ideas brought by non-experts and to reframe them by applying their own expertise on them.

The day ended with joy and hope filling the room, while 17 teams pitched their innovative project to the audience. Among the projects developed were:

  • the creation of tandems between LGBTIQ+ youth and parliamentarians to encourage the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ themes in the Swiss political system;
  • a solution to make recruitment tools using artificial intelligence (AI) more inclusive of Gender by populating recruitment databases with feminine and diversified source data;
  • the provision, in gynecologists waiting rooms, candy bags to "guess the sex of your child". Instead of the traditional binary choices "blue or pink", these bags would contain multicolored candies, creating surprise by suggesting a non-binary vision of the sex of the future child;
  • the organization of a hackathon whose challenge would be to develop a video game that indirectly addresses discrimination and contributes to improving empathy and understanding on LGBTIQ topics.

Discover all 17 projects on the event’s website!


What’s next?

The Gender Shapers are encouraged to follow up in the implementation of their projects, with their initiating team or with new people who would be interested in taking part in the project. Finding solution ideas and present them to experts is a great first step, but it isn’t enough to create change. The hackathon was about answering pressing issues and questions. It was about shedding light on the needs of minorities and on shortcomings to be addressed. It was also about getting to know people with specific expertise and creating a strong connected network. It was about showing that you can discuss serious issues and still have fun. And, above all, it was about meeting great people who share the same interest in making the world a better place to live in. With all those keys in hand, it is now your turn to make your project become a reality!

And since we don’t want the fun to end, stay tuned for the upcoming Swiss Diversity Hackathon 2020! This time, not only gender and LGBTIQ+ inclusion will be on stage, but 8 topics that need to be addressed if we want to create a real change on the inclusion of diversity in Switzerland: Age and Generations, Sex, Gender Identities and Expressions, Sexual Orientations, Origins, Nationalities and Migratory Backgrounds, Ability, Health and Appearance, Mental Health, Religious Beliefs and Socioeconomic Status. Expect the Swiss Diversity Hackathon to once again shake up our minds and our society!


In the meantime, we are working on a brand new adventure

B Ø W I E, the first incubator dedicated to innovative projects in the field of gender, will be launched on April 24, 2019 in Bern (in English) and on May 10, 2019 in Geneva (in French). B Ø W I E allows you to launch your project surrounded by a community that brings you inspiration, skills and support. It will tour Switzerland for the next three years and you can expect it to land in Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich and many more cities around you! Subscribe to our newsletter to never miss a date and be part of this new adventure! You can check out B Ø W I E’s website here for more information.

Finally, we would like to thank everybody who made this first edition of the Swiss Gender Hackathon possible: the participants, whose energy, creativity and expertise made it possible to bring to life 17 innovations in just 8 hours, our partners who helped us make this great event possible, and every member of our team who didn’t count hours of work and hours of sleep.

See you next year for the Swiss Diversity Hackathon 2020!

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