#TheGlobalHack: 500 people-powered solutions to COVID-19 in 48 hours — unleashing collective creativity & solidarity

UN SDG Action Campaign
7 min readApr 20, 2020


Some of The Global Hack solutions creators

Prompted by the current health crisis and the need to beat COVID-19 and start building post-pandemic resilience, The Global Hack brought together over 12,000 solutions creators from 100+ countries who worked on 500 life-changing projects during a 48-hour non-stop global hackathon.

Hack the Crisis regional hackathons in 54+ countries

Driven by the need for creative and transformative solutions that are urgently needed to respond to the speed, scale and severity of the pandemic, as well as its societal and economic disruptions, and having witnessed the success of national hackathons in over 50 countries, the UN SDG Action Campaign joined The Global Hack as an organizing partner — along with the EU Commission, Accelerate Estonia, Universal Music Group, Impact Hub, the European Investment Bank, IDEO and many more. The collaboration provided a platform for joint action to harness the collective power of humanity to change the world #ForPeopleForPlanet in the face of this global challenge.

“The UN SDG Action Campaign team dropped everything and have been working 24/7 since they started with The Global Hack. I want to acknowledge them like a special operations level team making things happen within the United Nations.” — Marko Russiver, Hack the Crisis Co-Founder

The 12,000+ participants worked in teams across ten different tracks that focused on finding solutions to a variety of the most pressing global issues, aligned to key areas of the Sustainable Development Goals.

From 9 to 12 of April 2020, The Global Hack produced hundreds of co-created solutions to the global health crisis that were mentored and evaluated by a fleet of world-class experts and inspirational leaders, and fully developed into viable projects and initiatives throughout 48 intense hours.

Some of the brightest minds from all over the world joined us to inspire, support and cheer the hackers, among them Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn, Samantha Cristoforetti, Italian European Space Agency astronaut, Sophia Bush, Actress, Activist and Producer, Brad Feld, VC at Foundry Group & Co-founder of Techstars, Charles Nader, CEO of Doc.com, Carmen Kass, super model and entrepreneur, Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion, Khaliya, Public health specialist, neurotechnologist and humanitarian, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Former President of Estonia, Manal Rostom, Nike ambassador, marathoner & Surviving Hijab community leader, Monda Hamdy, Director of the Harvard Arab Covid Response fund, Paul Bennett and Mitch Sinclair, Chief Creative and Executive Design Officers at IDEO, Steve Jurvetson, Co-founder of Future Ventures, and many others. See interviews here.

“The event couldn’t have succeeded without the support of an army of world-class thought leaders,the UN and the European Commission, the support of worldwide media, and the dedication of a team of ‘locked down’ volunteers worldwide who donated hundreds of hours of their time to bring the event to life.” — The Global Hack organizers

Solar-powered light-disinfection, mental health support and waste management to support people coping with COVID-19

Each track awarded their top three solutions and three global winning teams were chosen from among all tracks. First place teams were awarded 10.000€, with the second and third place teams being awarded 5.000€ — as well as invaluable mentoring and ongoing support.

The global winning teams are

  • SunCrafter: Integration of light-disinfection into grid-independent solar generators to provide a sustainable, reliable and inclusive hygiene solution for public spaces and people in need
  • Act On Crisis : An app which is a safe place to share thoughts anonymously with the community and take part in one-to-one meetings with certified professionals, fostering emotional support that fits your cultural background
  • Material Mapper: Tackling the issue of construction waste, it is the world’s first AI/ML powered forecasting tool that predicts re-usable material availability from demolition sites

“I’m super super happy, thank you, this means a lot to our team and we really think our solution is kind of the missing piece to the puzzle of having hygiene available to everyone. I’m totally overwhelmed at the moment, but we are getting serious. A good thing is that we already went into many conversations with our partners and also generated a lot of interest with possible collaboration partners, we wanna try it out in Ghana and work with refugee camps and also bring the technology into public spaces.” — Florian Heep, Team leader for overall winner SunCrafter

See the award ceremony, full results for all winners and full listing of all submissions

Solidarity In Action track

To harness the positive power of solidarity to beat the crisis and create a more sustainable world, the UN SDG Action Campaign launched a special track for Solidarity in Action with UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner as the Track Lead.

The following winners of the #SolidarityinAction and Empowerment Track were announced by our Global Director, Marina Ponti, at a dedicated ceremony:

  • BookingLive Coordinate-19 / info: Booking app for integration and deployment of people (staff/volunteers) and goods (Personal Protective Equipment, food parcels) for emergency resources coordination
  • StaySafe — Digital Assistant: Platform that helps people to help each other by connecting the local force of volunteers (heroes) with the people who need help (including the risk groups) through integrations of maps and task management
  • VIRUS + Share the virus of positivity / info: A platform to foster collective action and solidarity by showcasing the life, solutions, and aspirations of individuals worldwide using mobile technologies to collect audio testimonies

“The global crisis is impacting everyone everywhere. That’s why we need to come together — from all corners of the globe, from all sectors, from all generations — and find solutions #ForPeopleForPlanet. We need to hack together. It is the only way we can beat the crisis and change the world.” Marina Ponti, Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign

We also brought together Enrico Giovannini, Director of the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS), Stefano Manservisi, Former EU Commission Director-General, and Dia Mirza, SDG Advocate and Actress, to join as inspirational leaders, as well as a network of mentors from the UN and partner organizations including UN Volunteers, UNDP Accelerator Labs, the UN Strategy Hub, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS), UN SDSN Youth, and Greenpoint Innovations.

“We were living in a connected world which was not sustainable. This is a powerful wake up call for people to take action for the Sustainable Development Goals” Stefano Manservisi, Former EU Commission Director-General

“We are part of history. A kind of history that I didn’t think any of us would have imagined ourselves to be a part of. It’s been such a challenge. What each one of you does — in your own unique way — is to give hope and to remind everyone that we are one people, one planet. We are a family. We can be connected and make a difference as we go forward” — Dia Mirza, SDG Advocate

The Global Hack ended with a bang: an inspiring interview with former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum & Ace Harper, an interview and surprise concert with Erykah Badu and a closing concert with Imogen Heap feat. Tim Exile.

“When The Global Hack told me about the mission, what the hackers were doing and how long they had been working — hours tirelessly — I figured that it was important to get out and come and join you all because I think I found my tribe.” Erykah Badu, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, producer and actress ( concert)

The Global Hack has been featured in CNN, Forbes, Financial Times, The New Yorker, Voice of America, Silicon Republic, OECD opsi, Berlin daily (TAZ), TED and many others, as well as by the UN Regional Information Centre [EN, DE].

The movement continues

The Global Hack is over but our journey has just begun. The Hack the Crisis global community continues to grow and mobilize engaged solutions creators across the world in local hackathons, online communities and events.

Everyone is invited to be part of the movement!

  • Join an ongoing hackathon from your home
  • Organize an online event in your country/community
  • Accelerate events by sharing hackathons and supporting ongoing projects
  • Join a community of hackathon organizers, solutions creators and mentors



UN SDG Action Campaign

Official account of the UN SDG Action Campaign, aiming to mobilize, inspire & connect a movement to #FlipTheScript for the #GlobalGoals