“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill
When you’re given an opportunity to make change, take it and run with it. Turn your craziest dreams into a reality, and continue to innovate and expand your ideas using design thinking until you’ve found the perfect solution. That’s what the Smart City Saturday Hackathon is all about, and I had the opportunity to participate in one with the focus being centered on human trafficking.
Going into this, I knew the intensity of the issue at hand and understood that it wasn’t going to be an easy fix, but still I stepped up to the challenge and was ready for anything that was to come my way. Human trafficking is no joke and by going to this event, it really opened my eyes to just how much human trafficking there is in San Diego alone, where I live, and how easily it is to get sucked into that life. At the event there were actual survivors, or as they like to say “thrivers”, that were telling us their stories in hopes that we’d get a better understanding and accommodate our solutions to the different case scenarios at hand. It was honestly so shocking to hear about their experiences, and no other occasion or kind of event could have given me such an impactful experience as the one I experienced Saturday.
I thank WIT (Whatever It Takes), the organization that puts on Smart City Saturday, for allowing me to meet with such a group of diverse people and spend the entire day brainstorming ideas to the issue. My group’s particular challenge was, “How do we get parents to talk to their teens about human trafficking?”, which was a difficult topic to solve because a good majority of parents are uneducated on the subject and blow it off. It’s extremely important though to discuss with your kids what to look out for and know the signs of a child involved in trafficking; even if it may not be your own kid, it could be someone else you know.
Just to put some things into perspective, according to Polaris, “in 2016, an estimated 1 out of 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims.” Think about that, and not only is it 1 in 6 kids, but statistics show only 1-2% of people involved in human trafficking ever escape.
I took my topic very seriously throughout the entire day, and my group came up with ideas of a script, app, website, or PSA for parents to view. The ideas were great starters, but it was all about expanding and elaborating more on the ideas to come up with something that can be reached by people of all backgrounds. Our end result was a public service announcement that would show in small clips just how easily it could be you, or anyone around you, for that matter. The PSA would link to a website with handcrafted surveys and credible sources that are adapted for all kinds of people – parents, guardians, minors, and even school faculty.
At the end of the very exhausting and productive day, we pitched our solution to a panel of judges, including entrepreneurs and survivors, that ultimately decided who would take home the prize. I didn’t go into this for the prize though, nor did I win it which is okay because I got something much better; I walked out of there with a new mindset on how to solve setbacks and make an impact on the world using human-centered design. I met survivors/thrivers, the UCSD Design lab students, and a wonderful set of people all driven by the same goal, to make change and not sit back waiting for it to happen. You will definitely be seeing me at another hackathon, and I strongly encourage everyone else to devote their Saturday to making chance with me and #doWIT .
EDIT: Here’s the link to the news segment and I happen to be featured in it!