SIPARTE, the first rural Hackathon in Italy!

What’s the perfect recipe for a successful Rural Hackathon? Here are the secrets to a memorable experience: the Rural Hackathon “SIparte”, held on the 4th and 5th October 2018 in Feltre (northeastern Italy).

hackathon2Ingredients: a beautiful, lively historical building, six teams – 24 future entrepreneurs – that aim to value and contribute to the local development of their territory in the province of Belluno, a group of experts to mentor them, the warmth of the sun, fresh mountain air, and great food.

Method: Choose an inspiring venue – we picked Palazzo Guarnieri, a gorgeous historical building and the headquarters of Unisono, a music centre and cultural association located in the centre of Feltre. Bring people together, after a few preparatory meetings in which ideas and approaches were shared, with enthusiasm, ideas and a willingness to challenge themselves. Mix them with a team of professionals and researchers from Etifor and the University of Padova on the issues of sustainability, social development, marketing and entrepreneurship. Stir regularly with cheerfulness and competence non-stop for 26 hours.

hackathon3During the event, add to the mixture a pinch of “social innovation”, some SIMRA-related concepts, and allow the teams to reflect on their ideas with guiding questions, such as:

  • What is the idea about? Is it innovative?
  • What need does it respond to?
  • Who will help me/us in realising it?
  • Which Sustainable Development Goals can be addressed with this idea?

hackathon4Then throw in some fun by sharing hugs, quirky expressions and gestures, and express your feelings with an ice-breaker that will begin adding the dynamics of a business development project. Check the status of completion of a social innovation module, and once completed, let it cool off till the next day. Add just enough appetite and provide good food and drinks to create a stronger networking environment.

Sprinkle liberally with notions from business development, looking at key elements of a business model canvas (customer segment and relationships, channels, partners, activities and resources, value propositions and revenue streams). Then lead the teams towards the drafting of their business plans.

hackathon1Shake participants with a team-building game that helps understand the importance of having different roles; enjoy sunset in the central square. Divide the participants into small groups and give each the end of a thread connected to a marker. As the teams manage to fit the marker (floating in the air and pulled by the various threads) into the neck of a bottle, the message is clear: leadership is key to solving the riddle more quickly.

hackathon6At this point, add a healthy debate on marketing strategy, focusing on Philip Kotler’s 4Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) and proceed to the dinner table in the inspiring venue of the Unisono Jazz Restaurant. Finally, rearrange chairs and tables and give the teams a challenge with a miming contest.

Season with punctual notions on making a pitch. Mix well and let it set, allowing participants and mentors to regain their strength with a well-deserved a few hours of rest. Regenerate the vitality of the group with a yoga session at the crack of dawn!

After a couple of rounds testing each team’s pitch, the Hackathon is done and the mix is ready for the oven. In thirty minutes six innovative ideas are ready to be presented to the audience for tasting – and judging. May the best win!

The pitch

hackathon8Palazzo Guarnieri can now open its doors to host the concluding public event: it’s show time! The previously completed modules are handed over to the jury and teams get their moment on stage to make their pitches.

Five members of the ISOIPSE association make the opening pitch. Alice passionately describes “L’altra montagna”, an idea under development that points towards recovering the stories of more marginal mountain territories and developing sustainable tourism opportunities.

Next up is “ParteciParco”. Francesco and Elisa, co-founders of the social cooperative Blhyster Scs Onlus, are in charge of a large green area near the centre of the town of Ponte nelle Alpi, and through their participatory planning approach, intend to offer recreational and food services in order to develop the area into a fun meeting area for families and friends, surrounded by nature.

Artisanal products are the core of the association La Charta’s project “Non solo carta”. Valerio convincingly shows how handmade, customisable paper is the key to revive the centuries old paper-mill of Vas, and to open it to a variety of activities which include workshops, courses and art exhibits.

The project “Terre d’incontro” proposes an innovative approach to combat disuse and abandonment of private land parcels in mountain areas. Alessandro explains how four locally active associations and cooperatives intend to come together to realise a platform to connect landowners who are no longer able to or interested in taking care of their lands with the people who wish to gain access to a plot and put it back to use.

The story of the Sleeping Beauty Valbelluna showcases how the team “We have a Dream” can wake her up through an international music festival. By bringing together renown artists, Lucia describes how the festival could help support the opening of a community cooperative to re-vitalise mountain villages threatened by declining populations and resources.

Clean, sustainable, and healthy mobility is at the core of the project, “Bon Viaz”, which intends to strengthen and improve sustainable tourism opportunities. By offering various options for lovers of food, landscapes, history and art, Lucia and her team want to make up for the lack of services for cyclists.

As the last team bids farewell, the stage empties, and the audience is filled with inspiration and enthusiasm. Journalist Nicola Maccagnan invites questions and comments from the audience while the jury retires for deliberation, evaluating the presentations and projects according to:

  • participation
  • team’s youth component
  • team’s experience
  • social innovation
  • economic sustainability
  • pitch quality
  • utilisation of the prize

… And, the verdict is announced. The winning project is “Terre d’incontro”, presented by the team of Alessandro Caviola, Danila Attene, Michele Pellegrini and Andrea Reato.

hackathon5The journey that begun with the presentation of the project in Belluno on May 8th, 2018, and continued through three hands-on meetings in Sedico, Limana and the ethnographic Museum of Seravella, as well as through visits to public restoration sites, has come to an end. But as the doors close after a long and challenging 26 hours, a window opens for the winning team which will be supported by ETIFOR in the upcoming months to launch their start-up. More chances for exposure and participation will open in the coming months for the other participants.

Thank you to SIMRA!

If this recipe spiked your interest, feel free to browse to Keep up-to-date with project activities at: and


Catie Burlando (ETIFOR)
Catie Burlando (ETIFOR)
Kamini Vicentini (Università di Padova)
Kamini Vicentini (Università di Padova)

1 Comment

  1. What a great idea – a hackathon! I am sure the interest and hopes of the communities involved were stimulated by the engagement of this project. Rural communities are underestimated as powerhouses of growth if we look at things differently. This is definitely what you all have done – well done.

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