Expert article
Project
Kosice 2.0 Košice, Slovakia
Edit 09 June 2022
by Haris BISKOS UIA Expert

How does Kosice 2.0 project channels collective intelligence to respond to the Ukraine emergency

Teams working together during the second hackathon of Kosice 2.0 project
Teams working together during the second hackathon of Kosice 2.0 project
The second hackathon of the project developed solutions to help Ukrainian war refugees access the Slovak labor market.

Main scope of Kosice 2.0 project is to capitalise on the growing dynamism of its creative sector and the emergence of a strong information technology community to ignite systemic changes to public policy making. The project introduces a new culture to the working routines of the city government advancing not only the services that the City offers to its citizens but also the ways the City operates when taking action to face important challenges.

This new culture that is being structured by the project is driven by an open, collaborative approach where City government harnesses opportunities to team up with the start-up community, the IT sector, the creative industry or the civil society to develop solutions that can improve the quality of life in the city and increase the well-being.

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Kosice 2.0 project started its journey 2 years ago in a period struck by the pandemic that limited the opportunities for collaborative action challenging the implementation trajectory of the project. The team found solutions investing in digital tools, remote work or hybrid events so to overcome those barriers and managed to run a range of activities that, even limited by the measures taken to prevent the pandemic spread, managed to bring together the stakeholder community to explore solutions with straight impact to the well-being.

Today a new crisis has hit Kosice 2.0 as the Russian invasion to Ukraine has led a big refugee wave to cross the city. Košice is the first major city next to the Ukrainian borders and since the beginning of the war around 400.000 refugees have passed through its territory. Most of them use Košice as a transit station, staying for a short period of time and using facilities set up by the national, regional or city government and NGOs. Those choose to continue their journey to other cities in Poland or Hungary or they return back to their homes as the war gets slower mainly in some of the Western or Northern areas. Mišo Hudák who represents one of the partners of Kosice 2.0, the NGO named East Coast, expert in working with communities and civil society groups, testifies: 

In one moment when the war started and the city had to manage an inflow of refugees that reached 2-3.000 people per day, NGOs-partners of the project such as CIKE and East Coast channeled their capacities to develop emergency services to help the situation in close collaboration with the municipality. We created a web page for the basic needs and information of people crossing the borders; maps of services or facilities in the city they could use; registration forms; navigation maps;…what else if not war, could bring us in action!

A tote bag developed by the team of Kosice 2.0 states that peace is a key element for peoples' well-being.
A tote bag developed by the team of Kosice 2.0 states that peace is a key element for peoples' well-being.

State government has now developed two main transit stations right next to the borders to manage the inflow of people and this has helped to unleash much of the workload for Košice related to refugee support. However, around 3.000 people that have arrived from Ukraine are estimated to plan to stay in the city more permanently. Those start renting apartments where they could stay for a longer period of time while they make plans to support their personal viability. So the city has come across more complex challenges such as how to facilitate their integration to the local life or how to deal with the sudden pressure to the housing stock market that has been created. At the same time new opportunities have emerged for the service economy or for the job market in general that witnesses new expertise entering the country.  

Emergency and relief items collected at the main event space of the project.
Emergency and relief items to support war refugees from Ukraine were collected at the main event space of the project. © Mirka Vargova

Having already established and tested most of its core components, Kosice 2.0 project responded to the Ukrainian emergency channeling its capacities and activities towards the support of urgent needs of people crossing the borders as well as exploring the development of innovative longer term solutions together with its stakeholder community. A first quick response has been the transformation of some of the spaces at the headquarters of the project, the Kasárne/Kulturpark, such as the main hall or the gallery space that usually host exhibitions, public events or the activities of the Urban Innovation Sphere (hackathons, acceleration program etc), into areas where emergency and relief items were collected while Kosice 2.0 team worked to support the distribution of those goods to the right places and people.

Collection of emergency items has now moved to one of the pavillions at the entrance of the Kasárne/Kulturpark.
Collection of emergency items has now moved to one of the pavillions at the entrance of the Kasárne/Kulturpark.

 

What followed this emergency response and aimed to contributing to the broader sense of resilience in the city was the organization of the second hackathon of the City Hacks series dedicated to the development of solutions that would help people fleeing the war in Ukraine fulfil longer term needs. Hackathons are 24 hours marathons that bring together the stakeholder community and especially tech enthusiasts and service designers to design prototypes for a specific challenge given by the organising team of Kosice 2.0. Those prototypes have to acquire a certain level of maturity meaning that the results provided by the participants at the end have to be products ready for use (mainly digital applications).

Stakeholders and tech enthusiasts working together to develop online solutions to support war refugees from Ukraine access the Slovak labour market.
Stakeholders and tech enthusiasts working together to develop digital solutions to support war refugees from Ukraine access the Slovak labour market.

During the second hackathon the organising team of Kosice 2.0 challenged participants to develop online application solutions that would help newly arrived people from the war-zones of Ukraine to access to the labor market and simplify the process of getting a job in Slovakia. The call focused on issues such as how to help overcome the language barrier, how to make it easier for highly skilled professionals connect with the right job positions efficiently, or how to secure fair labour prices and working conditions for all. The second hackathon was organised in collaboration with one of the  largest internet job portals of the country, profesia.sk that provided expertise and data to the participants to help them deliver their innovations while offered the opportunity to incorporate the final product to its digital platform.

The main point of this event is to create a minimum valuable product (MVP), a working prototype of the solution with enough features that could be showcased to the representatives of the City and the people of Profesia, Marek Lavčák the hackathon coordinator states.

Around 20 people participated to the 24-hour marathon forming 3 groups that each one explored one solution and despite staying up late (some of them for the whole night!) they managed to overcome their fatigue and be active in the final presentation.

The marathon brought together people from different backgrounds for a common goal.
The marathon brought together people from different backgrounds for a common goal.

One of the solutions entitled Work Finder SK&UA, focused on creating an efficient platform for matching candidates with job openings based on artificial intelligence. The digital app would help connect automatically professionals with the optimal job opportunities according to their profile, education level and working experience. The second project focused on short-term seasonal jobs creating a web application called POJO that offered a chatbot with live translation helping access local job opportunities and offering important sub-features such as evaluation of employer-employee and legal support. The jury that consisted of the Head of the Strategic Department of the City of Košice, a partner from Profesia and one Kosice 2.0 partners’ representative, voted for the third project, the SomzUA.sk. The winning proposal offered an application that could be added to any existing job portal and would help people who seek a new job at a new place to access complementary services such as baby sitting, language courses, legal advice, transportation to work, housing accommodation.

The winning online app protorype could be added to any existing job portal to help people who seek a new job access complementary services such as baby sitting, language courses, legal advice etc.
The winning online app protorype could be added to any existing job portal to help people who seek a new job access complementary services such as baby sitting, language courses, legal advice etc.

Next challenge for the winning group is to further develop the idea into a real tangible project supporting the needs of the targeted population and the 5.000 euros award along with the opportunity offered to connect with Profesia platform will definitely help to this direction.

Organising team and participants of the second hackathon. The winners (center) received 5.000 Euros as an award for their prototype.
Organising team and participants of the second hackathon. The winners (center) received 5.000 Euros as an award for their prototype.

 

Today the life of Kosice 2.0 project is less impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war as the initiatives of state, regional and city government and NGOs to better manage the emergency situation are already in place. The team now focuses on the organisation of its second acceleration program, Challenger Urban: Creative, dedicated to its start-up community. The program is already running since April and lasts for 3 months, up until the end of June, and main priorities of the call include the development of new services for the municipality, climate change/mobility/urban innovation solutions, new technologies for an emerging economy but also services for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. Through this intensive acceleration program Kosice 2.0 will support a short list of 12 start-ups with mentoring, workshops, opportunities to showcase ideas in public and funding, to deliver innovative products and services that have the capacity to improve well-being in the city.

For news and updates of the project you can always visit the website which is regularly updated with new material.   

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