The National Diaper Bank Network, along with the New Haven MOMs Partnership, recently participated in the MIT Policy Hackathon: Data to Decisions. Data to Decisions is a new 48-hour hackathon convened by MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society that aims to address some of today’s most relevant societal challenges while fostering an interdisciplinary spirit. This hackathon gathered people, mostly students, from a wide range of backgrounds – from public policy to data science to engineering and more – who were able to work together in teams to propose creative policy solutions using a combination of robust data analytics and domain knowledge.
Challenge Sponsors submitted a research question, along with a data set, to a topic area, or track. The tracks included: Energy and Climate, Future of Work, Internet and Cyber Security, Transportation and Urban Planning, and Health. A Challenge Sponsor was selected for each track. The National Diaper Bank Network and the MOMs Partnership were the challenge sponsor team chosen for the Health track, which posed the research question, “Is there a cost effective way to embed the provision of diapers into our childcare system?”
Each track had multiple teams of students working on policy solutions for the proposed research question. The teams then presented to an esteemed team of judges who ranked the proposals/presentations and selected a track winner, then an overall winner. The overall winner was selected from the Health track, a team dubbed “Nappy Time” who impressed the judges with their proposal that included three pilot programs for diaper subsidies.
The opportunity to bring the issue of diaper need—and its impact on the physical, mental and economic well-being of children and families—to the attention of the students engaged in the health track at the MIT Policy Hackathon, proved highly rewarding for the National Diaper Bank Network as well as the New Haven MOMs Partnership.
By focusing on cost-effective means to embed the provision of diapers into our childcare system, the Hackathon participants identified new ways of thinking and presented actionable solutions to this real life issue that we know so well.
We were impressed with the empathy, enthusiasm, and creativity that the students brought to the process, and the ideas they presented were simply terrific. We look forward to remaining in contact with the participants and thinking through how we might use their policy recommendations to further our efforts to reduce or eliminate diaper need.