Social Storm: Learning At The Heart Of The Action

Social Storm and Pivomo partnered to deliver a radically different hack-a-thon event, where students both contribute to the UN Global Goals and gained rich insight into their entrepreneurial selves.


Students connecting with their team members at other universities across Europe, via video conferencing

Hacking the Global Challenges

During 20-21 November 2015, 14 universities and 170 students came together from across Europe for an intense 24 hour hacking event. The goal was to generate viable business models that could help contribute towards the UN Global Goals ( and provide a deep learning experience for students, in order to both inspire and enable them to take on big social challenges of the future.

Social Storm was co-founded in 2014 by Loughborough University student Helen Ots, closely supported by a team of enterprise educators including Finbarr Carter, Student Enterprise lead at University of East Anglia and Amber Strong of Plymouth University. In 2015, the numbers of Universities involved increased from 8 to 14, and the numbers of participating students increased by 50%. The challenge in 2015 was to expand the event and introduce improvements highlighted in from the experience of running the event in the first year.

Social Storm 2015 integrates three distinct innovations:

  • Social Entrepreneurship: Utilisation of entrepreneurial methods directed towards social ends rather than profit
  • Hacking: Using interactive, adhoc and highly intense forms of working over an extended period
  • Team Dynamics: Teams comprised 2-3 students from three different Universities, with a priority given to matching teams internationally wherever possible.

While each of these innovations provides a potentially rich source of learning for students, it is recognised that learning does not just happen by itself. Learning must be “baked in” to the process to ensure students learned while in the midst of the action.

This is work, honest! Members of the Excalibur! Team on their working to victory.

This is work, honest! Members of the Excalibur! Team on their way to victory.

Learning at the heart of the action

Tackling broader social goals was one key difference from the conventional hack-a-thon style event, typically more focused on coding and product development. Another difference was the emphasis placed on learning at the very heart of the hack activity.  This was achieved by five key methods:

  • Online individual and team assessment
  • Team Selection
  • Continuous Learning
  • Foundation Statement
  • Measurement criteria

Online Individual and Team Assessment

The Dynamiqe psychometric assessment tool was developed through five years of research by Pivomo. Dynamiqe measures three critical but hard-to-measure dimension of entrepreneurship:

  • Mindset
  • Relationship Preferences
  • Workstyle

The interaction of these dimensions creates four distinct profiles – or entrepreneurial roles – that commonly feature in the lifecycle of a start up:

  • Driver
  • Director
  • Dealer
  • Creator

Sample Dynamiqe Profile

Team Selection

Using Dynamiqe also meant that the Social Storm team could use the data to help match up the teams before hand to maximise team diversity and also to provide rich information to the teams themselves  to help them understand how they worked with each other and self-diagnose problems that arose during the event.

So alongside geographic and gender diversity, the teams also comprised at least one of the four different entrepreneurial profiles.

Continuous Assessment

Pivomo enabled each student to complete the instrument online, and then have access to the tool for three months. This meant that the learning could occur before, during and after the main hack-a-thon event. Students had to complete Dynamiqe by the day before and by 9:30am of the second day.

Founder Statement

These reflections were captured in the Foundation Statement, designed to capture the team’s vision, mission and values and also a place where they could critically reflect on the team’s learning journey.

For example, here are some of the (anonymized) extracts:

“In choosing the sub teams, we took factors such as our location and Dynamiqe profiles into account…We re-did our Dynamiqe profiles at the end and found that the team profiles shifting significantly”.


“We found the Dealers profile has shifted to be more collaborative, whilst the other roles had become more emergent.”


“Dynamiqe showed that most of the team was acting on a set of values rather than mission drive “

Measurement Criteria

Crucially, the Social Storm team were clear that the learning goals were not just a nice to have, but needed to be assessed rigorously as part of the overall team measurement. As much as 20% of the total score was weighted on the Team Learning Assessment.

All participants were provided with the attached measurement criteria.  The key document was the Foundation Statement.

The Winners

A distinguished international panel of social entrepreneurs evaluated each submission, containing a video pitch, business plan summary, additional question responses (based on PESTLE) and a Foundation Statement.

The winners of Social Storm 2015 were:

1st Place: Team Excalibur!

2nd Place:  Women’s Coding Academy

3rd Place:  Team Rainbow


Follow Up

All students, educators and mentors will be invited to attend follow up web conferences to review their experiences and identify the key learning outcomes. This reinforces that learning is a continuous process, not a one off event. Students will be asked to reflect on their experiences in Social Storm, having had some time to develop a perspective about what happened during these 24 hours.

The goal is to make another big step forward in 2016 and both expand and deepen Social Storm so that even more students are enabled and inspired to take on the biggest challenges the world faces.

Thank you to all the Universities, educators, mentors and students who made this amazing event possible!

Andrew Atter and Helen Ots