Highlights from #HACK2023 Karlsruhe, Germany

Imagine this: you have just moved to the city of Karlsruhe in Germany, and you want to join a local church but you cannot speak the language.

Is there a Christian community that speaks your language? How long would it take you to find them? How will you fit in with everybody else?

Jieen Chen — a software engineer with a background in missiology and intercultural studies — recognized these issues that immigrants face and decided to address them at the #HACK2023 hackathon in Karlsruhe, Germany. 

On the 19th and 20th of October, 8 like-minded students from China, Germany, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and USA collaborated on two projects to help their local and global communities thrive. “My vision is to get brothers and sisters working in IT sectors to come together and brainstorm several projects and collaborate together,” he said.

Welcome Message from their Hybrid event

Addressing language barriers in diverse communities

The first project focused on tackling the language barriers present in Karlsruhe. Over 300,000 people from diverse cultures, including a large number of refugees, call this city in southwestern Germany “home.” Communicating and building local connections is a significant challenge.  

The team prototyped an information hub called Migrant Churches Info utilizing AI to find and sort information about local churches. By making it easier for people to find other believers who speak the same language, they hope to encourage a healthier spiritual and social life within their community.

Low fidelity mockup of an information hub called Migrant Churches

Jieen explained that only a few churches can be found on social media and other search engines while others are “digitally invisible.” The proposed solution creates a way for people to find churches anonymously and connect with Christian communities.

Creating stronger relationships and preserving collective learning

Finding a local church is only the first step to building your spiritual and social life. For a follower of Jesus, studying the Bible together is a familiar and important experience that invites you to voice your thoughts, learn more about the Chritian faith, and create strong connections with the people around you. 

Jieen’s team saw an opportunity for innovation in this space. As people study Scripture, they often have something to share: a new fact they’ve discovered, a practical point of application, or an experience. By preserving these thoughts and learnings, others can also benefit as they study Scripture. 

The second project, called Bible Comments Hub, focused on maintaining these notes — which tend to get lost over time — through an app that allows you to comment on Scripture and exchange perspectives with others. “Think of it as a game where you can join different tables to participate in discussions.”

Prototype of Bible Comments Hub

They prototyped a platform that encourages small groups to connect and grow, both as individuals and as a church. It is a tool intended for communities to help their members feel more comfortable sharing their perspectives.

Challenges and opportunities during the hackathon

While leading discussions and mediating conversations, Jieen discovered that differences in cultural backgrounds presented both a challenge and an opportunity. There were many different styles of communication, and each of them approached every challenge from a unique perspective. Although not everyone was fluent in English, they chose a tool called Miro to help them collaborate. Using digital sticky notes, they could share ideas, vote anonymously, and collaborate on the projects.

Screenshot of their brainstorming on Miro

“Something new has begun.”

Jieen used the word  “kindled” to summarize #HACK2023. The projects were focused on uniting Christian communities, strengthening relationships, and uncovering innovative ideas.

Seeing everyone come together around a project, sharing ideas, and motivating each other to press on was a memorable experience. “Not a lot of people in Karlsruhe understand our Christian life,” Jieen said. “It’s the joy of working together and discovering more about the cultures of others that makes the Indigitous network wonderful.”

“Not a lot of people in Karlsruhe understand our Christian life. It’s the joy of working together and discovering more about the cultures of others that makes the Indigitous network wonderful.”

Jieen Chen