Cost of Living Crisis Hackathon Day

Friday 24 June 2022


On Friday 24th June 2022, we (Wagestream’s Emily Trant and the Financial Inclusion Commission’s Bailey Kursar) came together to co-host a hackathon day.

We wanted to bring together non-profits, charities and consumer groups on the front line of the Cost of Living crisis with innovators from tech and fintech companies.

On the day we saw 50+ attendees from 20+ organisations go onto form 6 teams to come up with ideas around our 3 challenges. Read on to find out more.


Charity donations.

We took £1,280 in ticket sales for the event and passed this amount on to the charities who participated as follows:

Christians Against Poverty – participated and provided a speaker, and we donated £640.

Retail Trust – participated and we donated £320.

Impact on Urban Health, part of Guy's & St Thomas's Foundation – participated and we donated £320.

Background and objectives.

The Cost of Living crisis is forcing low income families in Britain to choose between heating or eating. It’s squeezing those who are already vulnerable, and it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The Cost of Living crisis is already turning into a Cost of Credit crisis, with millions now reaching for credit cards, loans and Buy Now Pay Later to pay for essential bills and groceries. Soon we’ll inevitably be looking at a full-blown Cost of Debt crisis, at the same time as access to debt advice is waning due to funding cuts.


We came together with one question: what can innovators in financial services or technology do to help stop the cost of living squeeze, or to help alleviate the pressures of credit and debt for low income and vulnerable groups?

Lots of big claims have been made about the potential of ‘fintech’ to help improve the nation’s financial health. Surely this is our chance to step up and prove it?

The objectives of running this event were to:

  • Bring industry workers together with charity / civil society / consumer groups so that industry can get closer to the lived experience of those dealing with the cost of living crisis.
  • Give charity / civil society / consumer groups the opportunity to share their frustrations and/or recommendations with industry and challenge them to solve them.
  • For industry workers and charity / civil society / consumer group reps to work together on potential solutions, sharing knowledge and learning from each other.
  • To present potential solutions for further exploration, using these to inspire action from firms and potentially from the regulator / government.


We hosted over 50 people on the day from the following organisations:

  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)
  • Fair4All Finance
  • Life Moments
  • AA Cars
  • RideTandem
  • Impact on Urban Health
  • Account Technologies
  • Conduit Connect
  • Flank
  • Charis
  • Wagestream
  • Lightning Reach
  • IncomeMax
  • Wise
  • Monzo Bank
  • Snoop
  • Money and Pensions Service
  • Retail Trust
  • Christians Against Poverty
  • EY
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Bupa
  • Innovate Finance

Hackathon challenges.

We wanted to give hackathon attendees some challenges to work on, informed by experts, rather than start from scratch (although we gave them a Wildcard category to use if they wanted to bring something different to the table).

We asked experts from several charities and research organisations for their input, and from there we decided on three challenges:

Challenge 1: Maximising income

We know that people can’t budget their way out of poverty. But there might be ways to use tech and good design to help people increase their income, for example by discovering that they are entitled to benefits they are not receiving.


Our first challenge to event-goers was to come up with concepts to help people maximise their income.

Some questions to get attendees thinking:

  • How might we close the gap on the £15bn of unclaimed benefits?
  • How might we find new ways of generating income that are accessible to people in poverty?
  • How might we help people discover and apply for grants and other new sources of income?

Challenge 2: Infrastructure and data for charities and non-profits

Charities and non-profits are on the front line, already working with those who need the most help. How might we help these organisations take advantage of all the great innovation and data that’s available so they can be more efficient and deliver their services to more people?

Our second challenge to event-goers was to come up with concepts using tech or data that could help charities or non-profits working on the front line.

Some questions to get attendees thinking:

  • How might we help non-profits take advantage of innovation and data that’s available to commercial tech and fintech companies?
  • How might we make data sources like Open Banking affordable for charities and non-profits?
  • How might we use technology to help charities provide better interventions when it comes to debt?

Challenge 3: Targeted marketing and signposting

We notice that there are lots of potentially helpful products, services and resources out there already – but often they don’t get in front of those that need help the most. Financial services and tech also suffer from a lack of trust, particularly from lower income and marginalised groups – how might marketing improve that so that we can reach those we want to help?

Our third challenge to event-goers was to come up with concepts to help get potentially useful products, services and resources in front of people who could use them.

Some questions to get attendees thinking:

  • How might we help local services and credit unions promote their services in an efficient way?
  • How might we use employers and other channels to reach people and tell them about useful services?
  • How might we help existing customers with relevant signposting before they get into difficulties?

Guest speakers.

At the beginning of the day we invited three guest speakers to help us lay out the challenges we wanted hackathon teams to work on.

Here you can find our recordings of these three talks.

Talk from Daniel Woodhead from IncomeMax
Talk from Niall Alexander from Fair4All Finance
Talk from Jonathan Shaw from Christians Against Poverty

Team ideas and prizes.

Team Maximisers (Challenge 1)

🏆 Best Income Maximisation Idea 🏆

  • Alesha
  • Anna
  • Zara
  • Elisa
  • Tom
  • Imanina
  • Jackie

A ‘Maximiser service’. A user would fill out a circumstances form and the service would present them with ideas to generate additional income.


For example, local uniform sharing schemes, how to sell old possessions, renting out spare room to lodger (provide practical info on how to do this), renting driveway out, etc.

“Not only is she creating income for herself but she’s reconnecting with the community too”. There’s a benefit to mental health, better income, good for environment, reconnecting with community. “We really encourage information sharing and empowering”.

Team Streamlight (Challenge 3)

🏆 Best Signposting Idea 🏆

  • Erel
  • Kiri
  • Chisom
  • Carol
  • Dee
  • Olly
  • Temi
  • Helen
  • Krishna

There are lots of trigger points in people’s journeys to crisis point. This is a ‘trigger point tool’ to triage and put information in so that they can be sent to the right resources. Almost like a directory.

For example, if a tenant misses two rent payments, and housing officer gets involved, they can refer them to the app and a list of appropriate services is sent to them and they choose the best solution and make an appointment.

One underlying platform. Uses AI to go from detective to preventive by analysing data/users and what services they need/use.

One question that arose: can we use Open Banking data to pick up on trends and changes in income, to pick up on these triggers long before the individual is referred to organisations such as the Housing Association? (Inspired by input from expert by experience).

Also: one of the strongest relationships people have is with their employer - could be a good starting channel - for finding committed organisations.

Team Data Rasquals (Challenge 2)

🏆 Best Infrastructure Idea 🏆

  • Peter
  • Poppie
  • Edd
  • Mary
  • Harrison
  • Debbie
  • Gail

A key touchpoint for most people in the UK is the groceries store. How might we harness consumer spending habits to enable Not-for-Profits to support people in need and take responsibility off their shoulders?

The answer? “Open baskets”. Helping charities to target their efforts more effectively and providing targeted support for users via supermarket receipts and loyalty cards.

An AI system can deliver insight on consumer spending habits. An extra receipt with your shop could show Not-for-Profits that can support them. Maybe the system could filter by people spending under £20 – these people are often only buying own brand stuff.

Team IMax (Challenge 1)

🏆 Best Team Dynamic 🏆

  • CJ
  • Alys
  • Jack
  • Rosie
  • Mohammed
  • Michael
  • Jonno

Benefits are really complex and it’s not clear what you’re eligible for. This solution has four components:

  • App that allows beneficiaries to fill out eligibility checker forms.
  • Tailored advice for spending patterns.
  • Open Banking connection.
  • Benefits find you as your circumstances change.

“Squeeze as much value out of open banking as possible”. Keeping all your info in one place - eg. energy suppliers, water supplier, benefits, etc. “Holistic app that centralises all the opportunities for squeezing the most out of your income”

Team Scanners / ‘So Watt’ (Challenge 1)

🏆 Audience Favourite 🏆

  • Samson
  • Tash
  • Dan
  • Will
  • Louis
  • Matt

You know how much your paying for electricity, but do you know what you’re spending it on? By downloading this app you’ll be able to scan all the devices in your home and find out how much they cost to run.

You use the app with barcodes on items. It’s called ‘So Watt’.

The app gives you awareness of your appliances, how much you’re using them, and the cost of waste (every family waste £55 per year on devices on standby). There’s comparison of products, new product and your original, find out what is cheaper to run.

You can “Set challenges, and track your progress”, for example to reduce screen time, and “see where you stand against the national average”.

Overall, picking a cheaper, less-efficient doesn’t save you money in the long run – this app could recommend efficient alternatives to upgrade your products.

Question to take away: Could you finance people making buying new products?

Team Chameleon (Challenge 2)

🏆 Most Impact Potential 🏆

  • Tom
  • Neila
  • Rob
  • Kishor
  • Sents
  • Eric
  • Parveen

Recommends users charities and help based on minimal data they put in. Only when they get recommended eligible charities is their data shared. They feed back to the charity in a data loop.

Perhaps this positive feedback loop can be incorporated into credit scoring and benefit individual credit scores. Creditors want to know about steps people have taken to help themselves.

Lessons learned.

We asked our 50+ attendees for feedback after the event. 15 attendees filled in the form.

  • 80% said they would come to another event, rest were not sure.
  • 80% said they made new connections on the day – all of which intend to keep in touch with them.
  • 33% of attendees said the event sparked ideas for their work that might not have come about otherwise.

What attendees said we did well

  • “Really liked networking with other likeminded organisations (specifically the mission driven for profits)”
  • “I had a great day - it was wonderful to meet people from all sides of the issue and to see the engagement from other commercial enterprises. These are issues we discuss a lot internally but it was good to hear other peoples views and experiences and get a fresh perspective.”
  • “Everyone knew a lot about their subject matter… Loved the vibe - super fun day and found it energising (as well as depressing).”
  • “A very diverse set of skills allowed for all of us, to look at the task at hand from difficult angles.”
  • “It was really nice to experience this surreal feeling that different people with different skills/ideas come together and working well to create something”
  • “Really enjoyed speaking to people from so many other places, backgrounds and experiences and getting to hear a lot of different perspectives.”
  • “It was a great day filled with great ideas and a good melting pot of people between charities, established businesses and fintech.”
  • “The best part was the insight I gained from other attendees - especially those who worked in non-Government departmental bodies or not for profits”
  • “[One take away for my work was] If we are looking to do work as part of cost of living crisis to ensure those that work at the frontlines are part of those discussions. “
  • ”[One take away for my work was] I feel like there is something around how skilled business people can support not-for profits with skills or time and I am going to look at how we utilise our voluntary time at work.”

… and could improve next time

  • “I'd put people in teams so then you have a mix of skillsets and organisations”
  • “I'd suggest a framework for the idea generation i.e. spend 30 minutes generating ideas then focus in on a few - I think our team could have benefitted from a more wire framework of how to hack an idea”
  • “Not all familiar with creative thinking processes/design thinking which might have been nice to touch on.”
  • “I think the only regret for me on the day was not necessarily having a mix of experiences in my team.”
  • “I think we were boxed in quite early to get something done and maybe didn't explore the potential of some of our more unusual ideas.”
  • “I am nowhere near the right person to take this forward.“
  • “I think the 3 challenge areas weren't revolutionary enough… the 4th wildcard category was good ... but no one felt comfortable being in unbounded territory”

‘The Brick Wall’ – What’s holding these ideas back in real life?

We asked attendees to tell us what would stop any of the ideas presented on the day being taken forward in ‘real life’. In other words, what are the barriers stopping innovation being used to help vulnerable and low income groups right now?

Here’s what was shared on the day:

  • [Limited] capacity in support services.
  • Vulnerable people are scared to share their data.
  • Price of maintaining a tech product nearly impossible for non-profits.
  • What third parties can do when talking to DWP.
  • No central repository of grants / council data (hard to nationalise support).
  • GDPR – it’s implementation, and fear of risk.
  • The effort required to develop these solutions is too high to do for free.
  • Legislation – financially excluded referred to non-predatory lenders by mainstream banks – best practice but should be mandatory.


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