By Nicolle Zapien June 15, 2018

On June 9, more than 250 people came together at California Institute of Integral Studies' (CIIS) Namaste Hall to participate in our Reverse Hackathon.

The design competition, aimed toward the ethical design of existing technologies, supported interdisciplinary dialogue among tech professionals/design and users/academics/activists.

The event attracted high-profile sponsors, including Google, Therachat, and venture capital firm Greylock Partners. The CIIS campus was alive with creativity, energy, innovation, and numerous activities for participants.

Ian Hua, manager of ACTCM's Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic, and his team provided free ear acupuncture; Dr. David Levy gave a keynote talk on mindful technology; and food and event support were provided through sponsor donations and volunteer efforts.

Who Hacked With CIIS

Participants-some who flew in from other parts of the United States-included people from Silicon Valley, local tech companies, the SF Design Week conference, high schools, and academia; and everyday tech users. The wide range of expertise included engineers, designers, scientists, psychologists, sociologist, and health coaches. Faculty, in addition to CIIS, joined us from UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, Stanford, and UC San Francisco.

The Reverse Hackathon was inspired by a conversation I had with HackMentalHealth founder Stephen Cognetta early this year. It is our community's response to the need to not only create mental health apps but also to consider the unintended consequences of technology use on our mental health.

Many participants from the demographically diverse group said they came in search of meaningful connections and were interested in interdisciplinary conversations. I believe that the large turnout and success of the event truly underscores the great need and interest in this work.

And the Reverse Hackathon Winners Are...

The winning teams had three minutes to present their intriguing designs and ideas to a team of judges, science-fair style.
• First Place /Audience Choice: Reverse Hackathon 1st Place Winner: Spell Check for Your Emotions, by Britt Jensen
• Second Place: Women of Color Hack Facebook's Algorithms to Improve Mental Health, by Priya Iyer
• Third Place: It's about Presence... so Open Your Present!, by Kate Chen
• Finalist: Why Twitter Should Verify More Users: Towards a More Human Web, by Jim Kleiber  

These ideas, and the 31 other ideas from the teams, will be developed into papers/blogs and sent to the companies for which the apps were designed, for consideration and hopefully possible use.

With Gratitude

I want to extend my personal thanks to Stephen Cognetta for his leadership in partnership with CIIS in developing and delivering this experience, and to CIIS President Judie Wexler who helped judge.

I am inspired by and deeply grateful to all participants, sponsors, and volunteers, for your willingness to engage.


Nicolle Zapien, MA, EdM, PhD, Marriage and Family Therapist, is Dean of the School of Professional Psychology and Health at CIIS.

School of Professional Psychology and Health, Promotional, Wellness

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