MLH’s COVID-19 Guidance for the 2022 Hackathon Season

Last Updated 2021-09-10

As an organization that helps power thousands of events worldwide, Major League Hacking (MLH) is providing recommendations based on guidance provided by national and international public health authorities. 

Our team continues to monitor COVID-19, its variants, vaccinations, and other indicators as we advise our communities of hackers and organizers. This post has our most up to date information for the 2022 Hackathon Season (July 2021 through June 2022). 

Guidance can often vary locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. For the safety of our community, we are requiring partnered events to adhere to the most strict guidance they receive.

We are currently recommending that most MLH affiliated events remain digital.

MLH will only support hackathons and events with physical components if all the following conditions are true;

  1. Events must have the direct approval of their school, and the implied or direct approval of local, regional, and national health authorities.
  2. Events must follow the most strict guidance of those varying authorities. 
    i.e. if national authorities are recommending masking, but your school is not, you must recommend masking.
  3. If you’re unable to follow the guidance of the most strict authority, we will not be able to support your event if it has any physical component.
    i.e. if your region (State) forbids requiring vaccines or masks, but your nation recommends requiring them, we would not be able to partner with your hackathon (if you have any physical components).

As everyone takes action to socially distance themselves it becomes more important that we have ways to gather digitally, while slowing the spread of COVID-19.

This post contains guidance for: Hackers, Organizers, and Sponsors; plus additional resources.

Hackers

We have at least one digital hackathon each weekend that is open to all hackers all over the world. This means you may have more opportunities to hack than in any year previous. All of our member events may be viewed at mlh.io/events. For each event, you’ll see a badge indicating if the event is Digital, Digital Hybrid, Physical Hybrid, or Physical.

  • Digital Events – These events are planned and take place fully online. MLH staff attend these events digitally.
  • Digital Hybrid – These events primarily take place online, but have a physical component that is restricted to local hackers. All major components are planned for digital attendees. MLH staff attend these events digitally.
  • Physical Hybrid – These events primarily take place in-person, but have a digital component to benefit hackers who cannot travel or don’t feel safe doing so. All major components are planned for physical attendees. MLH staff attend these hackathons in person.
  • Physical Events – These events take place fully in-person. MLH staff attend these hackathons in person.

If you are attending an event with in-person components, the attendance requirements should be clearly listed on the hackathon’s website in their FAQ. Requirements typically include all, some, or none of the following;

  • Vaccination
  • Masking
  • Social distancing
  • Attendee restrictions (number of attendees, location, and other restrictions)

We’re working with all of our events to ensure they have robust plans for any in-person components, and have backup plans to convert to a digital style if necessary in the weeks leading up to their event. As we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, you should be prepared to shift your plans as things change.

Organizers

While we are still recommending that all of our events remain digital, we are reviewing and approving event applications for hybrid and physical events given the event has a robust COVID-19 plan, has direct approval from their school, implied or direct approval from their local, regional, and national health authorities, and follows the guidance of those authorities. 

While we believe in flexibility and working with our organizers to overcome issues, our team is rigidly committed to only supporting events when and where it is safe to do so. If your event is unable to follow the most strict set of guidelines (e.g. because State laws prevent you from doing so), we will not be able to support your hackathon as an in-person or hybrid event. We’d still happily partner with your team on an incredible digital experience for your hackers. 

Events must provide the following information as part of their event applications;

  • Direct approval from their School, College, or University
  • Implied or direct approval from each of the following
    • Local health authority
    • Regional health authority
    • National health authority
  • Policies and plans for each of the following topics in accordance with their school, local, regional, and national health authorities
    • Vaccination
    • Masking
    • Social distancing
    • Attendee restrictions (number of attendees, location, and other restrictions)
    • Food
    • Sanitation
  • For each of the policies and plans above, you must list clear information for hackers in your website’s FAQ
  • A digital contingency plan in place in case approval is rescinded by the school, local, regional, or national health authorities
    • As a component of your event’s membership, you must be prepared to act on the digital contingency plan if MLH’s or any other authorities’ policies change
    • If you choose to disregard authorities’ policies (by continuing to host a physical component to your event), MLH will no longer be able to partner with your event and will notify hackers that we have rescinded your event’s membership. 

Finally, MLH is actively and regularly checking in with any approved events with in-person components. You may be required to resubmit any and all of the required in-person information as the event draws near.

We have resources available to help you host the best digital or physical event in our Organizer Guide.

Sponsors

MLH events are digital except under very stringent circumstances. For further information about our restrictions and requirements to host a hybrid or in-person event, please review the Organizer section above. 

We’ve seen great success in the digital format, including when it comes to sponsor success metrics. We’ve seen project submission rates remain similar to those of in-person hackathons and are actively working with event organizers to ensure they are able to run a successful digital event with successful sponsor activations.

We’re working hard to provide hackathons with tooling and suggestions to make sponsorship useful for you. Your participation makes it possible for every hacker to experience hacking and the hacker community.

Additional Resources

While we’ve done our best to collect resources that might be helpful for you, we encourage you to do your own research as you will be better equipped to find information in your area.

IANPHI has a list of most National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs)

Worldwide

The WHO has a resource center for COVID-19. They have also put out recommendations for planning mass gatherings both as interim guidance for COVID-19 and general mass gathering guidance.

Worldwide and in most regions we serve, governments are recommending social/physical distancing including maintaining 3-6 ft (~1-2m) of separation between people and limits to gatherings.

United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the NPHI for the United States. They have an extensive resource center on the COVID-19 novel coronavirus with constantly evolving information.

The CDC has provided guidance for large events organizers and also provides guidance for school and university administrations. Even though it is technically archived, we also recommend reviewing their guidance on gatherings.

They recommend contact directories for state and local health officials.

Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has a resource for COVID-19 and has provided contact details.

PHAC also provides a resource for assessing risk at mass gatherings.

United Kingdom

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care have a resource for COVID-19 and a growing list of guidance, including guidance for educational settings.

Europe

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has a resource for COVID-19.

India

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has detailed information and resources for COVID-19.