Ready to Take Your City to the Next Level?

Hack the Beach: The Contest is an annual challenge allowing anyone in the community to submit proposals for apps, ideas, processes, and/or technology to help Santa Monica improve our sense of Community and Civic Engagement.

The Contest: 2017

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The Contest: 2017

City governments have a unique value proposition: Cities have the ability to make decisions and deploy resources in ways that directly impact people’s lives. On all fronts, and in the current political environment, this role has become more important than we have ever known.

Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is a tool designed to revolutionize local government. It is helping cities use data to make more informed decisions that address real needs and trends in the communities they serve.

Hack the Beach 2017 is not a one-off hack-a-thon. It’s an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and contribute solutions that have real impact on the world around you. It’s also an opportunity to be part of a unique, emerging partnership between business, government, and people that we hope will evolve into a thriving community of problem solvers and invested citizens.

Design Challenges

We invite you to submit solutions that meet one or more of the below design challenges. Applications accepted from July 6, 2017 to September 4, 2017. The contest will run through the end of 2017.

Building Community

Building Community

Community happens when a group of people come together to create a space, based on shared interests, in which they find mutual respect, a sense of belonging, and support. Lessons learned through recent disasters show that strong connections within a community network are critical to helping people respond to crisis situations, including those caused by natural and man-made disasters like a major earthquake or tsunami or other event impacting our collective health and safety.

As shown by the Wellbeing Index, connections between people living in Santa Monica are shockingly low (when compared to national averages). This social isolation is particularly acute among young adults. The issue is further amplified by increasing differences between “new” Santa Monicans and people who have been here for a while.

How might we use technology to encourage residents to connect with each other in a very real, genuine, neighbor-to-neighbor way?

Responsive Government

Responsive Government

Santa Monica residents are known for having strong opinions about the city they call home, but less than a third report feeling that they have influence over what happens in their city government.

How might we bridge this gap and use technology to show the majority of residents that they do indeed have a voice that is heard by their city government?

Now perhaps more than ever, trust and accountability in government are crucial to solving our social problems and advancing as a society.

What are ways to cultivate a trustworthy and participatory local government through equitable, transparent, and effective processes?



The ability to access traditional modes of health care is becoming increasing difficult. Furthermore, per the Wellbeing Index, stress levels are off the charts and rates of physical activity are far lower than one would expect. This means that we all need to take matters into our own hands and find ways to live healthier lives through our behavior and actions on a daily basis. The City of Santa Monica has an extensive network of public open space, public recreation amenities, and a broad range of high quality/affordable stress-busting classes.

How might we use technology to make it easier to empower residents to access these public resources to take charge of improving their health?

Place and Planet

Place and Planet

Envisioning better Place & Planet outcomes include making it easier to get around town in an environmentally-friendly (read: car free) way. Santa Monica has made MAJOR progress in this area in recent years, including releasing real-time transit information as open data, adopting the TAP Card for use on our systems (thus integrating into a regional network), and working with Metro to successfully extend LA’s light rail network to our city.

Even with these accomplishments, many commuters ignore public transit options and pedestrian deaths (by vehicle) continue. Santa Monica wants to embrace a Vision Zero approach to making it easier for public transit and traditional modes of getting around to co-exist while striving for zero pedestrian deaths by vehicle.

How might we use technology to make this happen?



Well-informed citizens are crucial for the success of any city. Education has been linked to outcomes across the Wellbeing spectrum — high incomes, better health, longer lives, and lower rates of risk behavior. In Santa Monica, there are inequities in access to opportunities to learn, which has contributed to persistent disparity in educational outcomes for students tied to race/ethnicity. We also know that our adult residents lack easy ways to engage in personal development activities while balancing their busy lifestyles.

How might we champion lifelong education achievements and opportunities for continuous personal growth?

Economic Opportunity

Economic Opportunity

Reducing barriers to economic growth, particularly for small businesses, is one of Santa Monica’s preeminent goals. Local residents, in turn, need resources to help them build their lives here and opportunities to enjoy life in the city as much as those who come for a short visit.

How can we support community needs through a stable, vibrant and diverse local economy?

Meet the Judges

Adam Weiss's headshot'

Adam Weiss

Vice President, Business Affairs & General Counsel
Cornerstone OnDemand

Joseph Cevetello's headshot'

Joseph Cevetello

Chief Information Officer
City of Santa Monica

Julie Rusk's headshot'

Julie Rusk

Chief of Civic Wellbeing
City of Santa Monica

Kat Karimi's headshot'

Kat Karimi

Co-Founder & Director
Civic Innovation Lab

Sonya Sepahban's headshot'

Sonya Sepahban

Senior Vice President of Engineering, Development and Technology (retired)
General Dynamics

More Details


The application period is open July 6 to September 4, 2017. In addition to accepting applications, we will hold monthly events through the rest of the year. These events are an opportunity to learn more about how your City works, what your colleagues are working on, and network with other professionals in the area. Each event will have a keynote speaker corresponding to one or more of the design challenge areas. Please note that all dates are subject to change.

July 6, 2017 – The Contest Kickoff

Hackers from all walks of life were on hand as we unveiled attended the Contest Kickoff, hosted by ExpertDojo. We spoke to people from different sectors, different countries, and different interests. The common thread was the group’s mission towards making Santa Monica an even better community than it is today. The picturesque Santa Monica summer evening and the outdoor venue provided just the right environment for networking, exchange of ideas, and learning about what’s new in the Contest for 2017.

City Manager Rick Cole gave a spirited keynote speech, inviting the community to help make Santa Monica a beacon of light for the rest of the world to learn from and aspire towards.

August 23, 2017 – Inside Edge

Meet subject matter experts from each of the design challenge areas. This is your opportunity to gain an inside edge by crafting some or part of your pitch and project to speak to real issues faced by City leaders. Co-hosted by Hack for LA and featuring a keynote from representatives of Code for America:

Neil Khare
Neil Khare, Director of Public Partnerships

Neil came to Code for America after a career in both government and technology. Previously, Neil worked at AVIA, a healthcare innovation firm, and managed strategic initiatives at Cleversafe, an enterprise data storage firm acquired by IBM. He also served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, leading strategic planning and execution across the County's key service areas: public safety & justice, health care, and economic development. He played a critical role in closing budget gaps of over $1 billion at Cook County in a fiscally responsible manner. Neil received both his MBA and BA from Northwestern University.

Caitlin Docker
Caitlin Docker, Sr. Manager of Partnerships and Growth

Caitlin's goal is to close the participation gap in CalFresh state-wide, and she's currently working to bring GetCalFresh to each county in California. Her work focuses on improving the delivery of essential government services by deploying concepts like user research and data-driven decision making. She brings 5+ years experience in coalition building and working with the U.S. federal government to her work. Caitlin earned her bachelor's degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

September 2017 – Pitch Night

Every candidate who passes an initial screening will be given a lightning pitch opportunity at this event. Initial screening will filter out any projects which do not address one or more of the design challenges.

Jonathan Mooney
Jonathan Mooney, Public Speaker, Author

Jonathan is a widely sought after speaker whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, HBO, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. He is currently the chief social impact officer of an early-stage startup based here in Los Angeles called coParenter which is trying to support and empower the 30 million individuals who are coparenting as a result of divorce separation or never being married.

December, 2017 – Final Pitch Night

Each Finalist will give their final pitch directly to the judges and the rest of the community. Judges will deliberate to select a winner. Winner will be unveiled the following month at the State of the City Address.

January, 2018 – State of the City

The winner will be announced and invited on stage at the 2018 State of the City ceremony.


The Basics

  • Your project must provide a solution addressing one or more of this year’s design challenges.
  • Your project must be in a state to be implemented no later than March, 2018. Remember, we want real solutions to real problems.

If your proposal meets these marks, you will automatically be added to the City's list of qualified vendors (i.e. you will be deemed responsive to a process we refer to as Request for Qualified Vendors) and you will have an opportunity to pitch during the September event.

Becoming a Finalist and Winner

We will use a panel of experts across multiple disciplines to whittle the initial list of applicants down to n no more than 10 finalists. Our Contest judges will conduct a final evaluation of all projects at our December events. Both the panel of experts and the judges will be using the final criteria to rate projects:

  • Viability (40%) Consider cost to develop, return on investment, cost of maintenance, scalability, user adoption and other barriers to success. Hack the Beach is about creating real solutions for real problems; will your solution be viable for your target audience(s)?
  • Value (40%) Great ideas are common, great applications are not. Does this product demonstrate the capacity to go beyond being just a good idea to being a solid product that people will actually use and benefit from?
  • Growth (20%) What is the long-term outlook for the product? Is it a one-off, or an evolving product which can morph, adapt, and provide value over time?

What's in it For Me?

You mean aside from having a positive impact on your community? Well, we have some prizes if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Behind the Scenes Tour of Hyperloop One.Your team will go behind the scenes with one of the most exciting transportation technology innovators.
  • Workspace from Cross Campus. The winning entry will receive one complimentary year of Resident Membership at Cross Campus (for up to 4 team members) valid at any of their locations: Santa Monica, Downtown LA, Old Pasadena, or South Bay (opening Dec 2017). A Resident Membership will grant you 24/7 access to the shared workspace at all of their locations, access to all member amenities and member only events, unlimited business resources, and conference room credits.
  • Dinner with City Manager Rick Cole and Mayor Ted Winterer at Rustic Canyon. You will have the unique opportunity to interact with our City Manager and Mayor in an intimate setting.
  • Growth Hacking at Expert Dojo. Your team will receive a complimentary membership in Expert Dojo's Growth Hacking program.
  • Incubator Interview with Hacker Fund Automatic bid to interview for the Hacker Fund Incubator program in January 2018. Hacker Fund is an incubator for charitable, educational, and scientific projects that drive social change around the world. Members of the incubator receive tax-deductible status, tools to fundraise, and access to a global network of donors and volunteers.
  • Talent Development at General Assembly.Your team will receive credits for short-form classes and workshops at General Assembly.
  • Every application that passes the initial screening will be added to a Request for Qualified Vendors list for the City of Santa Monica. This means that the City now knows who you are, what you do, and has the ability to reach out to you should there be work that you or your company can perform for the City.
  • Ongoing promotion of your contributions by the City of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, and other project partners.

Talk About It

Have a question? Let us know! Join the discussion or drop us a line.