Pgh in 360, a project to empower teenagers to document their ideas using augmented reality and video, won first prize last night at Repair The World’s Social Justice Innovation Weekend (#SJIW2018).

The event, created by Zack Block, executive director of Repair The World: Pittsburgh and his staff, took place jointly in the Repair The World and AlphaLab Gear offices, both in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood.

With the prize, Karen Alexander of Morningside takes home $1,500, which she will use to purchase cameras and equipment to turn Pgh in 360 from idea to reality. Her goal is to work with neighborhood organizations and schools to help teens learn how to produce videos by taking on this challenge: expressing their own views on their neighborhoods and issues that matter to them.

Their completed videos will be on display during Inclusive Innovation Week in April and at Thrival in September.

Following a similar format to Start-up Weekends that have occurred in Pittsburgh and around the world, the #SJIW2018 weekend event allowed participants to pitch ideas that are socially good concepts, then create teams and flesh out the ideas with the help of mentors. It all culminated with teams vying for the $1,500 top prize.

How Social Justice Innovation Weekend was born

A few years ago, Block participated in a different local pitch competition that was meant to uplift the community by presenting socially good concepts. What he encountered, instead, is what he describes as a roadblock that came from a Shark Tank format, rather than an experience that built up good ideas.

So he decided to create his own event where he could “work with folks who have socially good concepts in an environment that would build them up, not tear them down.”

For his inaugural event in 2017, Block recruited Ilana Diamond, managing director of AlphaLab Gear, to help him strategize — and the two of them subsequently found support from a number of leaders in the Pittsburgh technology community.

Together, they created an event that attracted 75 attendees, with more than 2,000 viewing online. Last year’s event helped to launch the winner of its pitch competition, Behaivior, which has been accepted to and has received funding from AlphaLab. Behaivior uses artificial intelligence to understand people who misuse substances.

Last year’s inaugural event was such a success that Block worked with the same coalition to do it again this year.

Repair the World operates in six other cities beyond Pittsburgh. But the Social Justice Innovation Weekend has happened only here. This weekend’s events kicked off with a dinner and keynote from Majestic Lane, Mayor Peduto’s deputy chief of neighborhood empowerment.