Many believe that change can only be implemented with a big, sweeping, drastic motion. Bringing about change to a nation is a task that would exceed their lifetime and can never be achieved. I admit, changing the mentality of a nation is no feat achieved overnight.With this perspective, nothing can be achieved. When I joined the Pakathon Toronto (PakathonTO) team two years ago, what impacted me the most was working with individuals who are driven, positive and above all, passionate about changing conditions in Pakistan. Working with such people has instilled in me the belief that anything is possible. What Pakathon taught me is seeing results may not always seem possible, rather, it is the grass roots approach to hard work, the countless hours of dedication and above all, enthusiasm which infects people and brings them together to create actionable insights that are small steps in the right direction, which can make all the difference. After all, each small step when combined can make a much bigger impact.

Pakathon, a non-for-profit organization which originated in Boston provides a platform for Pakistanis around the world to work towards entrepreneurial opportunities for social change. The platform is structured through a variety of service offerings which include:

·         Pakathon University – an online resource which educates the Pakathon community on entrepreneurship in Pakistan and assists in launching their social enterprises and initiatives. The resource consists of educational modules, industry fact sheets, a best practices toolkit and webinars with established entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

·         Hackathon – an annual 3-day event bringing together like-minded individuals who work on ideas in one of six streams. On the first day, ideas are pitched and teams are formed. The next two days are spent hacking away on these ideas, resulting in a winner chosen on day 3 by renowned judges who make their selection based on 5 minute presentations of the competing team's business models. 

·         Funding – The winner from the global competition is awarded with $10,000 to facilitate initial costs for the startup and to launch their business

·         Networking – experienced individuals with startup experience in varying industries are available across the globe to provide mentorship and guidance (Kalsoom Lakhani – link)

 

Through these services, Pakathon is building a global community of #Changemakers and empowering Pakistanis worldwide. A Changemaker, according to founder Asad Badruddin, is "someone who can positively affect the life of one other person". With 15 chapters in different cities bringing together Changemakers, Pakathon has managed to ignite a zealous sense of passion in Pakistanis worldwide. Some of the chapters around the world include New York, Dubai, Islamabad, Melbourne and Toronto.

At PakathonTO's annual hackathon this year, 10 teams worked tirelessly on their ideas from one of six streams. This year's streams included Education, Energy, Health, Gaming, Law & Order and Women Development. Distinguished judges with varying experience in startups announced "Ammi" as the winner. Ammi – an SMS based messaging service dedicated to maternal health care will now be one of many chapter winners participating in the Pakathon Global Finals.

PakathonTO may have concluded its largest event – the hackathon for the year but with so many things in the pipeline, we are nowhere close to be done. The vigorous preparation for the Pakathon Global Finals is underway, happening at the monumental Aga Khan museum in Toronto, where winning teams from each chapter's hackathon will participate in a global competition in an opportunity to secure funding. As Riaz, co-lead of Pakathon Toronto says, "There is something so inherently beautiful about collaboration. When human beings come together to work on something that is bigger than them, the feeling is just magical and we are expecting nothing short of that at Global Finals."

PakathonTO has not only impacted its participants to bring about change, but the 25 member team has found a sense of belonging in creating this platform. With weekly team meetings, impromptu camping plans and Qawwali sessions, the team has grown together to become one dysfunctional family working to impact the lives of those in the local community. Moreover, in an attempt to create a global community of changemakers, connecting with passionate individuals worldwide and finding a community away from home has been the biggest take-away.