GiveBackHack Returns to CCAD in April

By Jackie Mantey for Columbus College of Art & Design and cross-posted from

GiveBackHack returns to the Columbus College of Art & Design campus for its fourth year on Friday, April 27, through Sunday, April 29.

This weekend-long event brings together passionate community members to develop sustainable, technology-based solutions to pressing social issues. Teams of members from the tech and social impact communities connect to come up with ideas for social innovation.

Then, blending startup concepts such as rapid prototyping, iteration, risk tolerance, the team members work together to identify business/impact models and develop initial prototypes for their social enterprise. Past projects have included building an app that gamifies altruism and a business that recycles and repurposes bathroom amenities from the hospitality industry to give to the homeless.

At the end of the weekend, the top teams are awarded with resources to help sustain their ideas moving forward in the form of in-kind community resources committed an entire weekend to taking a brand new social impact idea into reality. Teams have the chance to walk away with thousands in funding to help launch their business idea into a reality (thanks to generous sponsorship by IGS, a disruptor in the energy industry).

“We want to be a launchpad for social innovation,” says Suzy Bureau, who founded GiveBackHack after working at tech startup weeks and, separately, alongside social change professionals; Bureau recognized the potential solutions that could manifest if these two groups connected, as well as the need for a commitment-free space to dream big.

“The stakes can feel so much higher [when a business is working alone], especially if people who depend on you for food or shelter,” she says. “This is a space where they can try out or explore ideas in a way they might not be able to otherwise.

Individuals from all fields are encouraged to participate in GiveBackHack, too. Bureau says the people who usually attend are three things: “smart, ambitious, and motivated.”

“I love seeing the type of people we attract to GiveBackHack,” she says. “They want to hustle and work hard to create something that helps the world around us, that moves the ball forward. I’m obsessed with working with organizations that move the ball forward.”

One of last year’s Columbus GiveBackHack winners—of both the crowd favorite title and a prize package of $5,000 in initial funding and services—was DACA Time, an organization that helps DACA recipients, or Dreamers, navigate the complicated resources, information, and procedures to live in the United States.

Derek DeHart, DACA Time’s co-founder and COO, first got involved with the service when he attended GiveBackHack 2017.

“I went to the event kind of on a whim. I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I would contribute. I attended and joined a team,” he says. “It was an incredible, life-changing experience going through GiveBackHack. This was a crash course in social entrepreneurship experience. Had no idea how robust it was. I was so inspired by the event that I was very eager to get involved with organizing.”

Now, he’s leading the charge and organizing Columbus’ GiveBackHack 2018.

“We’re witnessing a cultural sea change in how we think about business and what a successful business is today,” DeHart says. “A lot of it is driven by Millennials coming of age and becoming professionals in society. Culturally we’ve seen more of a push toward socially conscious enterprises.”

Elaine Luttrull, assistant professor and department head of CCAD’s Business & Entrepreneurship Department, notes that the push is also a result of how the general public’s way of donating has changed in the wake of technology and as nonprofits struggle to raise money.

“Now people give to each other directly because the giving model is being disrupted,” she says. “What we’re seeing, especially with younger members of society, is that people are motivated by things other than economic security. There are also businesses that want to be successful and do good in the world, and GiveBackHack helps them figure out a business model where they can do both—a business model where they can be committed to the cause and measure its success.”

Recognizing the evolving market, Luttrull was on board since the beginning, helping host GiveBackHack’s launch at the CCAD MindMarket in 2015.

“The organizers came to me and said we want to do this startup weekend thing but for social enterprises. I immediately jumped in because that is the kind of entrepreneurship our students are really drawn to,” she says. “They want to change the world through creativity or use their unique approach to problem solving on the design front. It’s such a logical connection: Someone who studies art and design is often motivated by having a fulfilling life but not defining that in terms of money.”

This semester, Luttrull is also teaching LIBA 2806 – Business of Art through Social Change, a CCAD class that marries social impact with entrepreneurship and teaches its multi-year, multi-disciplined group of students how to practically apply their creative skills to make an impact in their communities.

Jade Morris (Illustration, 2019) is taking the class. She says it’s inspired her to take a closer look at the opioid epidemic. Through class exercises and research, she’s discovered ways a seemingly distant field like illustration can influence change in this growing community healthcare crisis.

“Communication between the visual and the written word in editorial work is something that I hadn’t thought much about in relationship to my personal work until recently, and it has become more apparent to me as this class progresses,” Morris says. “I am analyzing my own artwork or perhaps looking at it a bit closer to see what kind of information I am communicating to viewers about my unique perspective on society and social environment, as well as thinking about how my artwork may inspire ideas of social change within the minds of those who come into contact with it.”

The GiveBackHack concept of one weekend spent non-stop ideating on an important issue with relative strangers, has grown to even more cities since it began. Last year, events were introduced in Philadelphia and Cleveland and 2018 will also see editions in Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, New York, and Los Angeles.

Many of the new GiveBackHacks are being brought to these cities by people who attended previous installments in the original city of Columbus.

“It makes me love this city even more,” says GiveBackHack founder Bureau. “It’s hard to launch anything in any city. Columbus is really open and accessible and supportive. CCAD is a big part of that.”


“I think artists and designers have the potential to encourage and inspire the largest groups of people because artwork has the ability to communicate past the barriers of language and speech—it makes you feel something,” Morris says. “Without art, there is no universal understanding or communication. And without that, well, I believe we’d be quite primal in our approaches to major societal problems.”