Friday, September 10 - Sunday, September 12, 2021


Sign up to learn more and participate, by clicking below:

Information for Participants‚Äč

Guide for Teams, Schedule and weekend overview

Preparation Materials (to be shared via the Hacking for Humanity Slack workspace; first sign up on Airtable above, and you’ll then receive an invitation to join the Slack workspace)

Connect with Teams

Cross-Campus Resources

Key links and videos, including the B8527 Social Venture Incubator course and application online; Round 1 deadline: August 19, 2021.

Workshop Leaders


Hacking for Humanity will take place from Friday, September 10, 2021 at 3:00p.m. ET to Sunday, September 12 at 5:00pm ET. See Schedule for details.

Hacking for Humanity is an opportunity to initiate and get traction for startup ideas that are focused on solving a problem for people and/or the planet. There are many terms used to describe such ventures including: “impact ventures”, “double bottom line”, “double impact”, “triple bottom line”, “sustainable”, “ESG”, and others. We use the term social ventures, which is inclusive of all solutions leveraging new technologies, research-based ideas, and innovations that can span a broad range of topics, fields, and industries. These ventures offer compelling business models which are scalable and attractive to impact investors and funders seeking targeted and (in most cases) large scalable market opportunities.

Any startup idea that is aimed at tackling a problem affecting people or the planet. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides a useful framework for possible topics. As reference, consider current examples of Columbia-affiliated social ventures. Ideas can have a local, national, or global focus. Such startups may be based in NYC, anywhere in the U.S., or abroad. For-profit and hybrid nonprofit/for-profit venture and innovative, self-sustaining, nonprofit ideas are eligible. This would include, but not be limited to, ventures concerning health and wellness, education, climate impact, environmental sustainability, journalism/new media, human rights/social issues, economic and digital inclusivity, etc.

We anticipate that the Hackathon will function in a HyFlex format, with events offered both in person on Columbia’s campus and as virtual live participation via Zoom, Airmeet, and Slack. Speakers and workshops will be recorded for those participating in time zones that make it difficult to attend all sessions live. Due to University guidelines, only Columbia students, researchers, faculty, and staff who have completed all ReopenCU requirements, can attend in person on campus. All others are welcome to join us online.

We are looking to build an interdisciplinary community of participants including Columbia students, researchers, faculty, and professionals from our local community networks and beyond who have domain expertise, experience, and skills such as AI, data science, policy, community perspectives, startup experience, venture investing, and more. Diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experience levels are welcome! All teams should have at least one Columbia student to participate.

Everyone should join a team prior to the Hackathon. Use the “Founders seeking team members” and “Team members seeking ventures” forms above to express your interest. You will then receive an email invitation to join the Columbia Hacking for Humanity Slack workspace to see responses from others and find your team. Two hosted speed networking events online prior this hackathon, will also provide opportunities to meet other participants. If you already have a group, feel free to work with them, but we strongly advise ensuring that you have a range of talent, backgrounds, skills, and interdisciplinary perspectives drawn from across the Columbia network, local communities, and beyond. Diverse and inclusive teams generate more insights, make better decisions, and produce more robust venture solutions and outcomes!

Each team will be matched to at least 1-2 mentors and have access to a specialist mentor pool serving all teams. During the Hackathon, students will engage with a series of speakers and workshops that will provide them with the tools to use over the 3 days. Topics will include design thinking, customer discovery, business model testing, data analytics and metrics, pitching, and more. Students will have access to a participant guide that will provide additional resources, frameworks, tools, and advice.

Participants will finish the Hackathon with a rudimentary Minimum Viable Product (MVP, no coding), a discovery/validation driven business model draft, a simple pitch deck, demo day experience, and a great time with new networks and stronger relationships inside and outside the University. Teams will pitch to an expert panel of judges, connect to a wider audience of mentors, advisors, and impact investors, and compete for recognition, cash awards and prizes to further develop their ventures.

Columbia student team members can apply to take the B8527: Social Venture Incubator half semester course from October – December 2021 to continue developing their ventures. Non-student team members are welcome guests for this course. Columbia University also has a range of related coursework and resources including business plan competitions, accelerators, and investment funds, including the Tamer Fund for Social Ventures. Explore more online here.

Other questions? Please contact us.

For updates, follow us on social media and use #Hack4HumanityCU