Social Hack is an event hosted by Design for America, a 501(c)3 non-profit and student led organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


In October 2020, DFA held a conversation with Nu Goteh who co-founded Deem Journal, a “biannual print journal and online platform focused on design as social practice.” We discussed how design can add value, how it’s limited, and how to move forward.

“If you can disconnect the idea of fidelity, which is tied to capitalism, white supremacy, to limited resources that only go to certain people–you can actually start looking at design as the process of adding value. In that process there are so many more people, communities, and concepts that don’t get the same amount of support as design and ‘good design.'” – Nu Goteh

Social Hack 2021 has two main components

  1. Education for what design thinking is and what it can be
  2. Safe participation so people can practice critically applying and discussing its use in various contexts

In human-centered design buzzword bingo, empathy is key. This makes the process more of a mindset, but this and large groups have also turned design thinking into an ambiguous mystery and incredibly effective marketing tool. In this event, we emphasize the importance of co-creation and valuing community experts who don’t identify as designers. 

“There’s a certain threshold where empathy isn’t enough. You can empathize with someone so much, but where it falls short is it never actually includes the end user in the process.” – also Nu

Social Hack, a two-day event, did not feel like an appropriate venue to “practice” human-centered design as we cannot mutually benefit the community with prototypes. However, participation in the form of discussion and actively questioning, reflecting, then planning how we plan to change how we work work is something we can create a platform for. Also, Zoom burnout is real so hopefully this schedule is flexible enough for you to take what you need!

LAST, the virtual format lets us invest all our funding into giving back instead of venue and food!! These scholarships aim to support people dedicated to making impact, and compensate those reflecting on how they want to affect change given the information from this event. Please consider applying to one of our three 500 word essay scholarships! We are also awarding 5 prizes for short reflections to those who attend our workshops.

Can I talk to the manager?

Direct any questions to Angela Chan (angelac4@illinois.edu)! She is currently a senior at UIUC, former president of DFA, tried really hard not to over-explain this About page, and is really hoping you’ll enjoy listening to the speakers/attending the workshops. Esha Sharma is her wonderful deputy director, sanity check, and grounding force.

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