It was an idea that took root innocuously enough. Derek DeHart, a product manager at CoverMyMeds by day, was scrolling through the TechLife Columbus newsletter in 2016 when he stumbled upon a mention of an event called GiveBackHack, a weekend happening connecting tech and social impact projects. He couldn’t go that year, but he made a point to attend in 2017 and he says, without hyperbole, that it changed his life.
“It opened my eyes to this whole world, this whole ecosystem of social entrepreneurship and business leaders who are running a business effectively, but nevertheless trying to do good in their communities and do right by their stakeholders. I had no idea they existed,” DeHart said.
The change came when he heard the pitch for DACA Time made by co-founders Brook Kohn and Nathali Bertran. The idea behind DACA is to provide a secure online tool that helps walk people through the complicated process of applying for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy. After hearing the pitch, he joined up with the two.
“It was really happenstance: I saw it, and the description of a launchpad for social innovation really resonated with me,” DeHart said of GiveBackHack. “It was such an elegant solution. … I recognized immediately the elegance of the solution and the prevalence of the problem, and so we got to work on it through the weekend,” he adds. After GiveBackHack—where DACA Time received a small amount of seed funding—it went through the SEA Change accelerator and gained additional resources and $40,000 in funding.
As co-founder and COO of DACA Time, DeHart, 37, gives his time and energy to the nonprofit on nights and weekends. His primary goal is to find tech experts in the community who are willing to do the same thing. DACA Time runs almost entirely upon the generosity of volunteers.
“We’ve had volunteer product designers involved, we’ve had a volunteer graphic designer involved, we’ve had volunteer developers involved at various stages,” says DeHart. “We can’t pay software engineers today, it’s not something we have the operating capital for, but nevertheless, it’s a problem that people recognize can be solved through technology and they’re very interested in learning how they can contribute.”
DeHart is also a founding board member of the local chapter of Conscious Capitalism, an international organization that encourages for-profits to be “conscious businesses” in recognizing how they can help their communities. DeHart also organized 2018’s GiveBackHack, which ran from April 27-29. Right now, his life consists of working at CoverMyMeds, logging off-work hours for DACA Time and “helping the Columbus business community have a vocabulary to think about and talk about what it means to be a conscious business.”
DeHart doesn’t think DACA Time will ever be something he can draw a paycheck from, and that’s OK with him—“It’s a labor of love,” he says. But now DeHart says he’s been thinking about other holes in the community that can be filled by social enterprise.
“I don’t have a fully formed or concrete idea of something I’d want to do, but it’s clear that there are additional needs in our community that can be served,” he says. “I’d like to unpack some of that and see if there is any supplementary programming or more that we could do through various partnerships to help fill some of those gaps.”
DeHart sees his volunteer efforts as a way to give back to a community he has greatly benefitted from. “I’m really happy to give back,” he says. “I’m honored that someone would consider my desire to give back to community in any way heroic, but in my mind it’s just feeding back into the same ecosystem that’s given me such a wonderful opportunity to enrich my life.”