Atlanta to Host National Pitch Contest Looking for Ideas that use Hip-Hop as a Vehicle for Social Justice

The Center for Civic Innovation [Spring 2014 Alumni], has teamed up with the A3C Festival and Conference to launch a competition for ideas that use art, music and hip-hop culture as a vehicle to advance social justice and civic engagement in underserved communities in the United States.

I recently caught up with Rohit Malhotra, founder of the Center for Civic Innovation, Mike Walbert and Matt Weiss, directors of the A3C Festival and Conference to learn more about A3C Action; a pitch contest to be held on October 10 in Atlanta, that will feature 5 of the nation’s best ideas that use art, music and hip-hop culture as a vehicle to advance social justice and civic engagement in underserved communities in the United States. While the end goal is to find a tangible solution, the perks of being a finalist aren’t bad either:

  • VIP Passes to A3C Festival & Conference October 7-11
  • An opportunity to host an exhibitor table at A3C Conference Center
  • Hotel accommodations for the four nights of the festival
  • $250 travel stipend for out of town teams
  • Pitch training and advising sessions with Rohit Malhotra
  • Pitch Night in front of curated audience and judges

Check out what Rohit and the A3C team had to say about the collaboration and the hopes for this one of a kind pitch event:

CivicX: What prompted the A3C and CCI teams to come together for A3C Action? 

Rohit Malhotra pitches at the Spring 2014 Civic Accelerator Demo Night.
Rohit Malhotra pitches at the Spring 2014 Civic Accelerator Demo Night.

Rohit: Hip hop has been a megaphone and sometimes the only voice on issues and challenges faced by underserved communities, as the art was born in the backyard of poverty. A3C brings together thousands of people every year around this art. The Center for Civic Innovation strives to find new solutions to old problems, and we saw A3C as the perfect partner that can help us engage new audiences in conversations around social justice. Frankly, the creative people they bring together are the missing ingredient in conversations on policy and community development.

Matt:  In year’s past, the A3C team has attempted various initiatives such as food/clothing drives, community awareness, and park cleanups. As we felt the work done in year’s past was positive, it was important for us going forward into the 2015 event to have a more focused effort in creating a space for our attendees to learn and participate in avenues of social change. In a fortuitous meeting with Rohit and his team, A3C made the decision to move our offices to CCI in hopes that we could not only have a place to run our business, but also build and grow this type of initiative with CCI.

Are there any examples or specific people in hip-hop culture that have impacted social change in the past or present that stick out or are most memorable to you?

Rohit: When Ice Cube called rap and hip hop the black CNN during the LA Riots, it was a wake up call to the country that so much violence, inequality, and mistreatment was going unnoticed in communities in the United States. In a time where social media didn’t exist, rap was one of the only vehicles beyond academic literature that brought attention to what was happening in underserved, ignored communities.

Matt: The work Talib Kweli and Killer Mike have done over the last few years has been truly remarkable. They have both been successful in highlighting the issues of perception surrounding hip-hop music and culture. I believe them to be the Chuck D and KRS-One of the next generation and hope their work will inspire the next wave of forward thinking, intelligent artists.

Why Atlanta and why A3C as a vehicle for social change? 

Rohit: Atlanta is home for both A3C and CCI. Atlanta, on one hand, is home to a thriving music and entrepreneurial scene. On the other, it has the highest income inequality in the country. The city must use its two best assets to address its main challenges and A3C and CCI, respectively, are the right people to partner to make that happen.

Mike: Atlanta is our home. We want to make a lasting impact here and make positive change. A3C has built a huge network in the hip-hop community and has become a national institution in the culture. That is a responsibility we take seriously. We want to be able to look back years from now and now just see all of the artists and speakers, but the real impact we have had on the culture and city.

“When Ice Cube called rap and hip hop the black CNN during the LA Riots, it was a wake up call to the country that so much violence, inequality, and mistreatment was going unnoticed in communities in the United States.” – Rohit Malhotra, Founder, Center for Civic Innovation
How will the pitches be judged? 
Rohit: We are looking for promise of outcomes. We want ideas that do not just see the music or art as an end. Instead, they use it as a tool to address a sticky challenge. The pitches are being judged by a qualified panel of people across industries.

Judging will take place in two stages: The first will be at the end of the initial round of applications to pick our finalists, and the second will be at the pitch itself to pick our winners.

Finalists will be announced in mid-September, and our winners will be announced at the festival. Our goal in bringing on judges is to bring perspectives from both the artistic/creative side and the business/social impact side to evaluate the merit of the idea and its potential for success.

How can those not submitting ideas get involved with A3C Action?

Rohit: Leading up to our deadline on Thursday at midnight, we can always use a hand finding great projects. If you know someone who is using art, music and hip-hop culture to increase social justice and civic engagement in underserved communities, please refer them to the application at You can also help signal boost via twitter and facebook. Both A3C and CCI are tweeting about the upcoming deadline, so a re-tweet or a post about it can be very helpful. We find that direct referrals are most helpful, so please send a quick note to friends whose work or ideas are eligible.

Another way to help is through our Indiegogo: We’re working on raising $10,000 to support people bringing their ideas to life. A3C will be matching everything we raise, dollar for dollar, up to $10k and we want to make sure we meet that goal and surpass it by the time the campaign ends on October 1st. Please consider contributing to the campaign and referring other people to it — we’re not going to get to our goal without the community pitching in. This is a group effort and we want everyone to feel like they’re part of it.

Attendees of the A3C Festival can attend the pitch on either day, and we will post more details about the pitches as we get closer to the festival. If you’re going to be at the festival looking for something a little out of the ordinary, come out and support these awesome entrepreneurs!

Are you planning to vote Kanye in 2020?

Rohit: Obviously.

Matt: As long as he’s not running against Bernie Sanders…

Mike: I wouldn’t vote Kanye for class president of an elementary school.

Applications are due September 3 and you can apply hereLearn more about A3C Action, back their IndieGoGo campaign and apply for their pitch contest at You can learn more about the A3C Festival and Conference at
About CCI

The mission of the Center for Civic Innovation is to help local governments and nonprofits find, test, and invest in new or different ways to tackle local social challenges. We do this by supporting and investing in people and organizations who are already on the ground with products or services that make the public sector more effective, innovative, and participatory. We host programs for community based social entrepreneurs at all stages, but we focus our investments on early stage, untested projects. Learn more at

About A3C

The A3C Conference is an incomparable platform for the Hip-Hop industry, academics, creatives, companies and organizations to connect, learn and build. A3C Conference includes keynote speakers, panels, workshops, demos, interviews, screenings, mixers and exhibits featuring over 150 Hip-Hop industry experts, academics and influencers.

A3C Festival features 500+ performances over 5 days, while the Hip-Hop community ascends on Atlanta to experience, celebrate and discover the most legendary, talented and promising artists from across the US, and abroad. Artists are continuously added to A3C Festival line-up and every night features surprise performances. In other words, the A3C Festival is an amazing Hip-Hop experience like no other. Learn more at