Maryland Small Business Development Center

Small Business Policy Hack-A-Thon

Small Business Policy hack-a-thon graphic with a group of business people gathered around computer



Maryland needs creative, outside-of-the-box thinking to devise policies that will help combat the economic strife small businesses are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to create an environment for experts to work together to develop workable, functioning solutions, the Small Business Development Center and University of Maryland are sponsoring a hack-a-thon with bipartisan support from Maryland State Senators. Held over the course of September and October, Maryland's Small Business Policy Hack-A-Thon will facilitate the formation of small teams that will tackle key small business policy issues. Teams will pull data-driven ideas together, and their research will culminate in a final show where they will present and pitch their solutions. The best solutions could have a significant impact on legislation introduced in the upcoming 2021 legislative session.


The Hack-A-Thon will begin with an introductory meeting on September 17 where diverse teams will be formed and finalized. Over the course of the month, teams will collaborate and develop solutions to pitch to a bipartisan group of legislators. Weekly check-ins will be held for teams to ask questions, present progress, and consolidate ideas. On October 21, teams will submit final presentations and participate in a Zoom / Facebook Live presentation. Each team will have 5 slides and 5 minutes to present their policy solutions to an audience and receive input from a judging panel.


  • Pitch presentations can use no more than 5 slides and 5 minutes covering the provided general outline of topics
  • Solutions must meet the financial criteria (TBD)
  • Solutions must include data/analysis that shows the ROI of any $ invested
  • Solutions must be cognizant of local nuances
  • Teams must have an assigned leader and include a representative from at least one private business (see team formation instructions below)
  • If multiple teams are proposing similar policies, they must consolidate
  • Bonus for:
    • Solutions that demonstrate multiple dimensions of benefit: jobs created, private sector investment, health improvement, environmental benefit, etc.
    • Data/evidence presented that the suggested policy can/would solve a particular problem (benchmarks from other states)
    • Cost savings
      • Self-funded
      • Private sector funded
      • Loss prevention (keeping a business in MD)


Teams must include 2 or more organizations with at least 1 small business entity. Regional diversity is preferred. All teams will be paired with at least one student attending a higher education institution within the state for the purposes of supporting the team's policy research and data efforts. If you wish to form a team before the September 17 kickoff,  submit your policy area of focus and team member names here no later than September 14.


Teams will be formed around the following key small business policy areas and tasked with developing specific solutions to challenges in each area.

  1. Support New and Small Minority and Women Owned Businesses which have been hit hardest by the pandemic. This could include access to capital, low interest loans, marketing of existing programs, etc.
  2. Improve the Environment for New and Small Business Support. For example, incentivize "buy Maryland,” provide additional support for developing e-commerce, etc.
  3. Address Child Care for families with school-aged children and support struggling child-care facilities. This could include innovative ideas, partnerships, scaling up best practice, etc.
  4. Support Workforce Development in the face of high unemployment and increasing automation. For example, what could the wave of innovative apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship support, and up-skilling or certificate programs look like?
  5. Support individual Nonprofits and the environment they work in. This could include looking at similar topics as above (access to capital, support of e-business, partnerships, workforce development) but through a nonprofit lens.


We are excited to review the ideas that are submitted to the hack-a-thon. We expect that some of the policy ideas received will be so good that their introduction as legislation will have bipartisan support. However, entering or 'winning' the hack-a-thon is not a guarantee that the idea will be introduced as legislation, which remains the sole decision of an individual elected representative.



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