Transforming Youth Into Social Entrepreneurs

Transforming Youth Into Social Entrepreneurs

A multi-generational & cross-sectional approach to changemaking

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Last Update: August 20, 2014

Diane PhamDiane PhamFounder

This youth social entrepreneurship program matches student teams with mentors and peers to develop dynamic ideas that lead disenfranchised future leaders to improve community ownership and empathy with the goal of shifting school culture while giving youth the resources to create actual change.

The Problem

Based on the 2012 Santa Clara County Community Assessment, citizens indicated our community is increasingly disconnected and fractured. Schools, workplaces & neighborhoods act autonomously without any connection, trust or relationship with each other. As a result, there is a lack of shared empathy/sense of ownership in these given communities & these feelings permeate down to our youth.

The Solution

Empathy & a sense of community ownership comes from the belief that your environment is malleable. When our youth are empowered to change their community, this causes a paradigm shift in community dynamics that eliminates existing barriers. Furthermore, youth that view themselves as changemakers are more likely to be positive contributors to society. We are bringing changemakers to our community by supporting, energizing & empowering local youth through a structured Social Entrepreneurship program that has never been done in our community. The program, through workshop facilitation, direct mentorship, action planning, presenting & granting of seed funding - directly enables our youth to change their community in a way that matters to them.

Example

A student who decides to start a Social Entrepreneurship (SE) team attends a workshop - there he defines his passion in advocating for Alzheimer’s because of a personal encounter with the disease. Naturally, he gathers friends to join his team. Upon attending a mentor/student mixer, where young professionals learn about different student team ideas – the students decide on their mentor, having to take the step to reach out to them. Working with their mentor, they develop an action plan that outlines – with the start-up cost of $750; the team can sell awareness bracelets to raise additional $$ towards a cure for Alzheimer's. Taking this plan, the team presents to a judging panel to receive funding in order to put their plan into action.

Impact

The idea may start with 1 student, but they pull in 5 of their friends along with 1 adult mentor. In order for their plan to come to fruition, many community members help make it happen. Families, neighbors & other friends all become part of the cause. Every bracelet they sell – they paint a story of their empathy – the students inspire everyone they touch along their process. With just 1 team – many people are moved. Youth displaying empathy can change the perception of the greater community, therefore building trust among community members. Through this process, students pull local resources, people and businesses into their solution, creating a network now invested in the student’s success. This program is not about the cause the students choose, but the process they go through to put their idea into action and the idea that real world problems can lead to empathetic solutions.

Full Impact Potential

Schools are the natural environment for this program to thrive. Successful SE programs have penetrated empathy into the school curriculum & that is our intent. Through use of our extensive network within the Santa Clara County school system, we will expand the program upon successes, which allow for further funding & resources. SE fully encompasses the national common core initiative through teaching real life skills that cultivate leaders. This program will unite schools separated by different districts. When empathy becomes a norm - communities become safer, vibrant and interconnected.

Financial Sources

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, Businesses

Sustainability Plan

Initial funding would support a two-year pilot program. Financial sustainability would continue through the cultivation of donors; these donors would come from a wide variety of community leaders, individual donors, mentors, and various community foundations that support changemaking through social entrepreneurship. We will also leverage our corporate partnerships to fully sustain this program.

Marketplace

Although this problem is not exclusive to Santa Clara County, our approach is uniquely tailored to this area. We believe that having a focused effort will drive more impactful results. This proposal differs from approaches taken to solve the problem, by not just providing a safe space & opportunity for youth to get involved – but having them define & drive the way they get involved. The uniqueness of our proposal is through the multi-generational approach we are taking – from elementary school to middle school, high school and into adulthood. Students > Changemakers > Mentors

Founding Story

Silicon Valley is the center of innovation - that should not be inclusive to only tech companies. Youth in our community are the future innovators, if empathy is developed early, this changes the trajectory of their feelings and actions towards everything. Through our partnership with schools in Santa Clara County, there needed to be a way for all schools to collaborate. This program allows ALL youth to be included, not just the ones that are struggling or the ones that are natural leaders. The involvement of young adult professionals as mentors is also critical as this strengthens empathy in an entirely different generation. Existing elements of a community are combined in a different way to create empathetic solutions to communal issues.

Team Explanation

This Youth Social Entrepreneurship effort is driven by members of our Emerging Leaders United group with staff support from United Way Silicon Valley. Having outside professionals as drivers of this initiative ensures its success through deeper investment into the program from existing leaders. Emerging Leaders United members represent diverse expertise as well as a vast set of interests from the most successful companies in Silicon Valley.

Team Members

Challenges

Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change

Supplemental Information

On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):

Santa Clara.

How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

We were just awarded with $30,000 to launch Youth Ventures in Silicon Valley. Additional funding would allow us to deepen impact through a multi-generational approach. Our idea leverages partnerships with local schools and corporations to spread the changemaking continuum cross sectors - strengthening trust and accountability in our community. Our idea is unique in the sense that it does not only provide a safe space for collaboration, but provides youth the resources and support to actually create change, in a way that matters to them. Each cycle of these youth led social projects not only addresses empathy, but also addresses filling the gap in important 21st century skills of leadership, problem solving, teamwork, and entrepreneurship.

Needs/Offers

Need

Offer

Tell us about your partnerships

1) Emerging Leaders United (ELU): We are working with an existing group of young professionals from over 30 local companies (Texas Instruments, Deloitte Flextronics, more) Members of ELU will be mentors to the HS venture teams.

2) Local Schools: We have both district level and school level partnerships with local elementary schools - high schools which we would be working closely with to implement this idea.

3) Ashoka Youth Venture

Challenges

We need a significant amount of students and mentors in order for our idea to succeed. Challenge addressed through leveraging current partnerships with corporations and schools. The plan calls for a teacher champion at each school that ensures a continued pipeline of student participants. Our Emerging Leaders group ensures a mentor pipeline through its membership base. Another challenge will be how to accurately measure the effects of increased empathy within youth and workplaces. Challenge addressed through leveraging different Youth Venture reporting solutions that have been put in place.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, developing emotional competency, building leadership skills, storytelling, immersion, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, instilling courage, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)

6-12, 13-17, 18-35.

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