Project STARFISH America

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Project STARFISH America: Creative socio economic model solving the 80% unemployment gap for blind people

All USA/Global, United StatesVirtual ( but HQ at Lowell, MA), United States
Year Founded:
2013
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Project Starfish is an experiential and 100% inclusive business learning and opportunity platform for unemployed blind/disabled professionals to learn, earn, grow, gain work experience, create business impact, become employable and live a life of dignity, solving the high rate (80%) of unemployment.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if there was a business learning and opportunity platform for every blind/disabled person to succeed professionally and become employable a
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

1. 80% of blind/disabled across the country are unemployed, with hardly any opportunities to further professional opportunities, despite talent. The needle hasn't moved much in decades, if not centuries. 2. 83% of small businesses/startups fail every 5 years because they lack affordable hands to execute , to generate revenue. These problems need to be solved creatively, if solved will touch peoples lives for good, and save billions of $.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The solution is to make both sides work together for mutual benefit. 1. Technology has changed the way the blind can be professionally effective. Screen reader technology reads out information, and phones are accessible. The blind are educated, looking for opportunities to prove themselves and can do tasks most normal/sighted person can do. They can do sales, customer service, business research/analysis, social media marketing, operations etc. All these tasks need a phone, internet and computer without needing to travel, thus work can be delivered virtually. 2. The need is to design an effective experiential business platform to : a. Learn, earn and grow b. Engage with businesses c. Share resources making it affordable.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Lets look at unemployment among the blind( and disabled ) in the USA and all over the world. Its 80% in the USA, 90% in Canada , and winds down to 99% in China and India. We have taken 30 blind people in the USA, created part-time jobs, multiple income streams, included them mainstream businesses, intellectual jobs ( against an MBA doing janitorial jobs in Walmart), created business impact to these 30 companies, grown the countries economy and have created jobs that never existed in the market.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our impact has three sides. 1. Social Impact ( employment for the blind ) 2. Business impact ( New jobs for the country ) 3. Living with Hope and Dignity. The details are here : 1. Social impact : a. Created jobs for 30 blind professionals. b. First time they are included in mainstream businesses c. 80% people are part-time employed/engaged ( against 20% in the country) d. We have developed a virtual training + business + opportunity platform Business Impact : i. Worked with 30 companies including Harvard University startups. ii. Total jobs created : 300 in 7 months. 40 jobs/month , growing at 20%. iii. The jobs are new - augmenting the countries economy. iv. 20% of our businesses are international , from Israel, Canada, Denmark etc - ads revenue to the country. 3. Living with Hope and Dignity : a. We are hope to millions of blind/disabled worldwide.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

A platform that transforms blind/disabled to be a workforce for startups who need talent is the worlds first. 1. We have a training program that can scale cities, states,countries , continents. Its predictable, quality driven and sustainable. 2. Intend to have 100 people by Fy14. 3. 5 Years :1000 people working with 3,000 businesses in 20 countries. 4. 10 years : create part-time employment for 20,000 blind/disabled and train 100,000 in 40 english speaking countries. 5. A platform for wounded veterans and disabled students in parallel. They deserve them.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The most unique proposition in our socio-economic model is it generates money. We are not a bare-bones startup, we are scaling. We don't accept charity or handouts, we generate money, month on month. To make this sustainable : 1. Huge money for training programs to tap into. ($billions) 2. Offer information as a service to corporates who need research ($Billions market) 3. Virtual - thus low operational cost. 4. Customers - Global

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

This is a first of its kind project. No one has done it. Where we have scored are: 1. Its creative and its a disruptive employment model for people with disabilities. 2. Business training + Opportunity platform - No one has created one for people with disabilities, despite billions spent every year. 3. Engagement with mainstream businesses : There are hundreds of employment programs, but none of them have create 100% inclusiveness with mainstream businesses. 4. We are not a temporary solution, We are a socio-economic model. 5. Everyone wins here. Not dependent on charity.
Team

Founding Story

My wife and I have supported the blind/disabled for a decade, and have realized that intellectually savvy and technology savvy. We have made films to spread awareness but wanted to create deeper impact. We were invited to a job fair for the blind, that was attended by 30 employers and over 150 unemployed blind people. We were amazed, and appalled that none of the prospective employers intended hiring them. That is the day we felt true empathy towards them. Like the Starfish story we thought " can we make a difference to them even though small" We analysed the problems, and realized the importance of a global platform. That's how Project Starfish was born to bring those in darkness to light. To see hope of economic independence!

Team

Currently the organization is run by a board who are our team members. Yes, they are all blind. Two people to mention : Sunish Gupta , MS Electronics, and MBA - MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School. Bob Hachey - Operations : MBA UMass Boston. 15% of our team - MBA's. 70% have Master degrees . All are highly IT savvy, can do everything most people can do. They are an inspiration to society!
About You
Organization:
Project STARFISH | America
About You
First Name

Subhashish

Last Name

Acharya

About Your Project
Organization Name

Project STARFISH | America

How long has your organization been operating?

Project
Organization Country

, MA, Virtual ( but HQ at Lowell, MA)

Country where this project is creating social impact

, MA, All USA/Global

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Businesses, Customers.

Supplemental
Awards

Have you ever wondered how we ramp up inexperienced people who have no experience, no real business expertise into business professionals?

Its because of our training! Its a learning experience that is played like a game, everyday. In short think about a business training in game box. We utilize effective business learning models emulating the Harvard University case study model to find the problems of businesses in a business eco-system. Its exciting, experiential, developed like playing a game to produce long lasting engagement to make them business ready. The training is such that it can take any adult and ramp them up to be business ready!

Our award's would be the impact we have created:

1. Created part-time employment for 30 blind unemployment people.
2. % employed/engaged : 80% ( against 20% in the USA )
3. Expanded in 5 countries and 3 continents ( USA, Canada, Australia, UK)
4. Total revenue generated $19,800 - invested only $1200
5. Worked with 30 startups/emerging businesses. Out of that includes two Harvard University startups where our offer was Research-as-a service!

Other Awards :

1. Worked with Harvard University : Innovation Lab startup Experfy: See press release : http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140331005778/en/Experfy-Innovati...

2. Press release was picked up by 100 international organizations.

3. Recommended by Mass commission for the Blind

4. Came up on Boston Globe and 7 other newspapers. ( just google the words " boston non profit jobs blind"

5. Recommended by Small Biz entrepreneurship : Umass Boston

Startup Credentials "

1. Mass Challenge : The worlds biggest incubator : Semifinalist. ( out of 1700 startups) ( decision for finals pending)

2. Semi finalist : Merrimack Valley Sandbox

Primary Target Age Group

18 - 35, 35+.

Your role in Education

Coach.

Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Other.

Intervention Focus

Professional Development, Products or Services, other.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Equip Adults to Drive Change in Learning: Providing creative learning experiences for teachers, parents, working professions and others that empowers them to drive change in any part of the learning ecosystem.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Trapped Between Competing Pressures: Educators face a lack of capacity to re-imagine and restructure educational settings.

Need

Creating a fun , productive and experiential learning platform resulting into opportunities

Offer

We have cracked the code in virtual business learning for disabilities. Its like a training that is like a game in a box.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

1. Ramp up up an adult with no experience in business to understand how businesses operate.

2. The method, process and innovation is fun. Its not a academics. Its experiential, value based, feedback based and above all effective, scalable across people, countries and continents.

Outcome:

a. Trained 30 blind people who had no work experience.
b. Consistently 80% attendance rate to training
c. Non traditional, experiential, exciting, highly engaging like a game approach.
d. Its a small MBA in a Box, measurable, predictable and scalable.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

Our model is 100% virtual. We find blind people globally/USA, interview them, and train them using a " business game", and then train them on several skills. Inhouse trainers and Industry stalwarts do so. This happens everyday for 2 hrs.

We call businesses to explain what we do, find gaps, and engage our blind to work part-time for them.

Being a global virtual model, we scale rapidly, create business impact to businesses who need hands, train hard, create employment.We have over 40 people and 40 businesses working with us.

Our experiential platform creates business and social impact!

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

Look around, millions of people who are blind/ disabled/ homeless vets/ single moms don't have opportunities. Billions of dollars are invested but the needle doesn't move. We can't solve the problem by doing the same things , over and over again.

The key is to create work opportunities to experience work, create impact, and slowly move towards economic independence.

To do so, they need to learn and be excited about it. Changing the way the learn is the only Key! From our experience, they love it- and its a global phenomena.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

We call it Experiential Learning here where we use a game to teach people business and business skills.

What is possibility where people learn, apply, experience, and then change their application to the project. Thats real Learning.

But to experience and apply, there needs to be fun, simplicity, and something anyone can understand, which changes based on the experience level. Like a video game, higher you go, more engaging it becomes.

We imagine learning through play( or Experiential learning) as exactly that. Its a must to have! We need to do things differently. Enough is Enough!

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

Our sustainability has two types of Funding :

1. My wife and I fund it : We want to because we just believe in it. We don't want charity without empathy.

2. The biggest being we generate money, since we provide services to emerging businesses. 80% people make money!

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

Our model will be Non Profit for now , as we train people, engage people and create employment.

As we grow, we will create a separate for profit legal entity that will take corporate funds.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

We are heavily dependent on Technology because we are virtual

The $20K will go towards the following:

- $15,800 - towards phone software/Computers
- $2180 - Towards biz dev expenses
- Rest on Marketing to reach people in 5 more countries and 10 more US states and align with partners

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We have several partnerships :
1. We have partnerships with 40 emerging companies we work with.
2. We have partnerships with Govt agencies - who provide talent ( and will later provide funding)
3. We have partnerships with non profits who align with our supply chain.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

Absolutely! Why only pace setters ... we have collaborated with Dr Karen Kaun of Makeosity , a kids makerspace , who is on Changemakers. The pilot has been so successful, that we will be approaching others on the same.

We are poised to work with several pacesetters on Changemakers soon.

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

We will see ourselves as a Social and Business Impact organization, employing thousands of disabled professionals/ Veterans/ Single moms etc , and training them, creating a workforce delivering businesses services to emerging companies Worldwide ( like short term sales/marketing/research/operations etc)

No organization like ours exist till date.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

Great question:

1. Retention of Candidates - higher than 90%
2. Engagement with businesses - higher than 70%
3. Learning through gamification ( attendance) - 90%
4. Participation - 90%

Keeping these constantly as we grow provides a key to managing learning outcomes.

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

0 to 500

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?

Yes

Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

10-100

Number of Volunteers:

10-100

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Pretence/ Socio-Dramatic Play, Games with Rules, Challenging Play (play that disrupts - where rules are disregarded and levels of imagination are high), Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

We have created a Business Learning Game that ramps up disabled people with no knowledge of business to a considerable level

AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.

No

Comments

Igor Kokcharov's picture

Saint cause! Hard challenge. Thank you.

irene yawazee's picture

Hi,how can i collaborate with your business to impact more schools and communities?

Subhashish Acharya's picture

Hi Irene I just posted a message to you. I am not sure you got it. Changemakers is not a user friendly website. Please can you write to me at subs@pstarfish.org

Karen Kaun's picture

Thanks for bringing an issue and solution to light. It makes sense to me and you will be successful.

Bharat Damani's picture

An excellent concept, implemented with clarity, depth of understanding and a revenue model. I am sure you will scale up and achieve the desired social impact.

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