Ideas


Help Tamara build bridges through music

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Tamara

Tamara Turner follows the beat of her own drum – literally and figuratively. Her passion with music began when she was five years old composing piano pieces in her hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. Tamara hasn’t skipped a beat as an adult, dabbling in everything from film scoring to music journalism, and studying a wide range of musical styles from West African drumming in Ghana to tin whistle in Ireland to Gnawa music in Morocco.

Most recently, Tamara graduated from Boston’s Tufts University with a masters degree in ethnomusicology. There, she helped organize a “Music and Islam” symposium where, by connecting with the local Moroccan community, she brought in a Moroccan band to host workshops that culminated in a big concert. For Tamara, music plays a critical role in challenging the Islamophobia she often comes across in the U.S.

“Because music has the ability to build connections artistically, creatively, and emotionally, it gives us an opportunity to lead with the heart, transcending the medium of ‘discourse’ and offering a different kind of relationship with which to understand others,” she says.

The intention

Broadly speaking, Tamara envisions an organization that utilizes music for cultural advocacy, outreach, and education, starting with but not limited to the music and cultures of North Africa. One of the first issues she would like to address through musical bridges is Islamophobia.

The idea is two-fold: Similar to the program she helped organize at Tufts, she wants to connect with local immigrant communities in the U.S. to help share their music through concerts, education, and more. Travel is also key, as she’d like to work in North Africa to help record and archive musical traditions.

Besides fostering cross-cultural understanding, and of course, celebrating the inherent joy that music brings, Tamara also hopes to counter the exotification of non-Western music cultures that can sometimes result, however well-intentioned.

“That’s part of the vision, too. Not just piecemealing and romanticizing certain elements of other cultures, but allowing ourselves to be challenged by and uncomfortable with differences as well,” she says.

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Tamara learning the guimbri with her teacher, Abdellatif El Makhzoumi, in Marrakech, Morocco. (Photo via Tamara Turner.)

Obstacles

So far, Tamara has been researching similar organizations around the world and is in the process of refining her idea.

Here are some challenges she has identified:

  1. Reaching out to immigrant communities in the U.S. seems clear cut to Tamara given her experience, but incorporating the North African component is both nebulous and daunting.
  2. She doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel, and is considering becoming involved with an existing organization or program at first.
  3. Although she’s been encouraged by the nonprofits she’s been in touch with, she always hears a version of the same story: “Contact us after you get funding.”
  4. Sustaining enthusiasm and momentum around the idea after it’s no longer fresh is a concern.

How you can help

  • Do you know of any similar organizations or programs to add to her list?
  • Besides initiating conversations, is there more she can be doing to get her foot in the door with people who are already doing similar work?
  • How can she inspire the average person to get outside their comfort zone and, for example, be open to new music from the Islamic world?
  • For music fans and non-music fans alike, what are some other effective and fun outreach strategies besides concerts?
  • Aside from major cities, are there other areas in the U.S. that could benefit from such an organization?
  • What are some potential funding avenues she should pursue?
  • How can she best balance her vision with logistics, and prevent getting so bogged down with logistics that her vision deflates?
  • If you’ve started your own nonprofit, would you be willing to share your story and the lessons learned?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Propel your idea forward on Idealist!

You have an idea to make your community better. But you’re feeling overwhelmed, afraid, unsure, and more. Now what?

Idealist can help.

All you need to do is share your story with us: what you want to do and why, the challenges you’re facing, the help you’re seeking. We’ll post it on this blog for our extremely knowledgeable and friendly community to name resources, give advice, and perhaps most importantly, cheer you on.

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Sharing your idea with others can help it bloom. (Photo from Zaggy J via Flickr/Creative Commons.)

I know it can be scary to put your idea out there. But chances are, people will think it’s awesome too.  Don’t believe me?

  • Erica felt extremely motivated by all the positive enthusiasm she received, and is in the middle of writing a play that includes elements of her hospice work.
  • Shannon has several leads to collaborate with others who want to connect U.S. and Afghan youth, including a penpal organization in New Mexico.
  • Melanie learned more about theatre of the oppressed practitioners and organizations that might want to work with her in the Portland area, and the support from others has helped her gain momentum on her idea.

No matter what stage you’re at, a small push can go a long way. Let us help you take your next step.

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Opportunity spotlight: “Life itself is the proper binge” edition

Julia Child's Kitchen

Julia Child's Kitchen (Photo Credit: c_nilsen, Creative Commons/Flickr)

This week was Julia Child’s 100th birthday! We here in the Idealist office are big fans of anything involving food, so in celebration, we’re highlighting some food related goodness recently posted on the site.

  • If you’re looking for an internship in the DC area, Share Our Strength is seeking a Corporate Partnerships/Dine Out Intern. Share Our Strength is a national nonprofit devoted to wiping out child hunger. Their Dine Out campaign partners with restaurants to raise money for their programming. Participating restaurants donate a portion of sales, host a fundraising drive, or incentivize employee donations. You’ll be helping research prospective partners, plan events, create presentations, and generally support the work of the campaign.
  • If a little competition is more your style and you’ll be in San Mateo, CA this weekend, check out the San Mateo Fire Fighter’s Chili Cook Off! Fire departments across the Bay Area will offer up their best homemade chili – $10 gets you a sample of all the chilis, a bowl of your favorite, and one drink. Kids 12 and under are totally free! All the proceeds will benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
  • Want to think about food full-time? Apply to be the new “Food, What?!” Associate Director!  Food, What?! is a Santa Cruz-based youth empowerment and food justice nonprofit that partners with low-income and at-risk youth to grow, cook, eat, and distribute healthy, sustainably raised food. You’ll be the third member of a small team, working on fundraising, marketing, and program support and leadership. Farm and gardening experience is a plus!
  • Or join Open Table in Maynard, MA. Their volunteers organize food drives, grocery shop, cook, and serve food as part of a weekly community supper program that serves over 225 guests. The organization aims to relieve not only hunger, but also social isolation, offering a warm, welcoming community to anyone in need. Many of their guests require other social services as well, and Open Table often operates as a resource center, referring guests to other community organizations and providing assistance whenever they can.

Julia Child said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Whatever you’re passionate about it, you can find ways to do good while doing what you love by taking a look at all the great opportunities to intern, volunteer, or work with the perfect organization.

Are you following your love of food? Or music? Or sports? Tell us about it!

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Opportunity spotlight: "Life itself is the proper binge" edition

Julia Child's Kitchen

Julia Child's Kitchen (Photo Credit: c_nilsen, Creative Commons/Flickr)

This week was Julia Child’s 100th birthday! We here in the Idealist office are big fans of anything involving food, so in celebration, we’re highlighting some food related goodness recently posted on the site.

  • If you’re looking for an internship in the DC area, Share Our Strength is seeking a Corporate Partnerships/Dine Out Intern. Share Our Strength is a national nonprofit devoted to wiping out child hunger. Their Dine Out campaign partners with restaurants to raise money for their programming. Participating restaurants donate a portion of sales, host a fundraising drive, or incentivize employee donations. You’ll be helping research prospective partners, plan events, create presentations, and generally support the work of the campaign.
  • If a little competition is more your style and you’ll be in San Mateo, CA this weekend, check out the San Mateo Fire Fighter’s Chili Cook Off! Fire departments across the Bay Area will offer up their best homemade chili – $10 gets you a sample of all the chilis, a bowl of your favorite, and one drink. Kids 12 and under are totally free! All the proceeds will benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
  • Want to think about food full-time? Apply to be the new “Food, What?!” Associate Director!  Food, What?! is a Santa Cruz-based youth empowerment and food justice nonprofit that partners with low-income and at-risk youth to grow, cook, eat, and distribute healthy, sustainably raised food. You’ll be the third member of a small team, working on fundraising, marketing, and program support and leadership. Farm and gardening experience is a plus!
  • Or join Open Table in Maynard, MA. Their volunteers organize food drives, grocery shop, cook, and serve food as part of a weekly community supper program that serves over 225 guests. The organization aims to relieve not only hunger, but also social isolation, offering a warm, welcoming community to anyone in need. Many of their guests require other social services as well, and Open Table often operates as a resource center, referring guests to other community organizations and providing assistance whenever they can.

Julia Child said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Whatever you’re passionate about it, you can find ways to do good while doing what you love by taking a look at all the great opportunities to intern, volunteer, or work with the perfect organization.

Are you following your love of food? Or music? Or sports? Tell us about it!

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Help Melanie empower youth through theatre

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Melanie

For Melanie Lockert, who grew up singing in the choir and performing high school plays in Los Angeles, theatre is the one place where she can really be herself. But the business side  — auditioning, networking, etc. —  has left Melanie feeling increasingly disenchanted as an adult. “I don’t believe the system functions in a way that is conducive to self-esteem and communication,” she says.

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Animal exercises with third graders at Harlem’s PS 175. (Photo via Melanie Lockert.)

So when she began practicing Theatre of the Oppressed with youth at Brooklyn’s Falconworks Artists Group, she knew the focus on individual experiences as a catalyst for social change would restore her faith in the art form.

“Theatre of the oppressed doesn’t shut out anyone. It doesn’t say your experience is wrong and my experience is right. Everyone can be an actor,” she says. “ It’’s a mobilizing tool for people who have never spoken in public and who have never expressed issues in a safe environment where they can feel comfortable playing.”

The intention

Melanie recently relocated to Portland, Oregon after getting a Masters in Performance Studies at NYU. While in New York, she taught theatre at PS 175 in Harlem with the New York City Mission Society and before that, managed art programs for underserved youth in Los Angeles. She wants to draw from her experiences teaching and work with this same population to create plays based on issues they or their communities face.

“It’s a way to open up a dialogue about what these young people want, and what they want out of their lives, addressing some of the things they want to see change in their community,” she says.

Obstacles

Melanie is currently in the planning stage. Here are some challenges she has identified:

  1. As a newcomer to Portland, Melanie is struggling to connect with organizations whose constituents could benefit from theatre of the oppressed.
  2. Finding people is one thing. Locating a space where they could practice and perform poses another logistical consideration.
  3. When she’s not playing with a local theatre company, Melanie is actively seeking full-time employment and volunteering opportunities with arts organizations, both of which have been difficult and detract her from focusing on the project.
  4. Like most people with an idea, Melanie continually fights the doubtful voice inside her head: What if this isn’t a good idea? Is such a program necessary? Give up the dream and focus on making a living instead?

How you can help

  • Do you have advice for overcoming paralyzing doubt?
  • How can Melanie start meeting the right people who would be interested in making this idea happen?
  • Do you know organizations in Portland working with youth (or women) that might be interested in having Melanie teach a workshop at night or on the weekends?
  • How she can find a free or low-cost community space that would host the program?
  • If she wanted to scratch working with organizations all together, how could she recruit youth by herself? What would be the legal logistics to consider?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Idea File: Storytellers on loan at the Human Library

The idea

A female firefighter who rappels out of helicopters and slogs through swamps to help people in distress. A woman who has provided foster care to over 200 troubled teens in her lifetime. A young Somali man who escaped his country’s civil war, won a scholarship to a Canadian university, and now helps refugees.

They, along with others, have volunteered to be on loan at Surrey Libraries in British Columbia as part of the Human Library, an event where people become living books.

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The Human Library is as straightforward as it sounds: instead of grabbing a book off the shelf, you sign out a person and listen to them tell tales for a couple of hours. Think audio book, but with a handshake (or better yet, hug) at the end.

This notion of bringing books to life began twelve years ago with a Denmark youth organization that wanted to challenge prejudices. The idea has since been adapted around the world, and can now be found in over 45 countries.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

  • New take on an old concept. Libraries everywhere have gone through many transformations (books rescued from the trash in Bogota and traveling donkey libraries in Ethiopia come to mind), and the Human Library further proves these institutions aren’t dying, but rather, evolving.
  • Respects and appreciates diversity. Everyone has a story to tell. People of all experiences, ages, and backgrounds are encouraged to participate, tapping into the knowledge and expertise of the local community.
  • Encourages empathy. We read to immerse ourselves in other contexts and see the world from someone else’s point of view. When talking to living books, you might find that your similarities thread you together, instead of your differences.
  • Values real-time conversation. With eBooks, iPads and everything in between dominating much of our time today, being able to look into someone’s eyes and connect around our humanity is refreshing.
  • Adaptable in many contexts. The concept doesn’t have to be limited to an actual library: it could work at schools, festivals, government offices, corporations, and more. Depending on resources, it could also be an ongoing program or a once-in-a-while event.

How you can replicate it

The folks who created the first Human Library want nothing more than for you to borrow their idea. They’ve already done a lot of the initial legwork for you; their website has a guide for organizers in eight different languages, sample evaluation reports and forms, tips for readers, and more.

Interesting fact: the first Human Library took place at a music festival in Denmark. (Photo via Ravi Basi.)

We also reached out to Ravi Basi, one of the organizers at Surrey Libraries, to hear her advice for people looking to start a Human Library where they live. Here’s what she had to say:

Finding living books

  1. Use your own networks. Relying on unsolicited offers from the public is too random and complicated of an approach. Instead, gather recommendations from staff, community agencies, colleges, and nonprofits in addition to scanning local newspapers.
  2. Set your criteria from the beginning. Living book volunteers at Surrey Libraries, for example, had to have a story to tell, good communication skills, be personable and friendly, and understand the concept and goals of the Human Library. If they met this criteria, they then went through an interview process.
  3. Incentives, while not necessary, are nice. The living books will probably be enthusiastic and eager to participate. But still, to show gratitude, you can do things such as offset parking costs, provide lunch and snacks, and give gift bags.

Organizing the event

  1. Start small. Rather than hosting a day-long event, try an afternoon or evening event of four hours. Learn the glitches, and then improve next time around.
  2. Allow readers to pre-register. To ensure the living books aren’t left without readers, devise a registration system where people can sign up for time slots in advance.
  3. Have a back-up plan. Err on the side of having an abundance of living books and line up spare readers to account for no-shows.

“Anyone who plans or participates in the Human Library will find it to be a valuable, even profound experience,” says Ravi. “It’s worth doing.”

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If you’re inspired to bring the Human Library to your community, feel free to email Ravi for more advice: rkbasi@surrey.ca.

 

Do you know of other projects that are fun and potentially replicable? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, leave a comment below or email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Unique partnerships: How beer brewers are working with nonprofits to support social change

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Many beer brewers are passionate about perfecting their craft while making a difference. (Photo credit: visitflanders, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Summer has finally arrived here in Oregon, and with that, craft beer month. In July, we celebrate Oregon brewers by hosting a variety of events including festivals, tastings, and meet-and-greets. While some folks kick off the summer by relaxing in the sun with a great beer, many breweries and nonprofits in Oregon and around the country are using our love of this beverage to work together and do some good.

To help budding brewers develop their businesses and careers, the Glen Hay Falconer Foundation in Oregon has a scholarship program that sends brewers from the Pacific Northwest to the Siebel Institute of Technology and the American Brewers Guild to further their knowledge and expertise of the industry. Additionally, the Foundation hosts an annual golf tournament that kicks off the Oregon Brewers Festival. During this event, participants pair up with local brewers for a morning of golf and beer to support the growing northwestern tradition of crafting beer. By supporting local brewers, the foundation ensures the industry and history of northwestern brewing live on.

Another foundation created by craft-beer lovers, brewers, and distributors is the Beer for Brains Foundation in Arizona. Beer for Brains is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about brain cancer, helping fund groundbreaking research leading to a cure, and giving compassion to its victims. Each year they host large-scale craft-beer appreciation and fundraising events all over the country working in partnership with breweries and local organizations. The money raised goes to support the development of cutting-edge brain cancer research and treatment options at the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center (BTRC), in Phoenix, AZ. The goal is to encourage people to have fun while making a difference.

The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware also encourages people to have fun while doing good by donating beer, brewpub gift certificates, and Dogfish merchandise to local nonprofits. One of their biggest efforts has been the Dogfish Dash – a 5 and 10K run. Over the past few years, the race has raised more than $100,000 for the Delaware chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Whether or not you’re a beer connoisseur, you can find plenty of social events that combine entertainment and an opportunity to give back. Ask around and check out what’s going on around where you live! Or if YOU want to partner with a local brewery, find one near you and ask if they work with nonprofits. Meanwhile, here at Idealist, we’ll say “cheers” to enjoying a beer while benefiting our community.

Have you partnered with beer brewers? Share your experiences below.

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Help Shannon connect youth in the U.S. and Afghanistan

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Shannon

Shannon Mouillesseaux is from a town in upstate NY that has one traffic light, one gas station, one grocery store, and one bank. “It is a rural community that, when I was growing up, was primarily inhabited by farmers and blue collar workers,” she says.

With few opportunities for high school graduates, Shannon had a fleeting moment when she considered joining the military in high school after being repeatedly targeted by recruiters. While some of her classmates opted to don camo, she realized the military wasn’t for her.

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Faced with increasing college costs and decreasing economic opportunities, more and more teens are considering military service after high school: http://to.pbs.org/teensmilitary. Photo via Creative Commons (Flickr user Frank Juarez).

Wanting desperately to study anthropology, Shannon instead attended university and spent her junior year in Nepal. There, she was exposed to the trafficking of women and girls, an eye-opening experience that was the catalyst for her eventual work with refugees at the United Nations.

Her experiences with displaced communities around the world have exposed her to the plight of those most affected by war. Yet, back home, she was struck by the (mis) perception that violence is the only answer to violence. After 9/11, Shannon frequently heard variations of the phrase “Let’s blow them off the map” in her hometown. When she would suggest engaging in dialogue as an alternative response, she often felt inaccurately viewed as anti-American.

“The fear that has arisen within our culture, leaving many people afraid to experience other countries and cultures for fear of falling victim to a terrorist attack is, for me, worrying,” she says.

The intention

Her solution to alleviating some of that fear and violence? Pen pals for the digital age.

Specifically, Shannon envisions a two-fold project for youth in the U.S. and overseas who may not have the opportunity to travel. The first component, which she would pilot in her hometown and in Afghanistan, would connect “at-risk American students of all ages via video conference with displaced communities abroad” throughout the school year. The second would send high school students to safe, developing countries during thesummer to help out with humanitarian projects. Ideally, this would happen after the children have established relationships.

Sometimes her work takes her to IDP (internally displaced persons') camps like this one in Kabul, where she hopes to pilot the program. (Photo via Shannon Mouillesseaux.)

By creating a link between communities affected by war, Shannon hopes this type of cross-cultural exchange will help young people understand each other’s lives better and ultimately contribute to promoting peace on an individual level – even when governments are at odds.

Obstacles

Shannon is still refining her idea. Here are some challenges she has identified:

  1. Working in an office with other collaborators would be one thing. Going at it on her own is very different. Without support and a more formal infrastructure, Shannon is unsure how to take the next step to give the project momentum.
  2. Getting the language right is critical. She’s concerned that the project might be seen by some in the U.S. as anti-patriotic.
  3. She has lots of questions about how to incorporate this into a school curriculum and, separately, the implications and logistics of sending teens abroad.
  4. Like most projects out there, finding the right funders is a challenge.

How you can help

Shannon would love to see this idea grow and succeed. Can you offer her any advice?

  • Are there similar long-term projects or programs that appeal to students of all ages?
  • Do you know of any projects or programs that could offer insights, best practices, and/or lessons learned?
  • If you are a student, parent, teacher, and/or refugee, what aspects of these ideas appeal to you? What concerns come to mind?
  • Regarding sending teens abroad: Does the program need to be entirely separate from the school system, so that the school is not responsible legally? If so, how can Shannon ensure that both she and the project are protected?
  • Do you know of a rural community that might benefit from this type of project?
  • What other funding sources might want to help get a project like this off the ground?
  • If you’ve successfully launched a project, what piece of crucial advice would you share?
  • Would you like to help?

Leave a comment below or send her a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Idea File: Start a job search support group

Neighbors band together to support one another through periods of unemployment.

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Would a job search support group help you? (Photo Credit: Katerha, Creative Commons/Flickr)

The idea

Feeling down and out after searching (and searching, and searching…) for a job? Why not get together with neighbors or friends for constructive dialogue, fresh ideas, and renewed energy?

In my small hometown in Maryland, a group is doing just that. Karla*, a consultant in search of a full-time job, began meeting twice a month with her husband and two neighbors, all Boomers who had been laid off within the last few years. They call themselves the Dream Academy. In Karla’s words, “We are only four people yet have a surprisingly different set of needs,” so their conversations ranged from compassionate pep talks for the most depressed member of the group to more specific negotiation advice for another member who was fairly far along in an interview process.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

This idea is cheap, easy to replicate, and needed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the length of time the jobless spend searching for work before finding a job increased from 5.2 to 10.4 weeks between 2007 and 2010, edging down to 10.0 in 2011.” Ten weeks is about how long our former coworker Diana spent searching for her new job in Boston, but we know that not everyone is so lucky. Diana received tons of emails and comments from readers, some of whom have been out of work for years. I wonder what would happen if those readers began checking in regularly, encouraging one another and sharing resources.

“I think any time a community of even a small number forms around an issue or a cause or a concern, everybody in that community gains something,” says Karla. “Conversations we have with ourselves only keep us stuck; conversations stay alive when you share them with other people. The conversation around ‘how can I find a job in this economy when I’m over 50?’ is not a very empowering one, especially when you only have it with yourself and there’s a lot of reinforcement for it in the media. It really helps to surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe you have something outstanding to offer. Which, of course, we all do.”

How you can replicate it

  • Find people to meet with. For the Dream Academy, four members was a good size. “It enabled us to have a very substantive conversation about each member’s needs while still only taking about an hour – which was what each of us felt we could spare. Sticking close to an hour makes it feel like an opportunity rather than an imposition,” says Karla.
  • Keep it low-maintenance. What time and day is best? Will folks need to figure out childcare? Searching for a job is taxing enough; make it as easy as possible for your fellow job seekers to participate.
  • Consider group dynamics. Are you going to “require” that people attend meetings, or will the group be flexible? Will you set one scheduled meeting time per week or month, and if not, should one person take the lead on scheduling? Will you take turns being the time keeper to make sure everyone has a chance to talk about what’s going well and what’s getting them down?
  • Find a space. Is there a room at a public library? Will people be more comfortable speaking freely inside someone’s home? If you sit at a coffee shop, will everyone feel pressured to spend money on drinks?
  • Stay open-minded and celebrate successes. Though the Maryland group named themselves the Dream Academy, one member, Joe, came to the group feeling anything but dreamy. “He was very down about his prospects,” says Karla. “He’d lost his job as a teacher with the school system and was about to go for what he was viewing as a dead-end ‘informational’ interview with a principal at a nearby high school. We all urged him to go into this meeting with a much more open mind about what might happen.” The next day, Joe called to say he’d gotten a long-term job as a substitute teacher, with the possibility of a promotion to full-time. This was wonderful news for Joe and it also boosted morale among the whole group.

I look forward to hearing how things progress for the members of the Dream Academy and for the group as a whole. Once they’re all employed, maybe they’ll continue to meet to offer one another informal coaching and mentorship (like the group Trista Harris describes in this post). Or maybe they’ll stop meeting but give each other an extra wink when they run into each other in the neighborhood and ask, “How’s work these days?”

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your experiences.  Have you tried something like this? Do you have additional tips to offer?


*Names have been changed. Special thanks to the “Dream Academy” of Prince George’s County, MD, for their help with this post.

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Why supporting kid entrepreneurs might solve the world's problems

School’s out for summer! But that doesn’t mean ideas are on break. Help the creative kid in your life dive headfirst into entrepreneurship.

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Caine built a sweet arcade and is inspiring kids to be entrepreneurs. How can you support them? (Photo credit: Caine's Arcade)

You probably already know the story of Caine’s Arcade thanks to this Internet film that I’m sure left tears of joy all over your keyboard.

If you didn’t see it, the story goes a little something like this: Caine is a nine-year-old boy who built a DIY cardboard arcade in his father’s used auto parts shop in Los Angeles. The games went unplayed until one day, a filmmaker named Nirvan happened to need a car door handle. He bought the first Fun Pass. Then made a film.

Fast forward a few months later and Nirvan’s film has garnered Caine thousands of fans from around the world, inspired countless kids to make arcades of their own, generated a theme song, and get this, raised $500,000 for Caine’s college scholarship fund.

But not every little kid is as lucky as Caine.

Caine’s Arcade has made me more aware of the fact that there are budding entrepreneurs running around us everywhere — even though we might think they’re just listening to Justin Bieber and making awkward jokes.

So how we can help them bring their ideas to life? Besides heaps of encouragement, patience, and knowledge, here are some ways to get that creative kid in your life some dough to play with:

  • Caine’s Arcade Imagination Foundation: With help from the Goldhirsh Foundation, the newly founded foundation’s goal is to “find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in young kids.”
  • YesKidzCan: Their Social KidPreneurz Program gives kids in grades 3-8 the opportunity to receive $100 to start their own business, with proceeds going to a cause of their choice.
  • Ashoka Youth Ventures: Once limited to the U.S. but now expanding internationally, this nonprofit “inspires and invests in teams of young people to design and launch their own lasting social ventures.”

It’s not just money that’s needed; we also need a shift in thinking. “If we can get kids to embrace the idea of being entrepreneurial at a young age, we can change everything in the world that’s a problem today,” says Cameron Herold in a TED talk about raising kids to be entrepreneurs.

He’s got a point: they might just be the ones with the brilliant ideas to help the needy or save animals from extinction.

So think about the Caines in your life. Are you game to help him or her succeed?

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For fun: Check out 10 Things 80s Kids TV Taught Me About Being a Social Entrepreneur on Pinterest.

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