At IC-SVN, we want to celebrate and encourage the next generation of social entrepreneurs and impact investors. We have been exploring innovative ways to carry out this part of our mission and recently had the unique opportunity to partner with Dream Tank for a day-long workshop at Impact Hub Boulder.
Dream Tank, a social enterprise created and run by Heidi Cuppari, is an innovator’s playground where kids and teens aged 8-14 (along with a few adults) design a business, a product, or a service that aligns with a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of their choice. Kids get to learn about design-thinking in a fun, visionary way;this enables them to think critically about an SDG that matters to them. Teams of mixed ages then work together to transform their creative ideas into concrete social enterprises in just one day. Talk about inspiring!
The level of maturity and ingenuity the youth participants brought to the accelerator camp in Boulder was astonishing. IC-SVN members Nicole Bagley, Melanie and Jim Davidson, and Ning Mosberger-Tang’s children and teens participated in the workshop. Through Heidi Cuppari’s guidance and stewardship, every team was able to collaboratively distill their bold ideas into concrete business models. For example, the team that focused on the “Life Below Water” SDG developed a filtration product that could be installed onto freightliners to filter out water pollution. In addition, their company would create a solar-powered ship that would be able to harvest and sell plastic from the Texas-sized plastic islands in the Pacific to companies that repurpose it. Another group created a financially sustainable EdTech model that addresses education access in developing countries. The participants’ ideation came entirely from their own viewpoints and creativity, which was a refreshing change from being told how and what to think. Cuppari believes this approach allows kids to tap into their creative potential and develop bold visions for social change strategies.
Adults served as mentors after the social enterprises took their initial form. Social enterprise mentors, like IC-SVN member Praful Shah, joined each table to get the teams ready for their pitches at night and to generate feasible framework ideation. This learning component helped channel the kids’ pure creative energy toward tangible enterprise modeling. Mentors introduced financial, market, and business viability structures and learning so that each group would be better prepared for their presentations. And, at the end of the six-hour accelerator, each group successfully pitched their products, services, and passionate solutions to their parents and community members. Some of the most promising ideas inspired various audience members to offer their contacts and professional services to support the next steps for youth entrepreneurs.
Bagley and Mosberger-Tang both shared that their children left the day inspired and energized to use social enterprise as a method of solving critical global challenges. Youth and adults can use the Dream Tank experience to be reminded to dream big and design accordingly. If you are interested in learning more about Dream Tank and how to bring similar programming to your local network, let us know.