OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

The Miracle Mile Fund - Go The Distance!

When you hear words like "innovator" and "world-changer," adolescents from impoverished communities don't really come to mind. I believe, however, that the brightest minds are often found in the darkest places and the time has come for these students to share their light with the world! That is why I am requesting your help to implement the Miracle Mile Fund. The primary goal of the fund will be to provide high-achieving students from low and struggling middle income families the opportunity to participate in a volunteer abroad program. My hope is that this experience will help these students realize their worth and know they have just as much to contribute to this world as someone from a more affluent background.

Photo of Ayanna Martin

Written by

Having come from a lower income household, I personally know what it's like to want a better life, not only for yourself but your family as well. And while having an education is certainly a major part of achieving that, students today don't really see it that way. In a world where instant gratification and being known more for "celebrity status" has become the norm, the thought of sitting behind a desk all day listening to a teacher talk about a subject you have no interest in can be frustrating. Although volunteering abroad and other cross-cultural exchange programs have existed for quite some time, the level of involvement from disadvantaged students is markedly below that of their more privileged counterparts.

Despite there being other contributing factors, it is my belief that this disparity is further promulgated by the lack of financial resources available to these underprivileged youth. The purpose of the Miracle Mile Fund is to provide financial assistance to these students in an attempt to effectively diminish that gap. Giving these students the opportunity to participate in volunteer abroad programs targets the importance of receiving an education in a unique way and allows them to apply what they've learned to real life situations and not just theoretical examples. Furthermore, they get the chance to experience a whole new world outside of the one they had grown accustomed to, opening them up to various possibilities not thought of before.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea will benefit high-achieving students from underprivileged backgrounds ranging in age from 12 - 19. Too often, middle and high school students from lower income families are not able to participate in culturally enriching experiences like foreign exchange and study/volunteer abroad programs. These programs are known to provide numerous benefits, both personally and professionally, and not having the opportunity to access them puts these students at a greater disadvantage than that of their more well-off peers. I decided to start the Miracle Mile Fund because I want these students to understand that their socio-economic status should not and will not determine the level of greatest they can attain as long as they are willing to put in the work. Having the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves allows these students to gain a whole new perspective on life. They recognize strengths they never even knew they had. They develop friendships with individuals they never would have imagined meeting, let alone interacting with. By taking a chance and stepping out of their comfort zone, they are able to understand and appreciate just how much they have to offer the world.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

As the college application process becomes more and more competitive, in addition to outstanding academic performance, students are also having to think of innovative and impactful activities that set them apart from other applicants. Volunteering abroad gives the students a chance to learn about world issues first hand and how these problems can be best addressed, providing them with the edge needed to impress college admission committees. Having had the opportunity to really engage in issues they are passionate about during their volunteer experience will also help the students be more focused in their academic pursuits, allowing them to perform better in their college courses overall. Moreover, with an increasing number of companies operating on a global scale, employers are more likely to hire individuals with the experience, skills and cultural understanding needed to work in an international environment, all of which the students would have already developed through their volunteer experience. This will give them a distinct advantage over their fellow graduates once they transition into the workforce. According to a survey conducted in 2009 across the UK, when it comes to the career benefits of volunteering, 80% of employers value volunteering on a resume and over 70% of employers believe individuals with volunteer experience have a better chance of earner a higher salary and gaining a promotion.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I am currently trying to raise funds to sponsor at least one high school student to be able to participate in a volunteer abroad program. My goal is to have the student(s) involved with a program by the summer of 2015.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I am open to receiving input and guidance on the most effective way(s) to implement and sustain the fund on a larger scale. Additionally, I would need assistance with raising awareness about the fund on a local, national and international level.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation

21 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Hi Ayanna, I highlighted your idea contribution in the latest blog that just went up. Check it out here!: https://openideo.com/blog/youth-employment-challenge-community-ambassador-update-4

Photo of Sergio Marrero
Team

You may have a chance to partner with organizations like this: http://www.wwoof.net/

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Loving the name and sentiments here, Ayanna! Perhaps you and others here might think about some innovative fundraising approaches for this? We're excited to see what folks come up with & seeing this idea evolve.

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Thanks Meena! I actually have a Go Fund Me page currently set up to facilitate testing of the idea on a smaller scale. In addition to funding, I'm really looking for people to help me get the word out about the initiative! The page can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/MiracleMileFund

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

In terms of scaling this idea further, I wonder if there might be some way of getting the young people who will use the money involved in the fundraising campaigns in some way to introduce a further learning opportunity to the initiative? Perhaps through getting creative on creating video / images for the fundraising campaigns? There could be some great team building opportunities. And do you have thoughts, in the scope of our OpenIDEO challenge, on ways to support them find new career pathways on their return from their volunteering trips? (mentor sessions, toolkits, networking opportunities, etc) There might even be other ideas being posted here on OpenIDEO which you could collaborate on & plug into to support this transition. Looking forward to seeing you on conversations across this challenge...

Photo of Dave Zinsman
Team

Hi Ayanna,
For me what resonates most is what you mentioned about youth participants getting "the chance to experience a whole new world outside of the one they had grown accustomed to, opening them up to various possibilities not thought of before." This is a powerful thing, and is a clear selling point to possible donors. I would definitely develop that theme further in your value proposition.

Building on what Meena mentioned about Miracle Mile Fund alumni opportunities, I think there can be lot of potential there. If you can convince donors that this program will a) experience abroad will help disadvantaged youth gain invaluable insights and learning, and b) make alumni more marketable, you convince them that you will basically "put tools in the hands of disadvantaged youth."

If you add c) tangible career pathways, you will convince donors that "you will also make building materials available to alumni." I think if you can add this to the mix, you will have a distinct edge in securing funding and participants. This really is the key to success for most social initiatives, basically the idea of "appropriate technology." As a reference, think of some of the social initiatives in Africa involving water access. An initiative raised funding, and installed modern efficient water pumps in villages. A short while later, the pumps were inoperable and the village no better off because the infrastructure did not exist to support the continued maintenance of the sophisticated pumps.

The initiative provided "tools" but no "building materials or knowledge." So the idea here is that tools alone are not good enough, and in fact may do more harm than good. Today's donors, specifically the potential large donors that you'll need to scale, are savvy and will measure "tools" and "material" in assessing your initiative.

Let me know if you need help with your value proposition, or related media. I'd love to also have you a part of another project I'm working on here on OpenIDEO--you're welcome to use the web resources of that project for your project, and I can help you with visual and copy impact. Let's put our heads together!

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Dave, I looked at your idea for "The Book of Lifelong (L)earning"...very impressive! I am definitely open to collectively brainstorming about the most effective way(s) to get potential donors on board!

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Meena, having the students actively involved in the fundraising process is a great idea! In addition to providing the students with further learning opportunities, potential donors will have a direct visual representation of who and what they're putting their money towards. As Dave mentioned, providing tangible evidence is the key to successfully securing funding!

Photo of Dave Zinsman
Team

Thanks, Ayanna!

Whenever you're ready, go ahead and post prototype materials, and I'm happy to help. The community can also weigh in on the product to point us in the right direction. It can be anything from a sample itinerary with learnings/impacts noted in the margin, to actual scenarios abroad. Hope to see more soon!

Photo of Luisa Fernanda
Team

Great conversation!
Dave your insights and provocations are right on point.

Having been part of study abroad programs and having worked fundraising to bring underprivileged youth to these type of programs, I understand their value for professional development. However, it might be interesting for this idea to dig deeper into what are relevant opportunities abroad for youth and what happens after they come back? How does this idea specifically support youth in their pathway to employment?

Photo of Dave Zinsman
Team

Thanks, Luisa!

I agree that study abroad programs deliver a lot of development, but how can a study abroad alum use that experience in their pathway to employment?

One way to go is to use the study abroad experience to build a career in international education. I found this great resource from Oregon State that we should definitely use as a reference as we think of solutions.
---------------
From OSU:

"How to Get a Career in International Education"

People who work in International Education often have:

-Been inspired by a work, study or travel abroad experience.
-A desire to work in an ever-changing environment that may require travel, adaptability and life-long learning.

Does this sound like you? Read on to learn more about the education required, types of career paths and tips for reaching your goal of working in international education.

http://oregonstate.edu/international/studyabroad/students/return/careers/int-ed
---------------

Possible product focus, Ayanna? Thanks for the nudge, Luisa!

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

In terms of conveying how my idea helps support youth in their pathway to employment, I definitely like Dave's suggestion of having members of the community share stories about their time abroad and how it helped them to successfully navigate their career choices. I have a friend who recently returned from Rwanda after completing a year with the Clinton Foundation's CHAI (Clinton Health Access Initiative) program. Even though she was already working here in the US, having that international experience on her resume will boost her marketability tremendously! Another idea I had was to follow the lives of several youth participating in volunteer abroad programs and have them document their involvement, almost like having a digital resume. Once they return, the footage would be edited and used to effectively market them to potential employers. In today's advancing technological age, not only would it be fun for the youth, it would be an innovative way for them to showcase their skills and the added value they'd bring to the business. Dave, your Book of Lifelong (L)earning idea would definitely come in handy here. Under their respective "What worked for me," we would have their volunteer abroad experience as the starting point and then track their progress from there, making sure to include their documentaries. We could even turn that book into some type of youth employment directory. Not only would other youth seeking pathways be able to use it to garner ideas, potential employers could also use it to find employees with the skills and training they're looking for. I'm definitely loving the feedback and suggestions guys, keep them coming! :-)

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Dave, international education is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm envisioning careers with Doctors Without Borders, Peace Corps, USAID, WHO; international culinary experts, international artists/performers, government agents, the list of possibilities is endless! Essentially what I want to do is help these youth develop whatever their interests might be (law, education, medicine, humanitarianism, philanthropy) and use the volunteer experience as inspiration to show them that with hard work and dedication, the world is theirs for the taking!!!

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

The following is an article a friend of mine posted on her non-profit's Facebook page. Her organization, Two Hands International, provides support to under-represented youth by engaging them in community service and international education activities. The article basically sums up the benefits of spending time abroad and how it helps students better prepare for college and the world after.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/07/29/studying-abroad-helps-disadvantaged-students-break-frame

Photo of Bryan Mochizuki
Team

Ayanna - Thank you for developing and submitting this idea. How do you plan to measure the impact of the program? In particular, are there any specific ways you plan to track the progress of participants?

Photo of Liz Duffy
Team

Great idea! Some international travel/study abroad programs have existing scholarships so in addition to raising a fund, you might consider exploring and cataloging such opportunities and/or partnering with those organizations. See, for example, the Island School (http://www.islandschool.org/) and its financial aid policies. Good luck!

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

The plan is to definitely partner with existing organizations that offer international service opportunities for youth, as this provides a more structured and safe environment, which will also put parents/guardians at ease! Even though some of these programs offer financial aid, the application process can be very competitive and many deserving students often times don't make the cut. What I'm hoping to do with the Miracle Mile Fund is to fill in the gap and offer financial assistance exclusively to those students who can't afford to pay out of pocket and/or aren't eligible for assistance.

Photo of Liz Duffy
Team

Another group you might explore that I was referred to is AIESE - the global youth network. See https://www.aiesec.org/.

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Thanks Liz, I will check it out!

Photo of Paul Curtis
Team

Ayanna
I love your project. Perhaps there may be some synergy between your project and ours, if and when ours ever gets going. See "Youth Helping Refugees" It would be great to staff our project with youth from around the world. Where are you based?

Photo of Ayanna Martin
Team

Thanks Paul! I'm currently living in the US in the state of Georgia.