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Branded Mentorship

The big idea is to create branded environments within social settings that both young and old frequent. Two places that tend to bring both young and old together are churches and local donut/coffee shops. These could serve as hosting centers for branded events sponsored by companies with commercial interests. My idea is to create branded environments that promote learning through mentorship. For example, to create a focus on teaching technology and photography we could create a branded Shutterfly experience. The environment could support a variety of events that engage young people to teach older adults a bit of technology in a fun environment. Older adults could be taught to use digital cameras, editing, Instagram, gifs and social media.

Photo of Katie Honneywell
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How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

Branded environments that promote learning and mentorship between younger and older generations.

I think this plan will work because malls, churches, local donut/coffee shopsor other gathering places would benefit from promoting events to bring young and older people together. These locations tend to have groups of older adults and young people who frequent them. Creating mentorship activities could draw additional traffic and potential customers to malls, restaurants or donut and coffee shops. In churches they could contribute to the growth of participation and community. 
Large businesses like Shutterfly, Apple, Facebook, Google, Windows, Adidas, Nike and more could benefit from the creation of branded environments to promote their products.  By creating and leveraging a mentor strategy in locations that they already frequent, they could grow product familiarity and brand recognition. Young customers would mentor potential older customers to achieve customer product familiarization. Businesses could grow their customer base and brand identity in both generations. This is a marketable way to successfully achieve the main idea of bringing two generations together for the younger to teach the older, and building relationships. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

An easy experiment could occur in an incredibly popular donut shop in my area, where I conceived this whole idea, Bill's Donuts, which is located directly across from a Catholic Church, where groups of older people spend the mornings chatting and drinking coffee and eating donuts and young people from the surrounding schools of all ages flock. I would invite a major technology company, Apple, opening a new outlet in a local shopping area, The Greene, to host an advertised event around their products. I would recruit young customers of Bill’s (free donuts!) to show older customers how to work IPads to play games, read books stories or catch up on the news and more. Besides free donuts, the younger people will enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and meet some interesting new, but older, friends. The older people will enjoy the opportunity to interact with young people, learn about new technology and perhaps reduce their fear to try new technology.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

The biggest benefit from the IDEO community would be results of brainstorming on companies and products that could benefit from creating branded events as well as development of concepts for activities and sponsorship forums. I feel there are so many creative possibilities and with the help of Open IDEO we could develop numerous ideas for beneficial and fun mentoring forums.

Evaluation results

13 evaluations so far

1. How well does this idea inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?

Really well – this idea clearly activates young people to support older adults - 15.4%

It’s getting there but could use a bit more work to flesh out exactly how - 69.2%

This idea doesn’t really address how to inspire and engage young people as mentors to older adults - 15.4%

2. How clearly does this idea outline a path to scale so that it can spread from one local community to around the world?

Crystal clear – I understand all the milestones that this idea would need to hit in order to spread beyond one local geography - 0%

It’s pretty clear that this idea has the potential to scale but the steps needed to grow aren’t detailed enough - 76.9%

Not very clear – I’m not sure this idea is designed to scale given how it’s explained here - 23.1%

3. How well does this idea define who its target users are and the ways that it can meet their needs and life stages?

Very well – I understand exactly who this idea is meant to engage and how it will support them - 33.3%

Ok – I’m not sure I could tell you exactly who the target user is but I might be able to guess - 58.3%

It’s hard to tell who this idea is actually meant to engage and support - 8.3%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

It rocked my world - 23.1%

I liked it but preferred others - 53.8%

It didn’t get me overly excited - 23.1%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mike Hatrick

My recommendation would be to combine this idea with Donji YD's Sidekick idea. I think they would compliment each other perfectly!

Photo of Donji YD

Hello Mike, no that I see this comment, the suggestion you wrote on my page makes a lot more sense. Actually, when I was reading your comment on my page, I thought of Katie's branded mentorship idea. I think you are right in expanding a project sidekick to places other than maker spaces.

This branded makers pace is a great idea in terms of marketing, because unlike my idea where everything is done in low traffic maker spaces, Katie's idea happens in high traffic areas where the mentorship program can be seen by the public.

I'm just kind of brainstorming here,

what if there were some sort of combination of these two ideas where let's say a bag company could sponsor a group of veterans by giving them bag designs and materials, and then the veterans could go to farmers markets and sell their creations. In the same booth there could also be a place with a couple computers set up, where veterans could learn more about how to take advantage of the internet like you suggested on my page. The computers could be donated by company sponsors like a Ralph's super market who wouldn't normally have their name seen in a farmers market. This would also be a marketing opportunity for Ralph's.

Photo of Katie Honneywell

Hello Donji and Mike! I just read through all the awesome comments. I love the idea of combining our ideas! Next week I am wrapping up a short internship and some college courses and would love to brainstorm more after!

Photo of Donji YD

Totally! Now that Techshop is officially supporting Project Sidekick, I want to find ways to get other companies on board.

After you are finished with your internship, we should all have a brainstorming sesh on ways to reach out to companies in order to get them to help fund educational training tracks for veterans and promotional events.

Photo of Leigh Cullen

Definitely an interesting idea Katie. Translating a branded online experience into an offline experience could lead to some pretty awesome interactions. I can see how this would work in guerrilla type of marketing efforts as well as in more formally planned settings. Great job!

Photo of Donji YD

Hello Katie, I think we have very similar ideas. I'm wondering if you could read my idea and give me any feedback/good ideas on how to improve it.

I agree that companies helping out with the mentoring process would be a giant plus.

Photo of Donji YD

And have you tested your idea yet? How did the test go?

Photo of Dave Zinsman

Hey Katie,

Love the idea! The meeting places component seems pretty straightforward. It seems like the imperative for this idea moving into a tangible prototype may be the activity or proposition to the users.

What are you thinking in terms of kind of defining your users? I feel like your users are both learners, and the interaction between them would be most rewarding as an exchange. What is it that they both want? What are some things that are common to young and old alike?

Just to keep it simple, take for instance Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

Physiological > Safety > Love & Belonging > Esteem > Self-Actualization

I feel like with your idea, the higher up the experience can touch, the more impactful and scalable “Branded Mentorship” can be—maybe in the love & belonging and esteem space?

Check out this neuroscience blog that talks about how for seniors boosting self-esteem prevents health problems. There is research that shows this to be true, and shaping the product to specifically target esteem can add to the scalability of “Branded Mentorship” by adding partnerability with say health care providers looking to increase wellness for their members who are seniors.

With that in mind how can we shape a prototype that raises esteem?

What about thinking of flipping it? Maybe instead of the younger user teaching the elder, maybe the elder teaches the younger?

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on your idea making it to the Top 20 shortlist, Katie! We love that you are already thinking about how to get digital and tech focused brands involved in mentorship. Marketing and socialising the idea of cross-generational connections is certainly a vital opportunity area! Way to think about utilising places where young people and older adults are already mixing. Have you thought more about prototyping your idea at Bill's Donuts? Maybe your local Apple store would even be willing to co-host the event or provide support from the “Genius” bar. We’d recommend building a team that can help you brainstorm lightweight prototypes as you move forward in Refinement. You may also consider interviewing someone from a marketing agency or a company like Shutterfly to gather additional insights. For more tips for this Refinement phase, check out and catch our Lowdown on Refinement at

Photo of Meena Kadri

Something we'd encourage you to think about is how you might update your one sentence description to encapsulate what your idea actually entails. Imagine you are filling out a grant or funding application form – how would describe your idea in one sentence with clarity?

Here's a template if you need some help, though feel free to come up with your own clarifying sentence structure.

Our idea is a_________________ [campaign/app/service/program/online platform/toolkit/social enterprise/etc.] that tackles the problem of _____________[the issue being addressed ] by __________[what your idea looks like in practice].

Photo of Amber Capehart

I think this is a really well-developed idea. Just echoing the thought below--how would you motivate all parties involved to participate, particularly the large business?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great thinking to leverage existing meeting places, Katie. As you continue to expand your idea, could be a fun exercise to create a list of the what would motivate + incentivise the 3 main groups (sponsors, older folks and young folks) Here's more tips on evoking your great thought-starter: Looking forward to seeing this idea grow!

Photo of Ashley Jablow

I'm loving your train of thought Katie - and I also echo Meena's suggestion around motivations and incentives for the three groups. I'll be curious to hear what you and others think!

Photo of Val Pierre

I agree there is something to do around coffee places (see my other comment
I can easily imagine companies looking for this kind of local events to promote their products or services. Let's imagine a scenario: Yann 20 living near by, goes to the coffee place to work on his university assignments, notices the café is branded by Adidas promoting their latest running shoes. Upon entering the café, he indicates on the board or to the sponsor host that he can give advice on the best walking or running trails in the city. Julie 52 stops by the café and would love to hear from someone about the best nature/sports spots in town. Via the board or thanks to the sponsor host, the 2 starts exchanging over their free drink and donut (offered by the sponsor).