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

Early Thought-starter for Mission 4: Learning chain

Imagine a tutoring program that teaches kids and young people various skills (like 826 Valencia does with creative writing). Eventually those kids grow up and go on to high school and college. What if the program were to invite student alumni to volunteer to help community members who also want to improve their writing? You could have high school and college students working with older adults to help capture their stories... or the students could help pass on what they’ve learned as students of the program and help the older adults to begin writing their memoirs. It would be an interesting way to connect the tutoring center to other groups in the community and continue the chain of learning.

Photo of Annie Valdes
3 8

Written by

How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

Take ‘graduates’ of an existing tutoring program for teens and young people and pair them with older adults who will benefit from learning those freshly minted skills.
Think of this as more of a thoughtstarter than an idea. I'm posting this in order to help create momentum in the ideas phase. Please feel free to borrow from this idea and/or build upon it with your own ideas.

I love the idea of building on existing programs and introducing a new layer to the program to reach a new audience of older adults. A program like 826 Valencia could do this with adults who want to learn how to improve their writing, and other programs could seed other skills.

It might help to know what 826 Valencia is—Dave Eggers and a bunch of other writers started a wonderful program in San Francisco called ‘826 Valencia’. The program pairs students ages 6 to 18 with writers that volunteer to tutor the kids on creative writing and get them excited about writing in general. Something interesting but less relevant to this idea is that because the space they use for tutoring sessions is zoned for retail, the tutoring centers have themed stores attached that are equally as inspiring as what they’re doing with the students! Since it started, the program has grown from one location in California (826 Valencia is in San Francisco as has a pirate theme), to a national program that spans seven locations across the country, each with it’s own theme (the Spy store, the Superhero store, etc).

What other ideas does this thought-starter spark for you? Here are some questions that might help you think of new ideas or even new prototypes to try out:

—How does the staff of the existing program identify which students might be good candidates?
—What does the invitation to student-alums look like?
—What does the invitation to the older adult participants look like?
—What do these things say to compel people to participate?
—Is it better for these sessions to be small groups, or one on one?
—What kind of prep do the student-alums need before they feel comfortable coaching someone else?

Each of these questions represents an opportunity for someone in the OpenIDEO community to test this idea and gather feedback. 
  • Can you draw or do graphic design? Consider creating a few versions of the invitations and experimenting with different tones and voices. 
  • Are you good with imagining and designing interactions? Then maybe create a scenario of how this experience might unfold. 
  • Are you business-minded? If so, then maybe think about how something like this might be possible for organizations that are short on manpower and already using lots of volunteers—can you imagine a clever way they might test this out?
Think about what organizations near you exist and might be a good candidate for using program graduates to stretch who they reach!

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

This idea could be prototyped in several ways: —For instance, reaching out to an existing tutoring or skill-based program in your area and seeing if any recent graduates would be willing to share what they’ve learned with another community group, especially a group of older adults. The student-alums could run a session in the organization’s location, or they could host a session at a community center or senior living community. —Another way it could be prototyped is by seeing if an organization like this might be open to bringing in other types of people that it doesn’t normally reach for a mini session (i.e. if they focus on students, could they host a few community members for a guest session?). —I'm sure there are other ways to explore this. What can you think of?

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

See above for some early thoughts on how OpenIDEO community members can contribute to make this early idea even stronger. Then, feel free to borrow my idea and build upon it with your own ideas!


Join the conversation:


Hi Annie,

When You are representing OpenIDEO the contribution of your IDEA should not appear in the Ideas Phase, which is meani for others, and you belong to the Team of OpenIDEO. Your Contribution/IDEA is to be in the Instructions Sections, especially as a Model to elaborate details as to how the Idea is to be Written.

No doubt, I may not be fluent & seldom flair in Writing in English, because I have my schooling studies from a Free School, i.e., Municipal School. In my opinion, since your are a Team Member of the OpenIDEO you are not supposed to compete in Competition Section which is meant only for outers.

If I am wrong in saying like this please, ignore this mesoage. You are superior than us you are supposed to guide us as to which is good or bad.

Any way your Idea and its contents are informative and I have become your fan.

Photo of Annie Valdes

Hi Syed,

You're right - I'm a member of the team that's leading this challenge so I can see how my posting an idea might be confusing. I added an idea yesterday as a way to share some early thoughts that I hope others will build upon, borrow and get inspired by, not because I'd like to submit my idea for review by the OpenIDEO or sponsor team.

To avoid any additional confusion, I've updated the title and text of my idea to make it even more clear that this is a 'sacrificial idea' that hopefully jump starts the community's own thinking.

Thanks again for your question.

Photo of Paul Reader

Hi Syed and Annie,
I would just like to add to Annie's explanation, being an ordinary member of the OpenIDEO community:
My understanding of the idea of OpenIDEO is that any concept generated in this phase is 'sacrificial'.
Although there is progression towards 'winning' concepts we all collaborate to achieve these. By the end of the process (hopefully) each of the concepts considered most worth developing will be a product of the OpenIDEO community as a whole. Therefore we all become winners with the prize of seeing how society can benefit from our collective efforts.

Although I didn't read this concept until now the mention of 'freshly minted skills' (or knowledge) is implicit in parts of my U3A concept., and I will add this to my built upon list. For that reason Mission 4 would have been my second choice had I not felt the networking should take precedence. Thanks for that Annie!
I actually prefer to add and extra twist to the chain by suggesting that some of the skills and knowledge can be passed on as they are being learned. This creates a dual benefit, more skill and knowledge for the mentee, and consolidation for the mentor.

The questions you pose as opportunities remind me of the continuing need to revisit the possible incorporation of two more concepts from the Social Impact challenge, into the OpenIDEO platform (Sina Mossayeb's Open Resources and Duane Harrison's OpenIDEO Skills).