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Building a Strong Foundation Today for Tomorrow's Sexual Health

Improve the self-esteem and sense of responsibility of young kids during their formative years and link sexual health to self-esteem.

Photo of Ting Ting Yan
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Opportunity Areas – Select those that apply

  • mHealth
  • Last Mile Sexual and Reproductive Health Commodities

What specific problem(s) are you trying to address? (300 character limit)

We want to solve for the root of the problem: while lack of education and resources contribute to unsafe sex among youth in US, it is crucial to address underlying issues of self-esteem and irresponsibility. If we build a strong foundation today, we can ensure future education actually takes hold.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address? (500 character limit)

We'd like to better understand the psychological mindset of youth as they first start to experience puberty and become acquainted with their own and others' sexuality. What kinds of questions, doubts and needs do they have? Who impacts their self-esteem, either positively or negatively? How early do they start thinking about sex? What public figures influence them the most? These will represent the "turning points" and influencers we need to have involved.

Who are your end users? (1000 character limit)

Our end users are youth around 10-12 yo, who are about to enter, or are currently undergoing, puberty. Their bodies are changing. They're hearing about sex for the first time, likely from their friends and our all-pervasive hypersexualized media. They are excited, confused and probably feeling insecure. They're not really sure who to talk to and feel awkward confiding in their parents or their friends lest they seem "uncool" or "ignorant." By creating an online platform or mobile app for this turning point around puberty, we hope to involve our target at a very early onset in an *honest* and *guided* conversation about sexuality that promotes healthy self-esteem and sense of responsibility toward their bodies, and others'. This solution is not about educating them on safe sex (it's too early), but rather to make them feel proud, secure and confident about their changing bodies, sexuality and self-identity. It's about creating a sturdy foundation of self-esteem to build on later.

Explain your idea. (500 character limit)

StartTheConvo is an online social movement that helps teenagers and their parents have their sexual health-related questions answered via short video clips from their favorite celebrities and respected experts in the field (e.g. Oprah). Girls and boys will be directed to separate platforms with custom topics for each gender. Many of the end users we talked to told us they would have practiced safe sex more often if they felt better about themselves and took their bodies "less for granted."

What is your value proposition? (500 character limit)

These are formative years full of emotion, questions and doubt. Our StartTheConvo mApp is meant to be there for kids offering helpful, entertaining and informative content through the eyes of people they trust and admire. E.g. Rebecca will see her favorite celebrity talk about her first period, first date, first kiss etc. Ryan will see his favorite athlete talk about staying healthy and getting ready for his first date. The mApp will also have a section for parents to help them start the convo.

What's different about your idea compared to current solutions? (500 character limit)

Current solutions solve for access and quality of education. What we are doing is reframing the problem to look at how we can address the *root* of the problem, beyond access and quality. We believe based on our research that this is rooted in the formative period starting 10-14 yo when kids are undergoing dramatic physical changes, feeling more complex emotions, and forming their psychological identity. By solving for the root of the problem, we will build a strong foundation for the future.

What are the key reasons why end users would turn to your organization over another?

  • Design / Brand status: Value in using a brand

What would success look like for your end users? (500 character limit)

We will capture the elusive attention of a young kid by using influencers and brands s/he actually care about. Kids will lean in to watch their favorite singers/actors/social media personas/athletes/artists/public figures talk about their own experiences growing up, going through puberty, grappling with body issues and sexual confusion. This will be their go-to website where they will feel empowered to work on their self-esteem, and to approach sex and sexuality in a responsible mature way.

How would you measure the impact your idea has on your end user(s) ? How will you measure the success of your program? (500 character limit)

We will measure success through watchtime and repeat site visits. There will be a gamification aspect to increase consumption and learning. For example, there will be quizzes and questionnaire to ensure learning is taking place. Boys and girls will be given a chance to unlock exclusive content from celebrities by doing well on these quizzes, and by checking out the content on the other gender's platform (to inspire cross-learning). Our goal is to start a movement and encourage shared dialogue.

What strategies will/are you testing to acquire end users? (300 character limit)

There will be several access points: school program, social media ads on Facebook, Snapchat; product signage (e.g. when Rebecca buys her first tampon, there will be a special code inside), public signage in malls, shops, and bathrooms. They will be encouraged online to interact with a Chatbot.

Key partnerships - Who will you partner with to make your idea work? (500 character limit)

We will partner with two key entities: companies and public influencers. For companies, we will look at brand who intersect with kids' puberty: e.g. for girls - key moments are buying your first bra (messaging at Victoria's Secret stores, using VS models on website), buying lipstick at Sephora (messaging in-store and online, linking makeup to enhancing your natural beauty and self-esteem), Playtex tampons and pads for your first period etc. Using relevant brands and celebrities will be crucial.

What is your organization’s name? (150 character limit)

We are a group of 5 students with eclectic backgrounds and work experience but with one mission: to be Team Awesome and bring an innovative solution.

Tell us more about you: (750 character limit)

Meet Team Awesome... Baris Siniksaran: MS Candidate (2018) for Integrated Digital Media, Co-founder of WAVR, experienced designer working with AR/VR technology and Art director. Shruti Patil: MS Candidate (2018) for Management of Technology, Mentor for women at Convergence of Innnovation & Entrepreneurship. Ting Ting Yan: MA Candidate (2018) for Social and Consumer Psychology, 7 years at Google creating digital marketing solutions, prior to that creative ad agencies building beloved brands. Zhongyuan Ding: MA (2018) in Management of Technology, intern at accounting firm and member of accounting honor society. Mateo Hernandez: MS Integrated Digital Media (2018), serial entrepreneur, VR/AR specialist.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Locally/community-led organization

Where will your idea be implemented? (200 character limit)

We will launch in US in key urban cities like New York, SF, LA, Chicago (and respective suburban areas) for initial launch to gain learnings prior to full national launch. Can be scaled worldwide.

What do you need to get started? (500 character limit)

We need relationships with the right brands and influencers (human); financial to start building the website and/or mApp; and a concerted marketing effort to bring it all together. The partnerships aspect is crucial because the idea rests on unifying the voices of celebrities and public figures these kids care about.

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • It is still in planning phase and does not exist yet.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organization Location (200 character limit)

New York City (we all go to school at NYU for Grad)

What is your organizational status?

  • We don't intend to register / don't need to in order to implement our idea successfully.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Ting Ting Yan and team. Nice update on your idea. I like how you articulate your assumptions with the pyramid. It makes sense to me but I'm curious to know how you created it: a mix of secondary research (studies by psychologists, pediatricians, etc.) and interviews?
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that you are looking into "how we can address the *root* of the problem, beyond access and quality. " What is the root of the problem beyond access and quality? Is it awareness of the needs and resources? Is it self-confidence and ability to articulate emotions and questions? Or something else?
I like the holistic aspect of your platform that goes beyond specific aspects of the sexuality (e.g. periods for girls) and includes more communication and social skills (e.g. how to prepare for a date, or simply how to talk with girls).
I'm unsure about the combination of videos and questions. I guess this is something you can prototype and test further in the coming weeks.
I understand that you are focusing on the US because of your location but based on the research phase I think your solution is addressing issues that are global. I wonder if you think of ways to scale up this idea. I would recommend you look at other ideas posted on OpenIDEO and connect with people who posted them to get their feedback and maybe see if there are any possible collaboration. Good luck with the next steps!

Bettina Fliegel recommended a novel that might give you some ideas on what kids that age feel

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Team.
I really like the focus of this idea, to connect preteens, age 10 -1 2, and their parents to information using technology. Is the focus also to connect preteens and their parents to each other? Creating a mechanism to open conversations between kids and parents could be very powerful.

Check out the book below for insights into some of your "unanswered questions." "We'd like to better understand the psychological mindset of youth as they first start to experience puberty and become acquainted with their own and others' sexuality. What kinds of questions, doubts and needs do they have? Who impacts their self-esteem, either positively or negatively? How early do they start thinking about sex? etc."

Book - "Will Puberty Last a Life Time?" "Real Answers to Real Questions from Preteens About Body Changes, Sex and Other Growing-Up Stuff". Metzger RN, MN and Lehman MD. The authors have been running workshops for preteens and their parents for years. There are separate workshops for boys and girls. Boys attend with their dads, or another close adult male, and girls with their moms. During the classes preteens and parents are invited to write anonymous questions on cards. These are then answered for the entire group. The questions in the book are from these classes.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi all.
You can read about the workshops I mentioned in the comment above in this article.
There are photos in the article of some questions, written on the cards by preteens, from their workshops. Check them out!

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