This blog was written by Social Innovation Fellow Eli Friedman for En Root: The Outgrowth Monthly Newsletter. Outgrowth is an innovative education and engagement organization that designs experiential and immersive learning opportunities for students, professionals, and groups. Learn more about Outgrowth and sign up for their monthly newsletter here.
“Technology and innovation must act as a means of just social change—to reduce social gaps and inequality, to ensure that every person on this planet has a chance to enjoy the fruits thereof, and to make the world a better place.”
In this quote, Esteron explains the importance of creating solutions in order to change the world and affect the lives of people.
Throughout the past three months, I participated in the Social Innovation Fellowship, a hands-on entrepreneurship program that inspires and empowers Jewish teens to be change makers in their community.
In the program, I was partnered with a group who focused on the issue of high school drug abuse and the ineffective drug curricula that are taught at high schools around the country. Teens who abuse drugs have a significantly greater risk of developing an addiction as adults. In addition, teen drug abuse can have long term cognitive and behavior effects as their brains are still in the process of developing.
During our validation process, my group interviewed many students who currently attend schools in the Baltimore area such as Gilman, Park, and Franklin High School. We determined that the teachers and the speakers of the curriculum should be members of the community or alumni of certain schools in order for the students to have a personal connection with them. The speakers in the curriculum will share their personal experiences, insights on the temptation of drugs, and the harmful effects of abusing drugs. This program will also benefit the speakers on their path to sobriety because it is well documented that sharing your story aids in recovery.
In the future, we hope to expand our curriculum to include interactive simulators and games, to work with drug treatment centers to find more speakers, and scale up to expand to other regions.
Through the fellowship, I learned many important lessons about social entrepreneurship and I want to offer advice about the journey.
First, one should try addressing a problem that affects one’s life and in which one feels deeply. This motivates one to persevere through all the challenges in the process.
Second, once you have identified a solution, one must validate this solution through customer interviews. My interviews with students from different schools in the Baltimore area allowed me to validate my product and prove that current drug prevention programs do not connect to students on a personal level.
Finally, I would recommend collaborating with a diverse group of thoughtful partners that will brainstorm different ideas and provide needed assistance. In conclusion, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this newsletter and I hope my audience will create innovative solutions in the future to solve problems in the world.
Read Eli’s original blog post on Outgrowthtoday.com – scroll down a bit to find his blog.
Eli Friedman is a 4Front Baltimore Social Innovation Fellow and a sophomore at Pikesville High School. He attends Camp Modin during the summers and is a three-season athlete.