PRESENTENSE: WHAT IS OUR MODEL AND WHERE DO WE COME FROM?
In 2007, in NYC, I co-founded Global Potential (GP), an innovative holistic service-learning afterschool and summer program for at-risk youth to reach their fullest potential. It lasts a year and a half and has three phases:
1) 6-month weekly training on human rights, global issues, social entrepreneurship, team building, communication, conflict resolution, race, religion, ethnicity, culture, poverty and sustainable changemaking.
2) 1.5 months of full immersion in an international rural village in a developing country, thus far in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (some photos here). They live in host families, carry out individual internships as well as community development projects and youth-led conferences to dialogue and create change. For those who are unable to travel, a local equivalent of this experience is developed in their own communities.
3) 10.5 months of individualized and group attention based on the passion and inspiration of each youth. They can create documentaries (e.g. Camino Al Manana, The Congos), engage in community service (e.g. Yale Day of Service), create their own internships, develop their leadership in their schools and create their own social ventures (e.g. Real Talk!).
SUCCESS: Many of our almost 300 GP youth participants have been awarded prizes for their work with GP, such as the White House President’s Service Award, Human Rights Watch Film Festival Award, United Nations Dialogue of Civilizations Award, Tribeca Film festival award, Posse scholarships, Seinfeld scholarships, Ashoka Youth Venture Grants and many more.
Financials should not be a barrier for our youth to access this quality educational opportunity. GP is committed to fundraising with Foundations and individual donors the majority of the cost to participate in the program. As a 100% volunteer-run organization, all the costs ($2000 per youth) go into the programming. Our youth also work with us to learn the skills of fundraising and organizing to raise $300 each. Thanks to the generosity of private donors and foundations such as Starbucks Foundation, Ashoka Youth Venture, JUMP Foundation, Brooklyn Community Trust and others, we have solidified our unique model to create quality education and international cultural exchange programs in the U.S. and worldwide to build up new youth leaders.
In 2009, I launched GP in Boston. Through establishing links with a local high school in Boston, I recruited five core young professional volunteers to support the initial start-up efforts.
CONNECTING AND SUSTAINING: Where shall we go from here?
As many social entrepreneurs, we have to find ways to sustain ourselves! As an unpaid licensed social worker within my organization, I spend 50+ hours a week running GP – while at the same time, making sure that I pass all my courses at Northeastern Law School and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. My commitment and drive inspired my team to recruit an additional 15 volunteers to help in programming and mentoring, all of whom are also highly committed. I am very proud of the results in Boston since we brought 11 youth into the program in the first year and 15 this year. We are transforming directly the lives of over 100 individual youth and family members in Boston, twice that many in New York, and ten times that many internationally.
Based on this successful replication of the model in Boston, GP hopes to use the lessons learned in the past four years to launch GP in France, Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2012. In 2009, in the Dominican Republic, GP brought its youth for a week-long conference in Haiti to discuss the historically conflictual Haitian and Dominican relations in a productive session that was facilitated through open space technology. We expanded this in 2010 and brought this same model to Nicaragua, to discuss community relations between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans, along with the various ethnic groups of Nicaragua.
The goal of opening up GP in France, Israel and the Palestinian Authority is to create a similar ongoing and productive dialogue among diverse youth from the new diaspora, including Muslims and Jews, through Open Space Technology (OST). The power of YOUTH to think and develop, connect and innovate is unparalleled based on the model we use.
Thanks to the CJP Presentense Fellowship, I have been able to connect since January, 2011, with many amazing social innovators in the Jewish community of Boston. They have shared with me and I have learned through them innovative ways of sustaining and building powerful models for socially impactful ventures. For example, on Purim I attended my peer’s website launch night for his venture The Sounding Board: Michael Reichman. A few Shabbats ago, I attended my other peer’s launch night for her venture Hadash at her home. Today I attended my peer’s venture G.I.R.L.S.‘s workshop to present GP in the Jewish community of Boston and Newton. The support that I receive from my friends within PresenTense is unique because rarely do social innovators have the opportunity to connect with other just as busy changemakers in their communities to brainstorm and collaborate in powerful and meaningful ways.
CJP’s PresenTense Fellowship has allowed me to develop the grounds for this to happen and allowed me to put my experiences to date into both a theoretical and practical framework. It provided me with a springboard for my own future personal and professional growth. It has truly been amazing!