Empowering Youth Changemakers: A Collaborative Effort with Cornell Tech

Youth Giving powered by The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII)

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Last year, we partnered with Cornell Tech on an innovative Product Challenge. Our challenge, “How might we ensure equitable opportunities for resources, support, and collaboration for young changemakers in marginalized communities worldwide?”  was matched with an exceptional team of Cornell Tech students. This project aligns perfectly with The International Social Impact Institute’s (The ISII) mission to empower social impact organizations and leaders to amplify their impact through AI-powered storytelling and partnerships, and its Youth Giving initiative, which aims to democratize access to resources and support for young leaders driving positive change.

The ISII is dedicated to leveraging cutting-edge technologies, including AI, to revolutionize how social impact organizations and leaders access resources, training, and support. By integrating AI-powered storytelling and fostering strategic partnerships, The ISII aims to amplify the impact of these changemakers and drive sustainable, positive change on a global scale.

Youth Giving, a key pillar of The ISII, focuses specifically on empowering young changemakers and the institutions and advocates that support them. Originally launched by Candid in 2016, Youth Giving has been a catalyst for positive change, enabling young people and adults interested in grantmaking to explore stories of giving, learn from experts, and raise their voices for causes they believe in. As of August 2022, The ISII has taken stewardship of Youth Giving, marking a new era of empowerment and collaboration.

The Cornell Tech partnership represents an exciting step forward in this journey, bringing together the innovative spirit of The ISII, the impact-driven focus of Youth Giving, and the cutting-edge expertise of Cornell Tech students. This collaboration exemplifies The ISII’s commitment to harnessing the power of partnerships and emerging technologies to drive transformative change.

 

About the Cornell Tech Product Challenge

The Cornell Tech Product Challenge is an innovative program that connects Cornell Tech students with real-world organizations to tackle complex challenges. Over the course of a semester, multidisciplinary student teams work closely with their partner organization to understand the problem space, conduct research, ideate solutions, and develop and test prototypes.

This immersive experience allows students to apply their skills and knowledge to real-world issues while providing organizations with fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. Past partners have included major companies, startups, and nonprofits across various industries.

 

The Cornell Tech Collaboration

The Cornell Tech collaboration was a meticulously planned endeavor that spanned from August to December 2023. Our challenge was matched with a remarkable team of Cornell Tech students who brought diverse expertise and innovative thinking to the table.

Liz Ngonzi, Founder / CEO of The International Social Impact Institute with the Cornell Tech student team

Meet the Student Team:

  1. Taskeen Aman (LLM) – With a Juris Doctor from the University of New Hampshire and a background in Healthcare Biotechnology, Taskeen brought a unique perspective to the project.
  2. Katie Gdula (Jacobs Technion-Cornell Dual Masters Degree in Connective Media) – A specialist in User Experience and UX Research, Katie previously worked at Wellesley College’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab.
  3. Idham Pribady (MBA) – An experienced IT professional from Indonesia’s largest bank, Idham’s expertise in product management was invaluable.
  4. Amitesh Sinha (Jacobs Technion-Cornell Dual Masters Degree in Connective Media) – With a background in software development at Dell Technologies, Amitesh focused on building products that empower people.
  5. Mark Sturman (Master of Engineering in Computer Science) – Mark is pursuing his Master of Engineering degree in Computer Science at Cornell Tech, where he is learning cutting-edge technologies and skills in the fields of AI, Security, and Blockchain. He has experience as a Junior Software Engineer at Chief.

 

The Project Overview

Source: Maker Day 4 Presentation 2023

The project’s primary objective was to develop a technological solution to support young changemakers in marginalized communities. The students began with a three-week pre-work module that included decomposing the challenge into themes, conducting user interviews, performing industry research, and stakeholder mapping. This foundational work set the stage for a productive and impactful semester.

Eventually, through various experimentation, feedback sessions and iterations, the focus became the creation of a platform, initially dubbed “Bongo Borrow,” designed to provide micro-financing solutions tailored specifically to young changemakers. The idea was to develop a tool that could democratize access to financial resources, thereby enabling young leaders to implement impactful projects addressing local issues.

 

Defining the Challenge

Source: Maker Day 4 Presentation 2023

The project began with an essential question: How might we support young changemakers in accessing the financial resources necessary to drive their initiatives? This led to the creation of detailed personas representing different types of youth leaders, such as Alex, an urban community activist, and Maya, a dedicated environmental advocate. These personas helped frame our “How might we” statements, ensuring that our solutions were relevant and impactful.

 

Project Process

Key Phases:

  1. Pre-Work Module: The team conducted extensive research to understand the needs and challenges faced by young changemakers.
  2. User Interviews and Research: Engaging with stakeholders provided critical insights into the gaps and opportunities within the current support systems.
  3. Development and Testing: The students developed multiple prototypes and conducted experiments to test their hypotheses. One particularly interesting finding was that potential lenders’ preferences for causes did not necessarily lead to an equal distribution of resources, highlighting the importance of carefully designing recommendation systems.

 

Insights and Outcomes

The collaboration resulted in several key findings and potential solutions:

  1. Understanding User Preferences: The team discovered that potential lenders’ preferences varied significantly, and personalized recommendations might not always lead to equal distribution of resources.
  2. Challenges of Marginalized Communities: The students learned about the complex barriers faced by young changemakers, including the need for more nuanced support systems that consider various socio-economic factors.
  3. Impact of Personalization: While personalized recommendations are beneficial, they must be carefully designed to avoid reinforcing existing inequalities.

 

Reflections and Future Directions

Source: Maker Day 4 Presentation 2023

The project highlighted the importance of continuous learning and adaptation. The students gained valuable insights into the social impact sector and the potential of leveraging technology to drive change. Although more experiments and real-world testing are needed, the collaboration has laid a solid foundation for future efforts.

 

Conclusion

Our partnership with Cornell Tech has been an inspiring journey of innovation and collaboration. By working together, we have taken significant steps towards creating a more equitable and supportive environment for young changemakers. This initiative perfectly embodies the spirit of Youth Giving and The ISII’s broader mission to empower youth globally.

We are excited about the potential of these solutions and look forward to further refining and implementing them to amplify the impact of Youth GivingStay tuned for more updates on our initiatives and the incredible work of young leaders around the world.

Picture of About Youth Giving powered by The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII)

About Youth Giving powered by The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII)

Youth Giving, a pillar of The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII). Our dedicated platform is designed to inspire, connect, activate, and transform young changemakers and the institutions that support them.