Saturday, December 18, 2010

Social Entrepreneurship Part II Working Minds for Youth: Social Enterprise for Suicide Prevention

The other night our high school social entrepreneurs were amazing. After serving them pizza, we gave them a 20-minute challenge: to work together to develop a t-shirt or mural idea that would help prevent suicide in their community. We mixed students from different schools into small groups, gave them pens and paper and let them go.


Social enterprise students brainstorming ideas for suicide prevention
Now these students aren’t new to the ideas of suicide prevention or social enterprise. They have been working with the Carson J Spencer Foundation and Junior Achievement since September to gain mastery in both areas and have been thinking about how the two missions might best work together. Every week for at least an hour they receive coaching on business skills like marketing, finances, and product development and on suicide prevention skills like how to be a suicide prevention gatekeeper, how to conduct a needs analysis and how to promote safe messages to increase awareness. They are a passionate, dedicated crew.

The challenge this week was just a warm up, and you can see some of their excitement and creative ideas by viewing this 3-minute video montage.



In February each school participating in this project will have developed a viable business plan for a social enterprise for suicide prevention. In other words, they will have dreamt up a sustainable product or service that will raise money and create a positive change for this life-saving cause. They will then pitch their ideas before the Carson J Spencer Foundation’s Board of Directors, competing for seed money to launch their business. Winners will go on to use the money to implement their plans during the spring semester. At the end of this second semester another round of competition will take place – this time the winners will be rated on both the financial profit and the social profit earned through their work. They will be rated on: innovation, effectiveness, sustainability, and revenue.

Green Mountain High School students cheering after winning business plan competition

I love this project because it just works on so many levels. By partnering with Junior Achievement, we are engaging a new audience for suicide prevention: our future business leaders. Students are passionate about suicide prevention because even at their young ages, many of them have already been touched in some way – either their own mental health crisis, or someone they love. The project is also just plain cool. Social enterprise is a great new trend – a creative blend of the efficiency of the business sector with a heartfelt mission of the non-profit sector. Students are empowered to use their creativity and be leaders in their community. Win, win, win.

Check back in February to see how they did…

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