Connecting Colorado’s Jewish Teens

Using Creative Thinking to Change the World, by Sophie G.



Innovators change our world. They confront something that is not working and fix it. The process of innovation has been used throughout history and all over the world, in varying degrees and with different purposes. My first journey into innovation involved creating the Grav-WASH-ity. The development of this idea began while I was sitting in my home, simply thinking about everyday luxuries that I take for granted. Upon discovering that the ability to clean my clothes fits this description, I decided to innovate. Building upon a concept with which I was already familiar, a washing machine, I created something that no one had before.

The Grav-WASH-ity is a gravity-powered washing machine designed for use in developing countries where people lack access to electricity. The design is safe, durable, and reliable, and is made from accessible materials in order to make it both economically and environmentally viable. The Grav-WASH-ity is also scalable, meaning that many machines can be powered by one source of gravity. Therefore, it can be used by a whole community, rather than individual people or families. This will promote the creation of a business enterprise in the community to encouraging economic involvement from the community members.

Last summer, I received a U.S patent for the Grav-WASH-ity from the U.S.Patent and Trademark Office. This patent gives me exclusive rights over the idea I created. Now, I am working to improve the prototype of the machine in order to make it more efficient. Next, I plan to create a global network of people interested in using the machine in communities all over the world. This will allow me to pilot the Grav-WASH-ity internationally and consequently achieve my business-enterprise goal.

In the past year, I worked to build an enterprise to support my invention by participating in PresenTense Colorado. A Jewish fellowship for young entrepreneurs, PresenTense supports the idea that, “The power of innovation knows no age limits.” It is a 6-month program that teaches empathy, innovation, and social change, all while focusing on a set of Jewish values. Members learn how to conduct empathy interviews, research target markets, innovate for social change, and explore their Jewish identities. At the end of the 6 month period, Fellows apply for up to $1,000 to support their projects. I applied for and received this money, and I plan to use it to for global outreach and prototype improvement of the Grav-WASH-ity.

The PresenTense Fellowship concluded in May with the Fellow Showcase. During the showcase, community members are invited to see what the Fellows have been working on. We each got the opportunity to speak to the crowd for one minute about our project, and then explained our booths to people in more detail. Nearly 200 people came to the Showcase this year, and each left inspired by the projects they saw.

Not only is innovation possible, it’s a core concept as humanity grapples with challenges, big and small. With the desire to step out of line, to say “hey, that’s not working,” and to question the world around you, the ability to improve upon it becomes inherently accessible. This process spans time, location, and age. It can be accomplished by anyone with a desire to advocate and work for change.

Do you have a great idea for a social innovation project? Learn more about PresenTense here.

The Dynamism of Social Entrepreneurship, by Avi K

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From the first day of the PresenTense Colorado Fellowship, I found myself with a team of fifteen other motivated and passionate teens, all united under the mutual mission of community enhancement. At orientation, after initial introductions and  icebreakers, the cohort proceeded to discuss the experiences and desires that gave impetus to the group’s philanthropic aspirations. As we delved into everyone’s  inspirations and stories, I was consistently impressed by the Fellows’ displays of altruism and creativity, enhanced by a pervading sense of responsibility to improve the world. Although not everyone knew exactly what topic they wanted to address at the beginning of the fellowship, from the onset of the process, the excitement to learn and strive for humanitarianism was  palpable.

PresenTense Colorado is a social entrepreneurship project design fellowship for Jewish teens, based on the accredited method of “Design Thinking”: a systematic approach towards addressing and solving a pertinent social issue in an innovative, sustainable and impactful manner. The nascent stages of the process were rooted in introspective reflection, discerning the activities and issues that personally impact us. For my personal endeavor, I wanted to integrate several prominent themes and passions in my life in order to assist underprivileged communities. Throughout my life, I have cherished a strong family foundation and enriching experiences that refined my character, none more memorable or galvanizing than learning to prepare homemade meals and reading together with my parents. Every child deserves to reap the benefits of these essential, edifying opportunities, however, many families and communities lack the education, incentives, monetary resources or means to promote literacy practice or to prepare nutritious foods. Accordingly, I decided to pursue a solution to these integrated quandaries.

The ensuing step in the Design Thinking progression, appropriately titled the “empathy” stage, was characterized by community immersion and customer segmentation. Fellows were responsible for interviewing several professionals on their topic, representatives of the possible target population, or knowledgeable peers in order to garner information about their personal subject matter. From these eye-opening experiences, I discovered the most pressing needs of the low-income communities that I visited, and additionally, I uncovered the gaps in interventional literacy and nutrition education programs serving my target population. All of the information and resources inspired the fundamental concept and philosophy for implementation of my project, “Cooking Up Literacy.”

After researching a number of approaches towards ameliorating our selected issues, we were charged to apply the  Design Thinking process. Throughout the Fellowship, during exclusive seminars and instructive meetings, we received specialized training from local entrepreneurial and philanthropic professionals and engaged in various activities that reinforced the ideas accentuated by Design Thinking. One of the most memorable activities was a “prototyping” simulation, in which fellows had the opportunity to prepare a scaled model of their project and practice promoting the idea to outside “investors.” PresenTense assisted in the maturation of every fellow’s enterprise, first by encouraging the formulation of a “Minimal Viable Product,” or the baseline endeavor to accomplish our highlighted target. From this foundational goal, the program delineated the proper entrepreneurial progression, which covered modeling, prototyping, budgeting, fundraising, “friendraising” (or rallying volunteers), and finally, pitching.

With the support and guidance from PresenTense, I created and initiated an enterprise — “Cooking Up Literacy” — based in social entrepreneurship. The initiative, rooted in the value of establishing a vibrant community dynamic, is an education tool for at-risk youth and families to learn about nutritious eating habits and to incentivize reading practice in the home. There are two main components to the endeavor: the first is a direct educational component, in which children and families prepare healthy food and read a nutrition-focused book in a controlled environment with an existing literacy or dietetics organization. Afterwards, the participants are supplied the physical resources to reinforce and replicate what they learned, provided in the form of a package complete with a recipe and food to cook and a nutrition book to read together at home. I successfully tested the project through a local organization, partnering with their children’s cooking class for low-income families, and we continue to maintain an enduring relationship. With funding from PresenTense and other sources, I plan on pursing my endeavor through the summer with the overarching objective of organizing a long-term implementation plan for the project. The PresenTense Fellowship has been an incredibly influential and inspiring aspect of my life, and I will never forget the special relationships, ventures and lessons that encapsulated the experience.

 Interested in learning more about PresenTense Colorado? Join us at our Fellow Showcase on May 21st from 4 pm – 7 pm. Fellows will be sharing their projects with the community at this interactive event. We hope to see you there!

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