Open Seat Ventures: Investing In Now

A Peacemaking Project by Sohil S.

What is the injustice we are solving?

For too long, young people have been unable to bring their social change ideas into fruition because of lack of tangible resources, mentorship, and financial capital. OSV aims to tackle this issue by investing in high social impact leaders, particularly in emerging economies, working across clean tech, economic development, and gender equality (among other categories) the financial capital, guided mentorship, and tangible resources to help launch, scale, and accelerate their ventures. By doing this, the social entrepreneurs can focus on what matters the most: the work. Generally speaking, financial resources and programmatic opportunities for ventures and projects have been restricted to those above the age of 30 - but we intend to change this relationship by investing in the now.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of Lack of youth visibility in global development
we will address the issues of lack of resources, mentorship, and capital
by investing in young social entrepreneurs to innovate and launch sustainable organizations and enterprises working towards the SDG's.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Successfully invest, mentor, and provide resources to at least 5-8 social entrepreneurs under 30 this year.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Understanding the problems that young people face in their communities locally and globally and their ideas to go about mitigating such issues.

How will you show courage?

By investing in these young people the resources to bring their bold, daring ideas to fruition.

How will you collaborate with others?

By partnering with leading organizations that can help scale and provide collateral support to the young people we are empowering.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

When we've launched at least our first social impact project in collaborating with a young social entrepreneur and the related number and type of impact their organization or social enterprise has reached.

Key Steps

  • Launch website to promote and source young social innovators
  • Begin fundraising plan and economic sourcing model to invest by
  • Invest in one young social entrepreneur as a beta test run

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

I think it's important to recognize that our project is long-term focused, as we are seeking to create, innovate, and energize an entire impact organization rather than a single-sourced project. With that said, however, I do believe that our initial workings with the support of this grant has allowed for us to deepen our understanding of the injustices we are seeking to rectify rather than focus on logistical aspects of implementing our organization. Perhaps most explicitly, as we are a youth run and led non-profit seeking to invest in young social entrepreneurs the capital, resources, and assets needed to help launch and scale their own social enterprises, companies, and ventures, just being apart of the Peace First network has opened us to the varied sectors that young people are currently innovating in. We were able to explore areas that young people want to launch social enterprises and companies in that do-good and the challenges they face, and perhaps most importantly, we learned the areas in which we can strengthen and mobilize our organizational capacity to reach those young people with the world's most innovative solutions to aforementioned problems.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

Now that all of our infrastructure is set in place, and having learned and engaged more deeply with the community of people we are seeking to work with, I believe that our community will change in the tangible method by way of direct investment and opportunity put into our community. For too long, young people have come up with some of the world's most pressing solutions to global challenges; yet, young people also face the largest barriers to implementing such solutions due to lack of access to capital, resources, and mentorship that is generally limited to "professionals." Our community is already being changed, and will be even more changed come August, as we directly invest in young people the tools and capital they need to transcend their innovative social impact companies and enterprises beyond ideation.

How many people were impacted by your project?

10000

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

It's important to note, as in our original grant application, the money used was to help position our organization officially through the development of a website and marketing collateral. We are so profoundly honored to say that our website is currently undergoing UX design and implementation and is gearing up for its August launch (along with the public announcement of our organization). Our website is going to be a critical tool in sourcing our potential investment opportunities as well as providing access to resources to help scale our network of social entrepreneurs and change-makers; our site serves as our gateway into the vast network and potential for opportunity. Specifically, we will measure outcomes in three variances over 1, 3, and 5 year intervals. First, we will measure the number of entrepreneurs we are able to fund (each entrepreneur's initial funding is dependent on their RFP). Ideally, we will invest in 3 social entrepreneurs within 1 year, 10-12 within 3 years, and 30 within 5 years. We will also be measuring the different fields we are able to invest in, keeping keen consideration for economic empowerment, women's and gender equality, and healthcare/climate tech as priority engagements. Second, we expect 10,000 lives to be positively impacted through the first year of investments, 30,000 within 3 years, and 100,000 within 5 years as measured through annual company reports. Lastly, we will measure the professional development schema of the entrepreneur prior to the initial investment and two years after as well as the number of exit opportunities we are able to successfully proceed with in helping to fund the next crop of ventures. We did our estimations based on industry analysis as well as landscaping the current pool of social enterprises working in international development sectors. Our number of investments we will make is made off the assumption of making mid-tier investments that are too small for general grant-making opportunities but too large for traditional VC firms. The number of people directly impacted off of each company or social enterprise is made off the assumption that each company will be working within its proximal location of the community being impacted. Likewise, we expect our website with free resources on change-making to reach thousands of people post launch.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

My teammates and I met by way of another organization where we were on the executive leadership team of a UN affiliated international development council. However, while serving in that role, we quickly recognized that young people, more than anything, need access to tools in order to create systems of change. We quickly realized that while talent is universal, opportunity is not. For this reason, we set out to understand more deeply via conversations, engagements, and ethnographic research (along with a competitor analysis) of how we can more directly work with young people, like ourselves, and lead powerful systems of change. In our conversations, we learned that young people most often complained about having to raise money for their initiatives, projects, and companies, and as a result, were not able to spend as much time on implementing on their actual project/company. It is through our conversations and engagements with young people, like yourselves, we were able to develop our financial model, positioning strategy, and overall organizational strategy.

What did your team learn?

On a more technical aspect, we learned about branding, strategic positioning, and differentiators to help identify our market niche in terms of communicating who we are, what we do, and why we exist. But, on a more personal level - and one I think is more critical, - we learned about resilience, teamwork skills when your team is continentally spread, and understood our deeper purpose for wanting to do this work in the first place.

What challenges did your team overcome?

Navigating non-profit incorporation, branding strategy, and working across different time zones (a lot harder than it sounds!).

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

In terms of the grant money, we were happy to partner and hire UX and branding consultants to help us conceive of our positioning and logo strategy. However, in a more overarching organizational structure, as aforementioned, we have been in deep conversation with other young people to identify the needs of what we can offer and how we can differentiate ourselves with competitors like Acumen. Come August, we also plan to tap into this network once again to help us source our investments and create a cohesive network of young social entrepreneurs. These young people are actively helping us understand what we need as a collective pool to scale our social impact.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Do it. Recognize that if you have the privilege to even start a peacemaking project you have privilege; use it because someone else may not have the opportunity to do it. Change the world not for you, but for them. One thing my team has learned is that talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Comments:

Amy T.
26 June 2018 12:58

Hi Sohil,

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for all the amazing work you’ve done and for taking the time to share about it with us!

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

Strengths:
Wow--I’m impressed! Launching your own non-profit that supports young social entrepreneurs online is quite a feat, considering how far it has come and how far it can go as you continue to improve it. You’ve definitely displayed a great amount of learning and growth throughout this whole process which is amazing! Hearing how you sought to understand the injustice more deeply through conversations, engagements, and ethnographic research shows your commitment in making a site that truly supports motivated innovators.

I’m happy to see that you highlight teamwork as a big contributor to your progress. Making sure everyone was included in the progress hopefully made your work more enjoyable, but most of all redefined your purpose for starting this all in the first place. I can see that it was a long journey, but I’m happy to hear that you got to partner and hire UX and branding consultants to help out on the site! Thank you so much for this impressive work!

Things to Consider:
I’m curious about how you implemented an online platform that not only helps connect people financially to funds, but also supports them in understanding the issues they’re addressing. Are their online conversations happening or resources to help them through their process? I would love to hear more about the choosing process of you decide which young entrepreneur you are supporting next!

I’m also wondering about how you got others in your community, like the older generation, to understand why the “lack of youth visibility in global development” is an injustice and a potential downfall in creating a more positive world. Were you able to get adults invested in this project as well and how did you convince them that it was an injustice? I’m happy to talk more with you about the amazing future of your site if you are still interested!

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us updated as you continue your work to create positive change!

Best,
Amy

Adrian B.
2 February 2018 14:32

Hi Sohil!

Wow, this project is awesome! I'm glad you're thinking about how to get resources to young social entrepreneurs. You're in good company. :) Let us know how we can best support you, and what you're hoping for from Peace First!

Best,
Adrian

Fish S.
8 February 2018 11:27

Hi Sohil! I'm a member of the Peace First team. Thanks for sharing this awesome project! I saw your plan and insight and wanted to offer some feedback.

There are a lot of things I really love about the work you're doing. Most importantly, I think you've hit on an important root cause of the issue you identify -- lack of access to supports -- and have found a clear but powerful solution to it. I think your plan is bold, but thoughtful about taking achievable first steps. In particular I love that this isn't just about helping connect people to capital, but helping people truly understand the issues in their community. Sounds like you've got some good metrics for measuring your success both in the short and long term.

One thing I think you could elaborate more on is the injustice of "lack of youth visibility in global development." I agree that's an injustice, but I'm not sure other folks will understand: What harm is being done, and to whom? How is it disproportionately affecting some people or groups? Why is it unfair?

I'm also wondering -- what does your support process for young social entrepreneurs look like? Do you have a plan, or are you still working on it? We're happy to share our expertise :)

Thanks for the awesome work you're doing -- and let us know how we can help!

Amani A.
14 February 2018 12:22

Hi Sohil,

This is Amani; a Peace First team and I will be your mentor. I am really Inspired by the idea of your project and how far do you want to go to support social entrepreneurs under 30. Fish's feedback is very thoughtful and I would encourage you to take that into consideration. I just sent you email and I look forward to hearing from you :)

Kelsey T.
16 February 2018 14:36

Hi Sohil! Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:
This is a great project with a solid action plan! It is great that you are trying to understand the problems that young people face as you continue to develop your plan to provide resources for young social entrepreneurs -- I think continuing to collaborate closely with your stakeholders and adapting as you go will be key. You've done a great job of recognizing some of the root causes of this lack of youth visibility and coming up with a way to address that lack of resourcing. I also love that you are being intentional about collaborating with other organizations! This is such an important element and will really allow you to broaden your impact.

Things to Consider:
You seem to have a good plan in place for measuring indicators of success. One thing that will be important is to make sure you are continually doing this -- not only because it is important to adapt as we implement a program, but also because of the timeline of the Peace First Challenge. As part of the Challenge, you'll be asked to submit your Reflection, that talks about the impact of your work, by May 31st. By that point, you should have spent the mini-grant and carried out the aspects of your project that relate to this particular grant -- I just want to flag this since your overall goals seem to be for the full year! It would be great for you to set some goal for the next 3 months that you can measure at that point -- both for your Peace First reflection and to use that as a milestone to take a moment to reflect as you head into the rest of the year!

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!

Akila S.
8 June 2018 10:43

Hi Sohil! We're checking in because you haven't submitted your reflection yet. Reflections were due on May 31 as a part of your mini-grant award. Please submit your reflection as soon as you can. We're looking forward to hearing about how your project went!

Here is the link to your reflection: https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/open-seat-ventures-investing-now/dashboard/reflection

Best,
Akila