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Using Technology to Create Youth Social Entrepreneurs and Change Agents

* Written by Aimee Feaver

Youth empowerment is at the crux of GENYOUth Foundation’s mission, specifically around health and wellness. By bringing together education, government and business, they are uplifting the student voice, and empowering America’s youth to achieve a healthier future.

In 2014, under the North America CSR initiative, SAP fostered a partnership with the organization to lend a technology voice to youth empowerment, and cultivate social entrepreneurship.

The potential of youth to create lasting, impactful change was brought into high relief last week when two key SAP executives convened with peers and influencers, along with GENYOUth leadership and outstanding students, for a meaningful dialogue.

On the heels of their report that documents GENYOUth’s commitment and learnings on the potential within youth-led change, Alexis Glick, the Foundation’s CEO, facilitated an estimated 25-person assembly of academic and government researchers on youth empowerment, student health and fitness, as well as corporate executives from a variety of industries, including SAP North America president, Jen Morgan, and Concur CEO, Steve Singh.

Held on Wednesday, May 13 in Silicon Valley, the objective of the executive roundtable was to have an honest and open discussion – from a variety of perspectives – about the role each can play in empowering youth.  From Glick’s perspective, “By elevating youth voice, we can, and will, embolden a generation of social entrepreneurs and change agents.”

While the roundtable discussions focused on how private and public sectors can impact pressing issues, such as the lack of nutritious food available to high-need students and childhood obesity, it was in the technology-orientated breakout session that the power of possibility reached grassroots levels. It included SAP’s corporate peers and customers like Adobe, NTT Data, and MyFitnessPal (recently acquired by Under Armour, also in attendance).

Kate Morgan, head of SAP North America’s CSR program, mentioned there was a central theme guiding the discussion: Scalability. “When creating social change, face-to-face interactions are powerful, but technology takes any cause to a whole other level. How can we apply that to youth empowerment?”

Good ideas can spread like wildfire with a little tech support. She went on to describe the two main session ideas.

  • Using technology to scale social change. Social media, gamification – how can we use technology to promote healthy habits, and civic engagement with youth?  How can we empower these students to take the tech they know how to use inherently, and apply it to a greater good?
  • Using big data. Companies around the world are harnessing big data to impact business. Youth around the world are creating vast amounts of it (we’re looking at you, Facebook). How can technology gather, unpack, and analyze the Everest-like collections of posts, likes, tweets et al to affect social change and support youth empowerment?


Alexis Glick (far left) and Jen Morgan are joined by two AdCap finalists at the recent GENYOUth executive roundtable.

For SAP, that meant sharing insights on AdCap, the signature program of the SAP/GENYOUth relationship. Central to the three-year, three million dollar partnership (now in its second year), the recently launched social entrepreneurship platform helps students across the country, thirteen and over, bring to life their ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools and communities.

Using the site’s project planner, a wealth of supporting information (for example, creating and managing a budget, or delivering a pitch), and leveraging access to mentors – including SAP employees – students turn their vision into an actual plan for potential investors. Every project completed within AdCap finds its way to a rotating panel of judges – also SAP employees – who can award micro grants to help get winning ideas off the ground.

Prior to SAP’s involvement, the AdCap application program was very one-dimensional, Kate explained, and offered little to no support to get ideas off the ground; students simply submitted an essay for judging. The newly launched platform transformed that process. “We took the SAP passion for Design Thinking, and hunger for innovation that’s in our DNA, and applied it to a platform that allows technology to fuel youth and social entrepreneurship.”

Of the AdCap partnership with SAP, Glick commented, “it’s taken us to places we had never imagined.”

To learn more about the SAP/GENYOUth partnership, visit the CSR North America Jam group, or watch this video from a 2014 pre-Superbowl edition of CNN’s New Day, featuring Jonathan Becher and Alexis Glick.)

With Month of Service on the horizon, be on the lookout for a number of exciting AdCap-based projects to participate in.

Tell it like it is: How do you think technology can be used to nurture social entrepreneurship, or create youth change agents?

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