Saturday, October 22nd 2011 – A Workshop on Social Ventures

First I want to introduce myself: I’m Ramzi Babouder-Matta, and I’m a  coordinator for the Community Walking Tours at the ACDC.  I’m an undergrad at Tufts in my sophomore year, where I’m a part of the “Tisch Scholars Program”, a program for students who want to get involved in one of their host communities. That’s what brings me to Chinatown at the ACDC.

I thought I might dust off this blog by sharing an experience I had last Saturday with three A-Voycers – Sandy, Helen, and Kenny- and ACDC’s Director of Programs, Vivien Wu.

The five of us went to a conference/workshop in Boston call “Dream it Do it”, hosted by the United Way Youth Venture, which is an organization that supports youth leaders in their communities. The purpose of the workshop was to have Boston’s youth groups learn about an opportunity to make a difference in their communities, by creating something called a social venture.

With youth from all over the Boston area in attendance, the workshop started with some icebreakers, discussions, and presentations on what exactly it means to make a “social venture”.   Youth were inspired by videos – including a speech by Charlie Chaplin, a video about young kids who bond and make a difference through break-dancing, and a short documentary about an initiative to get locally grown produce into an impoverished inner-city  neighborhood. We learned that a social venture is any kind of project, business idea or initiative that aims to bring a social benefit to a community. And more importantly, we learned that youth have the power and ingenuity to do come up with pretty amazing ideas  and do pretty amazing things to better their communities and the world.

Then we learned about the $1,000 grants that United Way wants to give to youth to realize those kinds of ideas! To start thinking about ideas, we did some brainstorming activities – Sandy, Helen, Kenny, Vivien and I tried to think of things A-Voyce youth might be able to do as a “social venture” for the Chinatown community. Sandy and Kenny, drawing on their passion for the radio show and for teenage issues, thought up re-envisioning the radio show, and creating an online counterpart for it to make it more accessible to people. On the whole, we heard many different ideas from the groups of youth that were there. One was creating a very low cost bike repair service in neighborhoods around Boston, because of how expensive it is to get a bike repaired. Another was to create a kind of haven, or house for people who find themselves in a difficult place in life, and need a place to stay, be healthy, and become empowered to turn their lives around.

So armed with ideas like these, we filled our stomachs with pizza, and the workshop moved on to skill-building sessions. A-Voyce youth learned about strategies for the timeline of a social venture. Meanwhile, I went to a meeting with other adult supervisors (made me feel much older than I am), and to meet and learn about United Way and the other youth groups involved, as well as our role in in the process of guiding Youth as they realize their ventures. With those things done, the conference pretty much ended.

It was a really interesting experience for me to meet A-Voyce youth for the first time and attend a conference like that with them. I was really impressed with how passionate they are, and driven to take initiative and be leaders for social change.  Needless to say,  I’m excited to see how this United Way $ 1000 grant opportunity  goes forward, and what brilliant venture will come out of it!



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