12 year old Elliot Mast: A Home Run for Children’s Hospitals

ideate. innovate. inspire. implement. invest.

I am humbled and excited to join some of the most creative and innovative minds in the field of “doing good” as a speaker at the 2011 !deation Conference.  This year’s theme is “Love Human. Invest Good,” with conversations centered around how both the non-profit and for-profit sectors can work together for better human care.

A true “un-conference” in its’ design and layout, Charles Lee — CEO and Founder of Ideation Consultancy– is committed to cultivating the best conversations in social innovation.  Look at the line-up of speakers and you’ll see a long list of people who have made radical impact on the world.  But the gem here is that the speakers are purposed to spark conversation, while the participants are meant to carry the dialogue. 

Through this approach, the conference enables attendees to consider the implementation ideas of our peers against or own organizational problem-solving practices. 

Teens Tackle Abuse and Dating Violence


Caring Cards – “Holiday Mail For Heroes”

For  many Americans, holidays are a time for family, joy and tradition, but for the tens of thousands of soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, it means being away from the ones they love.

Right now, the American Red Cross is wrapping up it’s “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program, which has provided Americans with the opportunity to personalize cards with messages of gratitude, thanks and encouragement in support of members of the U.S. military.  A single card or letter from “home” lets the soldier know we support them and appreciate all they do to protect our freedoms and liberties.  Troops who have been away from their families say getting mail during the holidays, even from people they’ve never met, makes a world of a difference.

Each year, the program goal of Holiday Mail for Heroes is to provide a million cards.  So far, three million holiday cards have been personalized.

Recently, KooDooZ partnered with Hartnell Fashion and the American Red Cross of Santa Monica to collaborate on making “Caring Cards”, where they challenged kids to create cards for veterans, in honor of September 11th. This workshop not only connected kids to an opportunity they might never have experienced, but it utilized their talents and creativity to honor the armed forces.  Bringing awareness to the cause, they learned that their voice is powerful and appreciated by the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our country.  By engaging our young people in service work that respects good citizenship and patriotism, it encourages them to be engaged in  issues affecting their community and country.

Over 150 cards were hand-made during the workshop with notes like, “Thank you for keeping us safe!” and “You’re a true American hero.”  Some of cards were personally delivered by KooDooZ kids to aging heroes at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital.  More KooDooZ kids from across the nation answered our call to create cards and pledged to mail them directly to soldiers overseas.

Since its inception, three years ago, “Holiday Mail for Heroes” has sent three million cards to those serving our nation.  We encourage you to participate in this special project for our American service members, their families, and veterans all over the world.

Cards must be sent by December 10th, 2010 to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

The U.S. Department of Defense gives this advice to those sending packages to troops:

  • Citizens who want to send care packages, cards and letters to deployed service-members should identify troops through family and friends. Individuals may also partner with some of the America Supports You home-front groups listed at http://www.ourmilitary.mil/help.shtml. They have direct contact with many of the service-members and units and can tell you about desired items and shipping frequency.
  • Safety and security reasons no longer allow packages to be addressed to “Any Soldier” or to an entire base in general.
  • When thinking of support for our service-members, do not forget their families or local veterans. You can show support by helping military families in your community and by remembering the hospitalized veterans in local Veterans Affairs medical centers.

About KooDooZ:
KooDooZ is a cause-based social networking site for kids who want to make money while making a difference.  The site offers a variety of community & humanitarian “challenges,” authored specifically to help kids between the ages of 9-15 learn how to become social entrepreneurs and agents of change.  Kids get their friends and family to “invest” in the challenges they do, and are rewarded these investment dollars with each challenge completion.  With easy-to-follow mile-stones and methodologies, the time dedicated to each challenge is tracked and awarded appropriate service credits.

To learn more about how to apply your passion to a cause, visit www.koodooz.com

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

Cultivating Kidpreneurs

Home sick from school, 10-year old Tyler Page was watching an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” featuring a story on child trafficking in Ghana with his mom, Laura.

It was February, 2007 — the date significant only because it ignited Tyler’s beginning as a youthpreneur.

Tyler was aghast to learn that children, his age and younger, were being sold by their own parents into slavery. For as little as $20-dollars a month, fishermen could “buy” these children and force them to work twelve hour days with just one meal and little or no water.

Tyler wanted to “do” what he could to save at least one child from becoming a slave for an entire year. He told his mom his goal was to raise $240-dollars (one child $20/month X 12 months = $240/year).

To do this, he recruited friends and opened a roadside business — a hand car-washing service which they intended to run until their goal was met. In just one weekend, Tyler raised more than $1,000. It was to be his first taste of success as a social entrepreneur.

Inspired by the ability to save more than one Ghanaian child’s life, Tyler and his team of friends, family and community members tried out a variety of business models. From rummage sales to hair-cuts, Tyler Page found new ways to incorporate the community into his mission of saving children halfway around the world. In just six months, $20,000 were raised, and a local news station picked up his story.

Cultivating Entrepreneurial Creativity

“Entrepreneurship should become the fourth “R” right alongside reading, writing and arithmetic.”  I agree with Richard Florida.  Entrepreneurial creativity has always shaped the landscape of opportunity and wealth — not just for the innovators, but for the countries in which they live. 

Consider the free-thinking of Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.  Each brought economic and infrastructure greatness to these United States.  Although this last decade has given birth to Facebook, Google’s search algorithm and Apple’s iPhone, American creativity and innovation are reportedly on the decline.  Our slip to 4th place in the 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report and our fall to 3rd place in a study on global entrepreneurship issued by the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, punctuate this fact. 

The loss of these global footholds means new technologies and occupations will exist outside our borders, potentially further contributing to our economic duress. 

Creative Thinking & Our Children

Entrepreneurial creativity is defined by an individual’s ability to convert creative ideas into value-producing profitable business activities.  While there’s no question that the 20th century was largely pioneered by enterprising Americans, future generations can not rest on the laurels of yesteryear and expect an easy road ahead.       

Once an international leader in high school graduation rates, the U.S. is now ranked 18th out of 25 industrialized countries.  While other nations are heralded for teaching their kids how to create jobs, U.S. public schools are too often criticized of only preparing today’s youth for jobs.  We need to re-think our cultural support of entrepreneurship, if we hope to capitalize on the passion and energy this next generation has to offer. 

Just three years ago, a Harris Interactive survey revealed that 4 in 10 young people (ages 8-to-21) would like to start their own businesses someday, especially if that means they can use their skills and abilities to build for the future.  Although aspirations are high, action, execution and support for budding entrepreneurs in that age-group is embarrassingly low.

Educational Psychologist, Kyung Hee Kim (who was interviewed for a Newsweek article, entitled: The Creativity Crisis), believes that our current student body will be less prepared to deal with the future challenges that await them, if innovation and free thinking aren’t fostered and encouraged in schools.

“Future leaders will not be ready to accept risks, even though the population may expect the rewards that the previous generations enjoyed as their legacy.”

According to Dr. Kim, creativity in America is punished and discouraged by parents and teachers who perceive creative behavior as inconvenient and difficult to manage. (And I shouldn’t even open up this can of worms, but research also shows that many children diagnosed with ADHD are creative, and many creative children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD.)  As Dr. Kim points out, the very qualities that facilitate individual’s creative accomplishments can be the same ones that may cause them to struggle in what we have defined as “normal” and “acceptable” behavior in school.

Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms” speech poignantly endorses this assertion by examining the problems we have created with standardized curriculum, rote memorization and nationalized testing: