March 31, 2016 1:35 am Published by

ihub Niagara and 6 Social

Local problems need local solutions, and the youth in our area are primed to make a real difference in our region.  To increase youth involvement, ihub Niagara and 6 Social (a new endeavour from the Royal Conservatory‘s Learning Through the Arts programme) organized an event in Niagara on March 5, targeting groups of young people with talents in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM)

Over a 12-hour day of activities, 6 Social led over 40 students aged 12 – 29 through an ideation and business planning workshop.  The ideas and plans that emerged were stellar, with direct benefit to the Niagara region — and specifically aimed at solving social issues and fostering community involvement from local youth. 

The event took place at ihub Niagara, located within the District School Board of Niagara campus in St. Catharines. This event could only have come to life with the help of numerous volunteers and parties from throughout the region and province, including special speakers from Niagara College and Brock University.  

6 Social’s main instigator and professional idea generator, Hannah Cree, walked seven student teams through a process of freeing their minds to unlock the potential of youth involvement to benefit social causes. Founder Bob Lytle participated in the event as one of the business community judges and showed each team how to use open data to test the market and enhance their business plan. Lytle demonstrated the approach he uses in his own business to determine if the market for a given product is worth pursuing, identify potential competition, and validate data for pricing and distribution.


Learning About Open Data Analytics

Students learned that Open Data is not just for creating maps, improving search apps, or assessing business risks – it can also be used to enhance the power of their business analysis, making their approach and planning cycles more effective. 

Each 6 Social team came up with some incredibly creative ideas, and in many cases a provisional business plan and app prototype.  Team outputs included social platforms where gender identity could be discussed respectfully, and a school district calendaring app where teachers could share term assignments and exam dates to decrease student stress. 

Another team proposed the use of crowdfunding to fund medication via an artificial intelligence platform that could be dispatched to third world countries, enhancing the processing capacity of Doctors without Borders. Others focused on student funding and non-academic scholarships, where interested companies could sponsor students and have the opportunity of hiring them upon graduation. 

Three groups chose to base their projects directly on Open Data, in keeping with the designation of the event as an Open Data Day by the Open Knowledge Foundation. One team proposed a focus on environmental issues, using public Big Data sources to find the most pressing health concerns within a given community. They would then develop cheeky online videos to draw in youth involvement. 

This use of Open Data Analytics would trade an emotional approach for a scientific approach in environmental planning. Another team focused on connecting youth with their community by gathering Open Data about non-profit organizations and volunteer opportunities. 

Their mobile application could subsequently be used to easily find organizations within a community and get in touch with individuals similarly interested in getting involved with a local youth-oriented project. 

Students Get Into Crowd Funding

One particularly adventurous team also focused on community involvement, albeit from a very different angle. They aimed at selecting charities that were most likely to succeed within a given community using Open Data on demographic and financial trends. Armed with these top charities, they would then drive youth to fund a limited-time charitable campaign with micro-donations. 

Here’s the twist: the youth would be participating in a peer-pressure campaign, targeting celebrities to match the donations. As the amounts increased from the celebrities, more more micro-donations would be driven from the crowd. This virtuous circle of contributions would spiral higher and higher, bringing accelerated benefit to these curated charities

The full day ended with awards for the teams in a variety of categories, and in some cases commitments from local institutions to continue working with individual groups to extend their ideas and plans. 

The team left with an important observation: these students, and their idea-generating capability, have real potential to impact not only the world around them, but their own careers with the effective use of Open Data and Data Management skills demonstrated throughout the day. 

A great example of how the Public Good can bring Commercial Good.

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This post was written by Valérie Plante-Brisebois

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