Headstream, powered by SecondMuse is sourcing innovative solutions that explore the critical engagement between teens and technology.
Young people today grow up with technology deeply intertwined in every moment of their lives. Constant connectivity has added additional complexity and pressure to the already complicated job of growing up. But young people know how to get the most out of social technologies. They want to connect meaningfully, to create, to mobilize, to learn, to find support, to build community, to escape, and to play. Our challenge is to ensure that all teens are accessing and enjoying these positive, engaging, and creative digital places.
The Headstream Accelerator is uniting a community to build social technologies that actively support teens’ pressing needs for wellbeing and their desires to create, learn, and engage, rather than passively consume.
At Headstream, we acknowledge the systemic, institutional, and psychological barriers that exist for women and people of color in the technology sector, and we are taking a stand to bring underrepresented voices to the forefront. Through the Headstream Accelerator, we will actively support entrepreneurs who haven’t traditionally had access to innovation accelerators or capital. We encourage all applicants to apply, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, religion, physical or mental ability, or identity.
Headstream is particularly motivated to support solutions that positively impact teens of color, teenage girls, LBGTQ+ teens. By building with these underserved communities front of mind, we believe that digital solutions will be more accessible and impactful for all communities.
Who Can Participate
Innovators with market-based approaches to building positive, ethical, and healthy social technologies for teens in the US along two tracks:
Reshaping Digital Places and Experiences
Building Wellbeing into the Digital World
Selected innovators will be invited to participate in a six-month accelerator that includes two major events centered around scaling their solution, access to a global network of 500+ mentors, and award capital for scaling their solution.
Read the full challenge statement below and apply to be a part of the Headstream Accelerator.
Applications will be accepted until January 10th.
A finalist event will be held for the top 15 applicants on February 27-28th.
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?
Growing up is tricky. In the last decade, technology has added an additional layer of complexity that teens, caring adults, and the creators of social technologies haven’t quite mastered.
Over the last year, Headstream has engaged teens, technologists, and other experts to understand the relationships that young people have with social technologies and how that has changed the process of growing up. We are starting to understand the gaps that exist online to support teen wellbeing, as well as how young people are using technology when they are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. Teens are utilizing and relying on technology to build relationships, find support, and to develop social and emotional skills. The majority of social technologies weren’t designed with these complex and sensitive objectives in mind.
Case in point -- current digital spaces are not always conducive to developing interpersonal relationship skills for teens.
+ Read More
Interpersonal interactions are fundamental for young people to learn about values, emotions, and how to form and maintain healthy relationships. A key part of growing up is the ability to experiment and take risks. Most digital places aren’t safe and conducive environments for teens to take risks, learn from them, and find timely support. Social cues and feedback are harder to pick up or are easily misinterpreted online. Digital places also have a certain publicness and permanence that amplify the negative impact of these learning processes, be it a small embarrassing moment or a traumatic breakup. For many teens, it has been incredibly challenging to form an identity and learn about values and emotions in digital places that were not designed to support these aspects of growing up.
This is not every teen's experience, and young people across the country have cracked the code and are flourishing because of social technologies. They are connecting and collaborating with communities they may never have imagined existed, bridging socioeconomic and racial divides. Their voices, ideas, and creativity now have the potential to reach every corner of the globe. They can find and pursue their diverse and unique passions. And of course, they can play and find joy. What would growing up be without that? All of these incredibly rich and positive digital experiences point to the real social value that technology can create.
The goal of the Headstream Accelerator is to identify and support these positive digital places and experiences so that social technologies become powerful tools that serve young people. We believe that it will take more intentionality in the way we design social technologies. We will have to work to scale what is working, fill the gaps with what might be missing as we transition our time from off- to online, and create new digital places and experiences for the most vulnerable and underserved communities of teens.
The hard part is done; social technology infrastructure is in place and teens are already there. The next step is reshaping social technologies so that they are designed to promote young people’s desires and needs. The young people we have worked with don’t want to scroll aimlessly or rely on algorithms to determine what they get to see. They want to connect meaningfully, to create, to mobilize, to learn, to find support, to build community, to escape, and to play. These are the features Headstream believes will define the next generation of social technologies.
Track 1: “Reshaping Digital Places and Experiences”
+ Track 1 Overview
Headstream seeks solutions that build or utilize social technology platforms and infrastructure to enable positive digital experiences and places that meet the desires and ambitions of teenagers (i.e. connect meaningfully, create, mobilize, learn, find support, build community, escape, and play). Teens are asking for more social technologies that empower them to learn new skills by building and creating art, music, technology and more. They also want safe places where they can make mistakes and experiment without having to fear a permanent artifact or public humiliation for taking a risk. How might we reframe the foundation of the social technologies they are using? Imagine video games where the hero's quest is one of environmental justice and equality rather than killing and conquering. Imagine social networks where connections are initiated by shared interests in a social issue or a campaign. Solutions may also build on existing social tech models, or tweak a successful digital experience or place. This could include a plug-in or tool that can integrate with and improve a popular platform. Headstream is particularly motivated to support solutions that positively impact teens of color, teenage girls, and LBGTQ+ teens.
+ Potential Innovators
Many of you are going back to the drawing board and reimagining how teens are interacting with social technologies. You are motivated by a desire to improve the digital experiences of teen users and the caring adults in their lives. We are excited to harness your deep understanding of social technologies and how to design for teenagers. You have the tech expertise to shape the next generation of social technologies.
+ Example Solutions
Safe and supportive digital spaces, such as chat or social media that provide teenagers with access to positive communities and a platform to build meaningful relationships.
Digital places and experiences that utilize engagement with and creation of art, music, literature, and civic activism as the foundation for their social technology.
Social technologies that embrace and tell the stories of traditionally underserved communities.
Tools that allow users to overlay their emotions onto social technologies that can provide them with customized media that meets their emotional needs in a constructive manner.
Algorithms, bots, apps, or plugins that detect boundary exploration and question or prompt the user to question the intent of online activity or to act in a more mindful manner.
Features within social technologies that allow teens to curate and customize their experience and control their privacy to better support their wellbeing.
Media such as a video series or social media channels that embrace positive technology and messaging.
Tools that encourage users to shift from passive to active participation when using social technologies. These might include digital places where users can build a video game, comic book, story and more.
What is on the cutting edge? Are there emerging technologies we are missing that are going to be utilized to create positive digital experiences and spaces? We want to hear from all of you!
Track 2: “Building Wellbeing into the Digital World”
+ Track 2 Overview
How can we optimize social technologies so that they are built with and prioritize the components that foster healthy social development and wellbeing for every teenager? Headstream is looking for new designs, methodologies, products and other innovations that allow teens to build relationships, find support, and develop social and emotional skills through digital experiences. Potential solutions should be oriented to the gaps that exist in current social technologies for supporting teenagers in their social development and wellbeing. The innovations may be targeted directly for teenagers, caring adults, or supporting systems such as schools. We encourage adaptations of successful in-person models to digital spaces and experiences. Headstream is particularly motivated to support solutions that positively impact teens of color, teenage girls, and LBGTQ+ teens.
+ Potential Innovators
Many of you have a deep understanding of how to build and provide young people with key components of growing up such as meaningful connections, social and emotional skills, and support from peers and caring adults. You are motivated to improve the wellbeing and healthy development of teenagers, and want to reach teens where they are -- on social technologies. Many of you will take a leap and bring successful offline innovations for teen wellbeing online. We are excited to harness your understanding of the complexities of growing up to create digital places and experiences that enable positive and healthy engagement with technology.
+ Example Solutions
Technologies like virtual reality that enable caring adults to better understand the experience of growing up immersed in social technologies.
Digital platforms and tools that allow near peers and caring adults to provide support to teens who are going through a challenging time and are turning to social technologies for help.
Engaging digital places and experiences that foster meaningful connections. These may be iterations of popular social media platforms or experience-based innovation such as an augmented reality platform. Potential solutions may look to bridge online and offline connections.
Tools that allow teens to more effectively navigate interactions in digital places and avoid unnecessary adverse events. These solutions may focus on new ways to communicate difficult messages or to avoid/address/contextualize misinterpretations before they spiral. They may also include approaches that reduce the speed and lower the potential drama of emotional interactions.
Novel approaches to leveraging technology to build social and emotional learning skills. These solutions may be designed to integrate into a school system. They could be inspired by a creative skill-building program such as Artists for Humanity or YR Media. Or solutions could target consumers directly through a social technology like a video game.
Evidence-based technology approaches to providing young people with support to improve their wellbeing.
Engaging digital curriculums and guides that provide teens with the tools to navigate social technologies and digital interactions in a positive and healthy manner.
Solutions that enable healthy digital risk-taking among teens. Approaches may include stage-gating digital footprints, providing instant feedback on risky behavior, or separate places to take these risks safely.
Innovative biofeedback technologies that utilize markers as a tool to teach social and emotional skills or to identify when a user may need support.
HEADSTREAM KEY COMPONENTS
The Headstream Accelerator is an opportunity to design digital places and experiences for current and future generations of young people. Our focus is on three foundational pieces to growing up that emerged from the creation of a causal loop systems map and two Big Thinks. Applicants should be able to clearly link how their innovation supports teens in at least one of the following components:
Click above for more insights into these key components and the other learnings that shaped the Headstream Accelerator.
Get to know the dates and timeline for the challenge
October 12th, 2019 - Challenge Opens During the open window, please reach out with any questions or for support
January 10th, 2020 - Application Window Closes
January 11th - 24th, 2020 - Application Review and Evaluation Applications will be reviewed by a panel of experts
February 27th - 28th, 2020 - Finalists Lab - San Francisco, CA 15 Finalists will be selected to participate in a fully funded two day lab in the Bay Area with teens, investors, and other experts to further develop their solution
March, 2020 - Final Cohort of 8-10 innovators is selected to participate in the Headstream Accelerator and awarded prize funding
March - August, 2020 - Headstream Accelerator Customized support, access to 500+ person Headstream network, acceleration curriculum, and attendance at the exclusive Headstream Forum
Selected innovators will be invited to participate in the Headstream Accelerator will be awarded prize funding, based on the following categories.
DESIGN AND VALIDATION
(up to $20,000)
Innovators that are looking to gain an early, real-world assessment of the solution, to allow for further design and iteration, and to position the innovation for scale. This includes an assessment of the technical feasibility, consumer demand, distribution, and financial viability aspects of the solution. Key activities could include initial testing, assessing user feedback or demand, willingness to pay, and product design, as well as documenting accessibility and any potential unintended consequences.
POSITIONING FOR SCALE
(up to $50,000)
Innovators that are beyond the prototype stage, where there is evidence of the solution’s success and uptake, and for which additional funding would allow the innovation to move toward scale. This may include expanding into new markets, launching a new feature or service, validating business models, as well as refining operations to build paths to sustainability and scale.
+ Innovators Also Receive
In addition to prize funding, selected innovators will be invited to participate in the Headstream Accelerator. Innovators will receive visibility for their work, exposure to new ways of thinking, and access to a network of key experts and stakeholders across disciplines, sectors and industries who stand ready to accelerate the trajectory of your innovations into the marketplace. Specifically, innovators will receive:
- Participation in the Headstream Accelerator, a six month, primarily virtual program that includes a customized learning curriculum, individual guides and technical support, opportunities for learning journeys, media exposure, and access to 500+ Headstream network members.
- Funding to attend the Headstream Finalists Lab on February 27-28 in San Francisco. The Lab is a closed event for 15 finalists and Headstream network members to further develop and support the most promising solutions.
- Funding to attend the Headstream Forum in May 2020. The Forum is a closed meeting of Headstream innovators and select network members – corporates, funders, policymakers - carefully facilitated to support innovators on their journey to impact and scale.
A panel of experts including teens, technologists, investors and wellbeing specialists will evaluate the applicants using the following criteria:
Transformative: whether the solution will make a significant contribution to creating positive digital places and experiences as well as improve teen wellbeing.
Scalable: whether the idea is replicable and scalable beyond an initial target market. Will this solution resonate with teens and/or the caring adults in their lives?
Inclusive: whether the innovation is accessible and relevant for a diverse set of users; particular attention to inclusivity for teens of color, LGBTQ+ teens, and teen girls.
Market-Based: whether the solution is adaptable to rapidly changing technological advancements, and has a sustainable and ethical business model.
Leadership: whether the innovation team has the potential to develop a transformative solution; including their creativity, understanding of teens, of wellbeing, technology, and business.
The challenge is open for anyone to apply. Applicants must have tech-based solutions that are focused on teenagers and their support systems in the US. International applicants must be operating in the US or have near-term plans to expand into the US. Innovations must have a sustainable model but do not need to be for-profit.
Responses from academics, companies (small or large), entrepreneurs, inventors, organizations, research institutions, national laboratories, government agencies, social enterprises, and funders are welcome. Innovations may be at the stage of functional prototype, market-ready or well established. Headstream will not accept submissions that are theoretical designs or limited to ideas on paper. Applicants ready to be supported by industry partners or ready to scale will receive the most benefit from the Headstream Accelerator.
You have questions, we have answers. A few of the common questions regarding the Headstream Accelerator are listed below:
+ Who can submit an application?
The Accelerator is open for anyone to apply. Applicants must have tech-based solutions that are focused on teenagers and their support systems in the US. International applicants must be operating in the US or have near-term plans to expand into the US. Innovations must have a sustainable model but do not need to be for-profit. Responses from academics, companies (small or large), entrepreneurs, inventors, organizations, research institutions, national laboratories, government agencies, social enterprises, and funders are welcome. Innovations may be at the stage of functional prototype, market-ready or well established. Headstream will not consider submissions that are theoretical designs or limited to ideas on paper.
+ I am not based in the US, can I still apply?
Headstream is focused on supporting teenagers in the US but is open to supporting international innovators outside who are already operating in the US or can demonstrate short-term plans to enter the US market.
+ Can I submit multiple applications?
Yes, companies, organizations, and individuals can submit multiple applications. We encourage you to be selective in submitting the innovations that meet the challenge description and have the most impact potential.
+ What age group should solutions be focused on?
Headstream is focused on solutions that support teenagers (aged 13-19) and the caring adults in their lives. We acknowledge that many of you have amazing innovations for young people slightly younger and older than our target age range. Please make a case for how your innovation could be adapted for teenagers or support them as they transition into and out of ages 13-19.
+ What do I need to do in order to apply?
Register here! Once you have registered, you will get a link to start your application. You can come back to that application anytime up until the application deadline of January 10th, 2020.
+ May I revise my submission?
Yes, you may update your submission up to the deadline on Friday, January 10th at 11:59PM PST (midnight).
+ Is there a fee to apply?
No, there is no fee to submit an application.
+ When do I need to submit my entry by?
You or your team leader need to complete and submit all entry materials before the deadline on Friday, January 10th at 11:59PM PST (midnight).
+ Who will evaluate my application?
A panel of experts including teens, technologists, investors and wellbeing specialists along with members of the Headstream team will evaluate the applications.
+ What criteria will be used to evaluate my application?
Submissions will be evaluated using the following criteria:
- Transformative: whether the solution will make a significant contribution to creating positive digital places and experiences as well as improve teen wellbeing.
- Scalable: whether the idea is replicable and scalable beyond an initial target market. Will this solution resonate with teens and/or the caring adults in their lives?
- Inclusive: whether the innovation is accessible and relevant for a diverse set of users; particular attention to inclusivity for teens of color, LGBTQ+ teens, and teen girls
- Market-Based: whether the solution is adaptable to rapidly changing technological advancements, and has a sustainable and ethical business model
- Leadership: whether the innovation team has the potential to develop a transformative solution; including their creativity, understanding of teens, of wellbeing, technology, and business.
+ Who will see the details of my application?
As a condition of your application, you and the Headstream Accelerator will both sign a non-disclosure agreement. The information on your application remains absolutely confidential and is restricted to the selection panel.
+ What can I use the prize funding for?
Prize funding must go to the development or scaling of your innovation. We do not have specific restrictions for how you use the funding to meet that goal. At the Headstream Finalist Lab, we will work with you to understand the most impactful use of the award.
+ What are the award amounts?
The Headstream Accelerator will award prize funding for two stages:
- Design and Validation - awards up to $20,000
- Positioning for Scale - awards up to $50,000
+ How many applicants will be selected to participate?
This will depend on the applications received, but we expect to invite 15 innovators to the Finalist Lab and select a final cohort of 8-10 innovators to participate in the Headstream Accelerator.
+ When will the finalists be announced?
We will announce the 15 applicants who have been invited to the Finalists Lab by January 31st, 2020.
+ Will I be notified if I am not selected as a finalist?
Yes, we will notify all applicants at every stage with opportunities to continue collaborating with Headstream even if you are not selected as a finalist.
+ What kind of solutions are you looking for?
We are looking for market-based technology solutions that support teenagers wellbeing in the US along two tracks:
- Reshaping Digital Places and Experiences
- Building Wellbeing into the Digital World For more information, please read the Challenge Track descriptions above.
+ This application is challenging, how can I get support?
Contact us at anytime with specific question. You can also check-out the application guide for tips on completing the application. We will also be hosting a number of virtual office hours where you can drop by with your questions.
+ What can I expect at the Finalist Lab?
The Finalist Lab will bring together approximately 15 of the most promising applicants to the Headstream Accelerator. Over two days, you will work with your fellow innovators, the Headstream team, and a council of outside experts to further develop your solution and find the support that you need.
+ What can I expect from the Headstream Accelerator?
The Headstream Accelerator is a six month, primarily virtual program that includes a customized learning curriculum, individual guides and technical support, opportunities for learning journeys, media exposure, and access to 500+ Headstream network members. As part of the Accelerator, innovator teams will be invited to two fully funded multi-day events focused on further developing their solution.
+ What are the expectations of selected innovators?
We expect selected participants to attend events, meetings, join learning calls, and provide feedback to support monitoring, evaluation and learning efforts. Beyond this, expectations around your participation will vary, as the program may look different for each innovator. If you are selected your support will be designed with you, to meet your needs and reflect your constraints.
+ We might not be eligible for this program, are there other ways we can receive support?
Innovators are just one part of the system needed to develop positive digital solutions for teen wellbeing. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share more about your work. We’d love to explore ways to support you and explore potential collaboration.
+ Where is the Headstream Accelerator located?
The Headstream team is based in San Francisco, California, but the Accelerator will be run virtually with a couple of in-person events. Innovators do not have to be located near San Francisco to participate.