Digital Platforms as a Tool for Change
It has been almost two months since the tragic murder of George Floyd, and unlike any other movement in history, we now have a powerful tool that makes this moment unique: social technology. Racist dogmas and policies are being confronted every second on social media. Social tech has enabled the amplification, connection, and organization of a new generation of young leaders to shape society’s views. As this generation continues to shape our views at Headstream, we had to ask the crucial question -- What is our role in building an anti-racist world?
Every facet of our work requires us to be better anti-racists. In the innovations we source, in the entrepreneurs we support, in the team that we build, and in the programming we provide. Our greatest, and possibly our most important opportunity to educate and empower these ideals starts with the youth we collaborate with. Our society is depending on digital platforms to transform individual minds and institutional frameworks, and Gen Z is leading the way.
It is with that gigantic responsibility that Headstream is proud to announce the inaugural Youth 2 Innovator program made up of 20 exceptional teenagers from across the United States. The 20 teens serve as Youth Advisors for one of the Headstream Accelerator Innovators while simultaneously building their own community project promoting teen wellbeing through digital spaces. Y2I participants will receive a $1,500 grant, guided support for their community projects, the chance to serve on a startup’s mini-advisory boards, learning opportunities from Headstream innovators, and access to resources within the Headstream community.
After a month of interacting with the Y2I cohort, the Headstream team quickly realized that creative thinking and determination is the norm among these 20 teens. Their vast potential to create digital solutions for diverse youth experiences has cultivated ambitious and empowering community projects. For example, one of our Y2I Youth Advisors, Breanna Taylor, is working to self-produce a documentary on police brutality and solitary confinement and its impacts on her family and her community. Rather than feel intimidated by such an important issue, Breanna shared, “I want to completely eliminate police brutality and solitary confinement, which I know is a very big thing, but it's crazy to me that this is still a thing. I feel I have to do this.
These community projects continue to amaze us in the scope to which they address youth wellness through the unique experiences of specific identities. Our own understanding of youth wellness for the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically Queer, Trans, and Non-Binary (QTNB) individuals, has vastly deepened after learning more about a QTNB self-expression project for Y2I. “I’m creating a social media/wellness information platform specifically for queer, trans, and non-binary folks to share their styles, fashion, and aesthetics as well as a centralized place for QTNB folks to learn about things like safe binding practices and packing.” explained Youth Advisor Primo Goldberg. “For young people just starting to discover their identity (possibly through clothing), this platform can provide a place for people to safely explore different ways of expression through clothing and physical distortion to remedy things like dysmorphia or dysphoria.” Primo’s distinct connection between artistic self-expression and online safe spaces highlights how even the way clothing is shared on digital platforms has strong implications for the wellbeing of queer youth.
Our diverse cohort represents a variety of ideas, backgrounds, skills, and talents of young people today. In a short amount of time, one of a kind projects have flourished in this space, including a self-care platform specific to the needs of black youth activists, an online zine focused on building meaningful connections through art and storytelling about mental health, and a digital community for teen girls to learn how to code and receive mentorship from women in STEM.
These projects are early in their development and many of the Y2I teens could use your help. As members of the Headstream community, we ask for you to join us in supporting these young people as they continue to develop their community projects. Donate your time, knowledge, expertise, resources, and mentorship. Our greatest investment in social change starts with them.
It is with honor and pride Headstream announces this summer’s inaugural Youth 2 Innovator Program. Meet the amazing Y2I cohort!
Message to Our Youth Readers
Earlier we shared that Headstream asked the question, “What is our role in building an anti-racist world?” Our answer: Investing in you. Empowering you to create digital solutions that can transform your own hearts as you transform your communities. Powerful and lasting innovation for youth wellness must be fueled by justice and love for the members of mankind, a love so strong that it propels you to construct a world where human beings are not harmed because they have black skin.
Society does not always recognize your superpowers to create social change, but we do. We believe in you and will help you on your journey. It may take a generation to build true change, but let that generation be yours. The time is now to build a world where not a single tongue on this Earth will hesitate when they utter the words Black. Lives. Matter.