After two years of working with young people across the United States, one fact has become painstakingly clear: young people have incredible ideas to build a beautiful internet.
Today’s youth are constantly ideating innovative solutions, and yet, are deprived of the fundamental resources to nurture those ideas into fruition. The drive from young people to truly be the creators behind the next wave of social technologies is what ignited Headstream to launch the Youth 2 Innovator (Y2I) Incubator Program. The Y2I Incubator is a 3 month virtual program for young people ages 13-21 across the United States to create their own innovation that uplifts well-being on digital spaces for young people.
This incubator program was designed so participants can make the very first step towards becoming an entrepreneur so that they are not only the users of these digital platforms, but the ones creating the new generation of its technologies. When sourcing applicants, we wanted to find young people who would truly benefit from the curriculum and resources we were offering. There was no previous experience requirement, just an amazing idea. This program required young, soon-to-be innovators who were hungry to learn this content and grow an innovation in this space. Y2I was built on the belief that an innovative mindset, active community building, keen problem solving, diverse, equitable, and inclusive design, combined with art & storytelling, is a recipe to advance youth empowerment & development in digital spaces.
Most importantly, we wanted to bring together a cohort of participants who were building platforms immersed in the communities they are serving, so they are truly building for, by, and with the complex intersectionality of youth today. Our selection process took about 2 weeks once the application closed, where we diligently read through every single application and moved forward to interviewing over 20 applicants. In addition, we had our Y2I Alumni Board members review the innovation ideas to ensure the business ideas that come out of the incubator would support Headstream’s mission.
When it came down to selecting our final cohort, we handpicked the below six individuals because they showed deep commitment, excitement, and need to learn the curriculum our program offers. Headstream wanted to ensure the diversity of realities, expertise, and ideas that would go through the Y2I Incubator. Each of these youth innovators bring something unique to the table. Whether it's through their expertise, experiences, or interests, these 6 youth will leave this program learning the most from one another. We also assigned Y2I Incubator buddies to each of the participants, their Y2I Incubator counterpart, whose idea is similar or complementary to their own innovation idea in order to promote team building and collaboration.
We’re excited to witness the empowerment of an entrepreneurial spirit in each of these young people and seeing how they design into their platforms the resources and skills that are being shared with them. Young people have so many amazing ideas, but sometimes need that first step to know how and where to get started. Our greatest hope is that their collaboration with one another does not end after this program and that they continue to grow their ideas and expand it with each other and their communities.
Our vision for youth well-being on digital spaces is an entire market where digital places of all kinds are at the disposal of young people to grow, learn, play, and create. Where BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ youth can have built-in safe spaces for themselves, where young teens can learn how to navigate the implicit rules of social media, and where youth of color are affirmed and compensated for their ideas. This is only the beginning of a beautiful internet for today’s youth.