Sunday, October 24, 2010

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: 

While there’s a movement to abolish static teaching practices, all of us – parents, educators and business leaders – have to realize that the capacity to nurture our next generation of <social> entrepreneurs takes root in the conversations we have with kids at home and in our schools. 

In the past, I’ve suggested that we should more heavily invest in empowering kids with service to their community – because it brings heightened relevance.  I’ve really only hinted at how important I feel it is that we use mobile and social technologies as well in this context.  

The 2.0 web is a massive leap forward in human evolution.  According to a think-tank composed of scholars from Silicon Valley, Oxford, Harvard, Rutgers, the Universities of Tokyo and Lausanne and Kansas State University, “The last five years represent a quantum leap in the evolution of Homo Sapiens, comparable to far earlier transformations in hominid history.”

web 2.0 and entrepreneurial creativity

Characteristically, today’s youth value experiential learning and working in teams.  They want to gain knowledge by doing, rather than being told what to do.  Our social web facilitates these types of interactions better than most classrooms currently can.

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), more than 93% of educators surveyed say classroom technology has made students more engaged in learning.  But the reality is, we’re still years away from mainstream web 2.0 classroom implementations because of the following challenges:

  1. Social and mobile technology itself has to overcome it’s “mind-numbing, waste of time” reputation.   
  2. Educators, not used to teaching with web 2.0 tools, need to get training and support before they can cut ties with traditional teaching methodologies and print textbooks.

Cost no longer has to be the barrier, as there are a variety of free social media tools for teachers which provide immediate visibility and access to popular information.  Instant messaging & video conferencing enables us to communicate with people around the globe in a millisecond; wikis let us co-create and share ideas; and hundreds of thousands of smart phone applications are at our fingertips.

Academic rigor – the ability to master specific skills – increases with the use of technology.  Even when teachers implement a hybrid approach (coupling traditional methods with e-learning platforms), kids engage more deeply. 

“Our collaboration online has not only enhanced their learning experience, but my own teaching experience as well,” attests one educator.  Adds an 8th grade student:  “We can express our opinions like adults, not kids.”  These statements also reflect the power technology has to seamlessly add a multi-age component to schools – which I’ll save for another post.    

Cultivating kid-preneurs

Equity concerns about student access to devices have to be resolved -- and quickly -- because every time we confiscate social and mobile technologies from the hands of our children, we are disconnecting ourselves from them.  Research firms Frost & Sullivan and Forrester are predicting that by 2015, more than 80% of Americans will own smartphones, compared to 17% of us today.  Whether the proliferation will reach those proportions or not, it’s clear that we need to bridge our growing digital divide.

It pains me greatly that so many apps have been developed to be consumed as “toys” as opposed to teaching or informational tools.  I’d like to ask more brand counterparts to show their corporate support of education by investing in programs and products which foster creativity and innovative thinking.  After all, these are among the top 5 skills organizations say they need from their employee-base.

KooDooZ will again join the Kauffman Foundation’s effort in raising awareness for the importance of entrepreneurialism by participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW 2010).  Our team – and the kids whose lives we touch – will add our voices to the millions of people around the globe to participate in the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurship and creativity.

Can your firm organize an event to cultivate and inspire youth entrepreneurs between November 15th and 21st, 2010?  I challenge you to do so.  Consider it a remarkable opportunity to invest in the future with a guaranteed return on investment.

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Social Media, Social Justice & Environmental Education

The intersection between youth, activism and new media technologies continue to grab the attention of brands, educators and policy-makers with growing interest.  "Green" has become the new face of youth activism and millions of young people around the world are participating in environmental initiatives discovered through online portals.

Here in the United States, there's also a growing movement connecting the natural environment to traditional school subjects including math, science, reading and writing.  As we guide our youngest generation towards environmental literacy, how much of a role should social media play (given the "brand dominant" nature of the conversations) -- and is it in conflict with the social and environmental justice sought by our parents, educators and policy-makers?

On Saturday, September 25th, 2010, KooDooZ founder, Lee Fox, will moderate a free workshop entitled: “Social Justice, Social Media & Environmental Education.”  The purpose of this blog post is to offer some context for anyone interested in adding their voice to the conversation. 


#1: Are we on the brink of experiencing a new generational divide...
that's green in color?

It should not be lost on any of us that today’s kids have been witness to the most severe environmental disaster our country has ever seen, that climate change has become a big part of our national dialogue and that the lives of millions of people, irrespective of age, geography or socioeconomic status have been directly affected by -- as stated in the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study -- “the irresponsibility of big business.”

82% of kids polled by Scholastic News stated they were concerned about the BP oil spill, and 48% said they were most concerned about its effect on the animals and the Gulf ecosystems.  Kids of all ages demonstrated their commitment to the environment by joining their voices with the public's out-cry:

  • 14-year old Lauren Spaulding who confronted BP representatives at a town hall meeting about its lack of initiative to educate children about the spill.  She pointed out that kids were “worried about the environment and their parents’ livelihoods,” and wanted to learn more about how they could help. 
  • 11-year old, Olivia Bouler, who contacted the Audubon Society looking for ways she could help fund relief for the wildlife impacted by the spill and raised $175,000 dollars.
  • 13-year old and 16-year old Toth sisters who collected dishwashing soap to be used to clean birds and animals affected by the spill.

While there’s overwhelming evidence that youth want to make a difference, it’s also apparent that our scholastic infrastructure has of yet to provide kids with the educational basis to translate their green altruism into leadership. 

Last year, a groundbreaking study revealed that U.S. students ranked 34th out of the 57 countries surveyed in both environmental science and geosciences.  Being that school is the main source of eco-education for 85% of kids (13-17 years old), isn't it clear we need some kind of an upgrade to help support the youth values of:

    87% recycle; 84% turn off lights; 80% reduce water use; 73% user energy-efficient light bulbs
    76% feel it’s very important or important for brands to get involved in the green movement (though not all are willing to pay the higher prices for the luxury).

#2: If there's a sense of collaboration and conversation, will youth turn to brands they trust to get information?

Luckily, trust is earned, never bought.  It comes from years of doing rather than saying.  Still, it's extraordinarily important that parents, educators and policy makers understand that brands are committing larger and larger budgets to building trust, and that cause-marketing is one of the vehicles.  When youth have high trust in a brand, they use the resources the brand gives them to advocate and spread the word.

BP is going to be an interesting case-study in the years ahead.  Though their brand-value was "destroyed" by mal-handling many aspects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP does have a viable opportunity to rebuild trust by staying committed to the community's needs and working closely with the people of the Gulf to rebuild their livelihoods and restore the environment that supports them.  BP's best asset is that it had a name consumers once trusted.  Now is the time for BP to exhibit profound green-leadership.

It bodes well for the oil giant that in recent years it has spent heavily on green education initiatives in California.  Just last week, BP completed a 7-year project which culminated in a 13,000 page curriculum designed to update California’s Environmental  Science Education offering for its’ K-12 public schools.  The curriculum is expected to be taught to over six million pupils in some 1,000 districts.  While many people support the investment California is making in environmental education, others are questioning the practice of allowing a brand -- that has paid to avoid prosecution, more than $370-million dollars in fines after admittedly breaking environmental and safety laws -- to shape the curriculum intended to foster critical thinking and open-mindedness on this subject. 

#3: Will environmental literacy extend past the classroom and into our homes?

Eco-friendly behaviors are measured in a variety of ways -- by people’s transportation patterns, household energy use, consumption of goods, and what’s being done to minimize the impact these activities have on the environment.  

At the surface, Americans do appear to be environmentally literate and capable of making sustainable choices.  According to the 2009 Cone Consumer Environmental Survey, 70% of Americans pay attention to what companies are doing in regard to the environment.

Sustainability has crept up the corporate agenda, now higher than ever before.  A company’s commitment to social and environmental issues has undeniable weight in the marketplace, and transparency has become a key component to building public trust and managing consumer expectations.

However, when it comes to practicing what’s preached, everyday Americans are not taking the same action-oriented approach to environmental stewardship that they demand of their brand counterparts. 

According to National Geographic’s Greendex, (a survey tracking global consumer choice in regard to the environment), U.S. consumers continually ranked last among 17 countries surveyed.  This is perhaps not all that surprising being that a Roper Report revealed 80% of American adults are environmentally illiterate.

A potential for discord exists between the next generation and the rest of us, if a higher commitment is not soon made to embrace social and environmental literacy.

#4: Is the social web, as a real-time medium, a viable tool for environmental education?

Join KooDooZ,  Green My ParentsAlliance For Climate Education, Team Marine, Real Curriculum and ReUse Connection as we explore whether or not the time is ripe with opportunity to incorporate 21st century skills in our schools to heighten relevance in the classroom.

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Generation Z - the new philanthropists

The roots of social change and the need for peace run deep in youth movements. Cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism have unleashed young activists with surprising force across the world. 

Here in America, where our turbulence is more financial in nature, we are witness to a compassion boom, powered by youth philanthropy.

Youth is our country’s largest population group -- reportedly 70 million strong.  In fact, 1 out of every 4 Americans is under the age of 18.  Over 13 million American teens volunteer an average of 3 hours per week, totaling over 2-billion hours of service per year.   

Far less information is available about kids 12 and younger, yet this group makes up nearly 18% of the world’s population and is characteristically just as civically charged.

Whether it’s a result of the most dismal job-market in decades, or an outgrowth of  the high availability of information about world events and issues, both Generation Y (“Millennials”) and Generation Z (“Homelanders”) are finding their identities as agents of change.

Even though GenZ is at a tender age of 12 or younger, they’re digitally wired and more conscious of their global counterparts, the economy and political happenings.  For example, kids as young as 7 can explain what a recession is, and how state budget cuts have impacted their school programming.

Frustratingly though, due to ageism, many of these young minds and able bodies are under-utilized in helping with the humanitarian challenges they care about the most.  This is perhaps why we're seeing more and more pint-sized philanthropists founding their own philanthropic organizations in order to have impact.

The truth is, the concept of empowering the youngest generation is still relatively recent in the social entrepreneurship world.  For the most part, the general public regards youth-activists -- like 11 year old Olivia Bouler, who has used her artwork to help save birds affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- as anomolies.

Kids of all ages have the capacity to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and move tens of thousands of people into a deeper position of awareness.  Point in case, within a matter of months, Olivia's efforts raised $175,000 to help the wildlife impacted by the spill, and she also earned just shy of 30,000 Facebook “likes” -- impressive by anyone's standards.

In a recent article, the press secretary at the Corporation for National and Community Service (@nationalservice) remarked of today’s youth: “They’ve been through 09/11 and Katrina and an economic recession, and all of this has forced young people to look around them and reassess their place in the world.”

According to recent PARADE poll findings, respondents were almost unanimous in the belief that it's “important to be personally involved in supporting a cause we believe in” in our communities (94%) and in the world at large (91%).  More than 3 out of 4 (78%) think that the actions of one person can improve the world, and 78% also believe they’re move involved in making a difference than their parents were.

Generation Z is proving that no one -- no matter their age -- is powerless to help.  As the world strives to break the cycles in an economic-survival mode, KooDooZ strives to broaden the public’s definition of “philanthropist” beyond the reach of a deep pocket.  Helping youth recongize that they can tap their passions for acts of compassion is paramount. 

For the last month, KooDooZ has been challenging kids across Southern California -- from Santa Monica to West Covina -- to create “Caring Cards” inscribed with messages of peace.  On Saturday, September 11th, a handful of girls will hand-deliver a portion of the 150 hand-made cards to fallen heroes at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital.  Kids from other parts of the nation have committed to mailing their cards directly to soldiers overseas.

Being that this Saturday earmarks the 9th anniversary of the 09/11 attacks, the cards are a symbolic tool to drive awareness to the import of peace and the voice of youth in this conversation. 

Huge thanks to KooDooZ community partners:  the American Red Cross of Santa Monica and Hartnell for supporting and nurturing youth philanthropy in refreshing new ways.

Also see:

Posted via email from KooDooZ

On The Wings Of A Dove

Can a single day alter our perceptions, change our attitudes or bring about a global movement?

I hope so.

International Peace Day is on September 21st and again, there is a global call for ceasefire and non-violence.

But this year, the United Nations’ General Assembly has proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Youth, a campaign designed to encourage policymakers and communities to recognize that youth is a valuable – but underutilized – resource.  In fact, the UN goes as far as stating that “failing to invest in children and youth triggers substantial economic, social and political costs resulting in negative outcomes.”

As young people represent at least 18% of the world’s population, we must recognize their potential by giving them a role to play in issues that affect them (i.e. education, reproductive health) as well as involving them in the world’s most significant humanitarian challenges (i.e. peace, the environment).  By engaging youth in volunteerism, we can open a dialogue and mutual understanding which will serve to shape young leaders for today and tomorrow.

It is with great pride that KooDooZ enters a strategic alliance with Roots & Shoots to engage youth in online & real world challenges relating to universal peace.

Although the definition of "peace" can vary between religions and cultures – it’s most commonly described as "an existence free of conflict or violence."  Unfortunately, this definition doesn't always extend to animals or the environment.

By helping kids connect the dots that deforestation and fossil fuels use have measurably decreased the availability of nutritious food and clean water – resulting in malnutrition and health challenges for some parts of the world – we can assist activists like Dr. Jane Goodall redefine the relationship our sons and daughters have with Mother Earth.

As part of our alliance with Roots & Shoots, KooDooZ will seek to educate youth that the practice of non-violence should apply not just to human beings, but to all living things.

Accepting that Earth itself is alive and that every living and inert organism plays an important role, is a critical first step towards achieving universal peace.  Humankind is but a single species among the 5.5-million sharing our planet.

In 2002, Dr. Goodall was appointed as a Messenger or Peace and used this esteemed appointment to urge her audiences to recognize their personal responsibility and ability to effect change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism.  Since then, Dr. Goodall has travelled an average of 300 days per year, speaking about environmental crises, and her reasons for hope that humankind will solve the problems it has imposed on the earth.

To honor her appointment, Roots & Shoots members have been creating Giant Peace Puppets with recycled materials on the weekend of the UN’s Day of Peace.

Will you spread the message of peace by building your own Peace Dove?

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Ornaments of Hope

Youth HomelessnessOn August 27th, 2010 KooDooZ together with the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Monica hosted an evening to raise awareness of youth homelessness.  

Invited to speak was 7-year old Jonas Corona, founder of Love In The Mirror who served to remind us that anyone of any age can make a difference, and Ehecatl Rojas, outreach coordinator for Los Angeles Youth Network who described the conditions under which a youth might find him/herself homeless:

Kids in Foster Care

  • The foster care population in the United States is approximately 496,000 (2007 figure)
  • 20,000 youth leave foster care nationally each year with no job or income, few educational prospects and little emotional support or community connections
  • 20%-50% of these kids will find themselves homeless within 6 months due to lack of resources and support.

Kids who Run Away

  • It’s estimated that between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away or are kicked out of their home each year.
  • 21% of teens who ran away from home did so due to current episodes of sexual and/or physical abuse within the home. 
  • Approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations.
  • Beyond abuse or neglect the trigger to run away can happen just as easily from rejection based on youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Kids and Alcohol / Drugs

  • 47% of teens in public school say that drugs are used, this suggests as many as 5.7 million public school children in the U.S. attend schools with both drugs and gangs.
  • 11% of all alcohol in the United States is consumed by youth ages 12-20 years.
  • Children who have been sexually abused are 3.8 times more likely to develop drug addictions.

Kids who are Bullied

  • Almost 30% of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both.
  • 46% of teens in public schools say there are gangs in schools.

Causes of youth homelessness also include the typical suspects – lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, and mental health.  Many homeless youth lack the finances, skills, maturity and independent living skills that can help them end their homelessness.

Beyond learning about the causes of homelessness, participants were taught some of the ways they could help.

  1. Change Attitudes About Homeless People
    In general, society sees homeless people as morally and socially inferior.  The fact that a homeless youth has gone through an overwhelmingly harsh existence which overtakes her or her ability to cope – mentally, emotionally or physically – is an important fact about which to educate the public.
  2. Organize Sock Drives
    Socks are basic necessities that many in our homeless communities have to do without.  Rain wear, such as lightweight raincoats or ponchos can also be very helpful depending on where you live and the time of year.
  3. Stuff Care Packages In Backpacks
    Filling backpacks with vital hygiene items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, anti-perspirant, deodorant, washcloth, shavers, shaving cream and feminine products) as well as zip-lock bags (especially the durable gallon-size freezer bags) are very useful for keeping hygiene items together and for protecting things like clothing items and books from getting wet in the rain.  A small flashlight, a small radio can be a great comfort and an ample supply of batteries are helpful.  Backpacks allow the homeless to carry all of their belongings with them at all times, and will lessen the risk of having donated items lost or stolen. 
  4. Donate Gift Card or Voucher Donations
    From local restaurants and drug stores to clothing outlets and shoe stores, an alternative to giving cash, gift cards or vouchers can help steer purchasing decisions in the right direction. 

Though not anticipated, the bite of the damp ocean wind did reinforce to participants how cold it must be to live on the streets.   150 emergency  blankets were passed around for warmth of the body but also to provide these kids with the opportunity to craft an Ornament Of Hope for a homeless peer.  The messages were both breath-taking and inspiring, and they came from kids ages 7 through 17:

  • “You Are Loved, Believe In Yourself”
  • “Be Strong”
  • “Be The Strength You Want To See In The World”
  • “You Pack A Punch In The World, You Are Powerful”
  • “Don’t Follow Your Dreams, Lead Them”

Finally, we invited the kids to pin these messages and stencil  one word on each blanket:  “HOPE.”

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Youth Homelessness

Homelessness is an extraordinary challenge in the United States, mainly due to the fact that the majority of the people affected are “invisible” victims.  That's to say, they are functioning members of society who happen to be experiencing such extreme poverty that they simply can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads.

This situation of quiet desperation is experienced by an estimated 1.5 million youth and a collective 2.3 to 3.5 million Americans at least once each year.

*** The Facts ***
34% of the homeless population are made up of women and children

  • of which, 84% are female headed (on average the single mothers are in their late 20’s w/ 2 young children)
  • 640,000 of homeless children are under the age of 6

42% of homeless youth are school-aged and enrolled in school

  • of which, 77.3% (697,130) are in grades K-8
  • of which, 22.7% (204,978) are in grades 9-12
  • of which, 43% repeat a grade

Not since the Great Depression have so many kids stood at poverty’s door.  But even more than the debilitating effects of being impoverished, homelessness is profoundly destructive to the educational outcomes of these youth.

Children in families experiencing homelessness are unable to attend school regularly.  Alarmingly, poor attendance is a significant predictor of dropping out of school and the impact of interrupted schooling can have long-term consequences. 
Statistically, by the time a homeless child is in secondary school, they are left on their own without structured academic help.  By the time they’re in their teens, most homeless youth are “couch surfing” or one of the 50,000 youth in the United States who sleep on the street for six months or more.  Field experts are quick to point out that there are far less family and teen shelters than there are for single sex shelters, an issue which clearly needs to be addressed.

There are approximately 110 homeless shelters in California and only 3 are for teens.

According to a First Focus report the number of homeless public school students nationally rose 41%.  In fact, the number of homeless students (preK-12) increased in a school year from 679,724 (2006-2007) to 956,914 (2008-2009).  A recent article in the NY Daily News says, “At 19 of the 20 schools that the Education Department announced last month it plans to shut down, the number of homeless kids jumped by more than 100%.”  

“School is a refuge for homeless children and youth, providing safety, structure and services.  Education is also their surest path to economic and stable housing in adulthood.” 

In order to raise awareness of the challenge of youth homelessness, KooDooZ and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica is hosting a Sleep Out from 6 pm on Friday, August 27th to 8 am on Saturday, August 28th.  Up to 150 kids are invited to make no-sew blankets, watch a movie on this topic and learn how to help in meaningful ways.
·         7-year old Jonas Corona will discuss how he has been able to help homeless youth through his nonprofit organization, Love in the Mirror with the donation of backpacks filled with supplies for middle school students.
·         Ehecatl Rojas of Los Angeles Youth Network will discuss some of the characteristics and traits traditionally seen in homeless youth.  Many are frequently shy and withdrawn.  Homeless students are likely to have lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety than their peers.  Overall, their academic performance is compromised.

While the recession has certainly refocused our attention on the plight of the poorest families, our nation doesn’t yet understand what actions every day people can take to help.  This event is an important way for kids and their families to learn what to do to help a worthy cause.

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Importance of Social Fitness

In our world today, there is nothing that occupies a kids' time more than media -- not family, not school, not extra-curricular activities. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that students (between the ages of 8-and-18) spend an average of 53 hours on media each week -- more time than most adults spend at their full time jobs.

While it's a certainly a parent's prerogative to "turn off" these portals or limit the time spent using them, it's also imperative that we don't completely de-value the social, fun and learning opportunities which can couple these virtual worlds.

In a post I recently wrote entitled, "Empower Kids With Service To Their Community," I asserted that social interactions (such as project-based learning and community service) are the keys to unlocking a successful 2.0 migration for our classrooms, libraries and youth groups. Social interactions are defined as the actions two or more people do collaboratively to affect each other's experiences.

Interestingly, the need for social interaction is a signature of our "Homelanders" (GenZ), whose generational characteristics keep them in-tune with technology and innately eco-conscious. On a positive side, having grown-up in a world of anti-discrimination and pro-family legislation, it is believed that GenZ will be more diversity aware. On a negative side, their willingness to experience the world virtually suggests GenZ will be the most unhealthy and least physically active generation yet.

Study after study has focused on determining how much media has played a role in the nation's dramatically increasing rates of childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008 and the percentage of obese children ages 12 to 19 increased from 5.0% to 18.1%

Three years ago, a report was issued by Nick Christakis (Harvard School of Public Health) and James Fowler (Univ. of Calif., San Diego), which revealed that weight gain by a friend increases your odds of obesity by 57%. Further, they asserted, the risk of obesity rises 171% for the closest mutual friendships.

This implies that social norms -- shared experiences and similar environments -- might be more important in weight gain than underlying strict biologic or genetic factors. If this is true, then perhaps not only do we need to heighten our investment in physical activities as a group, but also in the "play your way to fitness" products such as Zamzee, Playnormous and Wii which serve to use social and peer-group efforts to reduce obesity and spark a kid's interest in fitness.

This year First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move nationwide initiative to teach GenZ how to reverse this dangerous trend. Last year, KooDooZ formed a strategic partnership with O2 MAX Fitness, a youth fitness media company whose mission is to make fitness cool, fun and social. Together we produced an interactive city-walk entitled "Tour De Fitness" (TDF). Similar to the Let’s Move campaign, TDF shows kids new ways to eat healthy and exercise, all while having fun with their family and friends. Click here to view our video overview of TDF ‘09:

The purpose of TDF is to raise awareness for the importance of both youth health and youth wellness. Obesity impacts more than health -- social isolation, guilt and even self-loathing can become wellness issues that follow obese people through their lives. Fortunately, obesity is both preventable and reversible. Even small changes to diet and exercise routines can positively affect health and wellness. Families in greater Los Angeles can meet and learn from Daniella Monet, star of Nickelodeon's Victorious, who will be hosting TDF'10 on August 14th, 2010.

Kids who would like to plan a family fitness event in their own community can learn the steps to do it in the KooDooZ Fitness Challenge!

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Behind The Seams - Redefining Beauty


Behind The Seams 
(definition #1)

The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or the senses - and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of originality, artistry & truthfulness.

(definition #2)

One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.

The first definition affords us an opportunity to achieve "beauty" -- anyone can be original and truthful as well as artistic and excellent at something.  But by accepting that second definition, are we dooming our girls' positive self image?  Surely, today's girl is smart enough to know that she'll never naturally look like the celebrities in those air-brushed photos.

Why should the reflection staring back at us in the mirror be compared against the look-a-like models sashaying down the fashion runway, between the folds of magazines, on TV and in mainstream films?  Why have we allowed our own perceptions of beauty to be manipulated by the lens of a camera coupled with the skills of a Photoshop artist?

According to a national study conducted by Dove:

  • 92% of girls want to change their appearance
  • 7-in-10 girls feel they do not measure up in some way

Our children would benefit from seeing positive messages about beauty in lieu of the gender stereotypes and unrealistic body images they are exposed to today.  Consider this finding from a nationwide study by the Girls Scouts of America and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, while 75% of girls surveyed say that fashion is really important to them:

  • nearly 90% say that the fashion industry (89%) and/or the media (88%) place a lot of pressure on them to be thin
  • 60% say that they compare their bodies to fashion models
  • 81% of girls would rather see "real" or "natural" photos of models than touched-up airbrushed versions

Have we created an unattainable model of beauty?


KooDooZ event

To empower young girls, and redefine beauty, KooDooZ and designer Hanna Hartnell is hosting “Behind the Seams – Redefining Beauty” on Saturday, July 31st, 2010.

The day will begin with an interactive Life Revolution workshop designed to help girls find their pace and unlock their potential.  The next hour revolves around fashion itself.  The purpose here is to help girls answer such questions as: "Why do clothes look so good on one person and not so good on others?" From body types to color compliments, the girls will learn what is likely to work best for them.

The final hour is wrapped in an act of volunteerism where the girls can apply the new skills they learned in the creation of hand-made greeting cards -- or as we call them, “caring cards” -- by using silk & fashion cuts as their design elements.  Each hand-crafted card will be donated to the American Red Cross, Santa Monica chapter, which may use them to thank or console their community in need.

By engaging the girls in a meaningful and productive activity that benefits a greater good, it is clear there will also be a benefit to their psychological well-being.  Over the past two decades, a growing body of research indicates that people who volunteer at young ages see health benefits later in life because volunteering brings a sense of fulfillment, a higher self-esteem and a feeling of personal control.

Behind The Seams - Redefining Beauty teaches girls that through their own creativity and generosity, they can use their arts & craft skills to gain the confidence in recognizing that beauty should be defined by what they do versus how they look.

H.R. 4925

There are actions you can take to support healthy media images for girls.  Amy Jussel, founder of Shaping Youth, offers a wealth of information about the “Healthy Media For Youth Act”, which takes a three-pronged approach to promote healthy media messages about girls and women.

  • First, the bill creates a competitive grant program to encourage and support media literacy programs and youth empowerment groups.
  • Second, the bill also facilitates research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect youth.
  • Third, it establishes a National Taskforce on Women & Girls in the Media which will develop voluntary standards that promote healthy, balanced and positive images of girls and women in the media for the benefit of all youth.

It's "behind the seams" that matters

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty video about the distorted images media can portray.

Posted via email from KooDooZ

Empower Kids With Service To Their Community

From our own experiences as kids to having kids of our own, each of us has an emotionally charged relationship with the word "youth".

Our thoughts of youth are shaped around the boundless possibility of new discoveries, novel hopes and inspirational dreams. And yet despite all of the energy, enthusiasm and capability evident in this time of life, the challenge youth have always faced lies in the fact that they are rarely given equal opportunity to affect change or have real social impact in the world we share.

For the last three years, I have researched, interviewed and collaborated with kids born roughly between 1992 and 2002, who happen to be folded between two generations – GenY, affectionately termed Millennials, and their younger siblings, GenZ. For our purposes, I will collectively refer to these kids as "Digital Natives".

While there is certainly a generational divide that is digital in nature, the larger gap that needs to be bridged today is more cultural. From the point of view of youth, schools and parents are not properly recognizing the profound generational shift in citizenship styles that has occurred.[1]

Characteristically, Digital Natives value experiential learning, working in teams and leveraging social technology. They want to gain knowledge by doing, rather than being told what to do.[2] Moving seamlessly between online and real world, these kids crave "virtual meets virtuous" activities that reinforce social interactions. Because they care deeply about humanitarian causes, community service is not just an option for these kids, it's a responsibility – so much so that it has become increasingly "cool" to "give back".[3] Nearly 8 in 10 youth today (79%) are interested in volunteering in their immediate community.[4]

What has become increasingly clear for me — and paramount to the founding of KooDooZ — is that three stakeholders need to be considered in today's world: (1) Kids, (2) Classroom and (3) Community.

Unlike other educational experiences, Service-Learning builds the bridge between kid, community and classroom with theory and practice. When done right, kids provide service in response to community-identified concerns and learn (i) the context in which service is provided, (ii) the connection between their service and academic coursework and (iii) their roles as citizens.

Despite the fact that service in a learning community increases GPAs and critical thinking skills among youth, Service-Learning Inspired as a teaching strategy has actually gone down from 46% to 35% for high schools and from 38% to 25% for middle schools.[5]

While it's true that recent legislative reform (as evidenced by GIVE Act and Serve America)[6] has set in motion a growing national emphasis on increasing students’ involvement with their communities, public and private schools are actually controlled at local levels. As a result, program successes are varied and inconsistent state-to-state and school-to-school.

Simply said, the concept of Service-Learning Inspired took off before the infrastructure was in place to support it. This explains why, perhaps, 77% of middle schools and 86% of high schools (which translates to 68% of all K-12 public schools)[7] have concentrated instead on community service and days of volunteerism. Though these experiences still enable impact, it's impossible not to question the real win that otherwise would have been gained for both kid and cause had the system enabled a learning opportunity.

In 2009, 63.4 million Americans volunteered to help their communities.  This is an additional 1.6 million volunteers compared to 2008 -- making 2009 the largest single-year increase in the number of volunteers since 2003.[8] Specific to youth, their numbers grew from 7.8 million to more than 8.2 million.[9]

Think about this... volunteers in America provided 8.1 billion hours of service in 2009 -- which has an estimated dollar value of $169 billion.

With the bulk of youth philanthropy happening outside the conventional classroom, it is perhaps of no surprise then that one of the largest and fastest growing volunteerism trends in 2009 was family volunteering. I attribute this to the following reasons:

  1. Today's kids are willing to hang out with their parents. Surveys show over 90% of youth today "get along" with their adult counterparts.[10] The vast majority of youth say they have an adult in their life who cares about them (94%) — and of those youth — 92% specify their parent(s) are the ones who care the most.[11]
  2. Homeschooling, which has been cited as the fastest growing segment of American education[12], often leverages volunteerism as a teaching tool, and consistently graduates higher levels of community-engaged citizens.[13]

During a KooDooZ focus group, a ninth grader shared these feelings: "As a surfer, I know I should care about my beaches, but when I was asked to pick up trash for community service, it felt like a punishment. I had my mom sign-off that it was done, instead of doing it."

Were the same opportunity tied back to a [marine] biology class, or asked of an eco-minded group of students who seek out opportunities to participate in various ocean stewardship/environmental science competitions, such as Team Marine, the call to action would have been embraced.

Ironically, this same kid shared that he would have been willing to participate in a beach cleanup had it been coupled with something more meaningful to him. Specifically, this 14 year old gravitated towards being given the opportunity to teach autistic children to surf. "My problem wasn't really about picking up trash," he revealed, "it was more like…making a difference to fish wasn’t the same as helping people. And so, yeah, I'd rather do community service for these autistic kids, even if it meant I also had to pick up trash."

Adults who label Digital Natives as "lazy" and "lost" have misunderstood what they're all about. Not only do these kids want to make a difference, they have proven that they really can have impact — as evidenced by twelve year old Zach Bonner, who has for the last six years (yes, you read that right) been advocating for youth homelessness, and Addison Graham, who at age nine, adopted One Warm Coat as her nonprofit partner. Both of these young social entrepreneurs have raised money, recruited new people to the cause and directly benefitted a non-profit.

I profile countless examples of kids raising significant monies for nonprofits on the KooDooZ Facebook page and Twitter feed.

14 year old Hannah Taylor has raised nearly $2M to help the homeless; 17 year old Riley Carney has raised nearly $100,000 to break the chains of poverty through literacy; 11 year old Olivia Bouler has raised more than $135,000 for the National Audubon Society; and so many more kids like them are doing amazing service for their communities.

While young philanthropists may not personally be able to write a big check, the financial influence they do have should not be underestimated by nonprofits, foundations or profit-for-purpose organizations. Digital Natives plan to be generous donors, with three-quarters (76%) of them stating that they will regularly give to charity.[14]

More to the point, Americans who volunteer their time and skills to nonprofit organizations donate an average of 10 times more money to charity than people who don't volunteer.[15]

So here before nonprofits and profit-for-purpose organizations is a phenomenal life-engagement opportunity to cultivate evangelists.

In order to see measurable, repeatable and actual success with kids in service to their communities, adults need to understand and value the passion points of the Digital Natives.

The time is ripe with opportunity to empower youth to impact the world we share. Knowing that youth learn outside the boundaries of formal education, they need access to empowerment opportunities so that they can craft their own identities in unprecedented ways.[16]

In this way, the skateboarder intense about getting his only "high" from freestyle tricks can be revered as an athlete capable of delivering a successful anti-drug campaign. A young girl passionate about writing can promote literacy to her peers by encouraging them to write a story that they can read to kids at a local hospital. A photographer, techie, financial wizard — and all the other multitude of things that Digital Natives happen to be — can be purposed to make a higher difference.

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