Revive empowers youth (aged 12-18) to make change in their communities by training them in how to be effective advocates. These students are then placed with social impact organizations that align with their interests, thereby achieving Revive’s secondary goal of supporting social good organizations with youth engagement.
Tell us more about Revive.
Social good organizations of all types and sizes – from big nonprofits like the ACLU to tiny social impact ventures – share one thing in common: a desire to engage with an energized youth corp. But from recruitment to retention, these organizations are struggling to tap into that reservoir of youth passion. Many are unappealing and unknown to young people – and even those that do manage to attract younger demographics often lack the capacity needed to train them, develop them into productive members, and sustain their involvement.
Youth, on the other hand, are always looking for ways to get involved. From our bottom up research, we know that youth are constantly looking for ways to combat the injustices within their own communities. Yet, at the same time, they just don’t know where to go and where to start, or which organizations align with their academic and social interests. They feel hopeless, powerless, and paralyzed.
At Revive, we identify those youth, train them to be effective changemakers, and pair them with relevant organizations. By doing so, we simultaneously ensure that our organizational partners have trained, consistent teams of youth leaders.
In short, we’re a 2-sided marketplace between the organizations that need youth and the youth that need organizations to work with.
Here’s how it works:
On the youth side of the market, we provide a year-long program for students aged middle-to-high school, training them in advocacy and leadership. We’ll use an intergenerational, hyper localized framework, in which students learn from experienced activists in their local communities. Here, they gain both the knowledge and skills needed to organize advocacy campaigns (both virtual and in-person), engage the community, communicate effectively, and work as a productive team member. We then pair students with social impact organizations that align with their interests and provide organization-specific onboarding – empowering them to start making change and gain opportunities for experiential learning.
Now, on the other side of the market, we provide social good organizations with the youth members needed to strengthen their impact. Through our bottom up research, we found that youth recruits are necessary to engage with younger demographics, revitalize social media presence and overall branding, and influence the overall community.
These organizations, despite the desperate need, struggle to recruit youth as a result of their limited capacity and unappealing image. Moreover, many lack the time to properly onboard youth recruits once they have them, leading to complaints of youth recruits being inconsistent and often clueless. At Revive, we remove these challenges by providing youth recruitment, training, and specifically tailored onboarding sessions. We ensure that our students have the professional skills needed to be valuable from the onset.
Furthermore, we enhance what’s already inherently valuable about youth recruits through formally training them in social media skills, communications, and community engagement. With Revive’s services, social good organizations become stronger and more effective, while still maintaining the capacity needed to continue their current operations.
What inspired you to start Revive?
Growing up as a teenager in the Chicagoland area, Carina was really invested in and upset about the issues that were plaguing her community. Specifically, she had been agitated about the gentrification that had ended up displacing her great-grandmother and other long term residents of the Pilsen neighborhood, a historically Hispanic, lower-class community that she cared about deeply due to her family ties. She remembers feeling stuck, with all this pent up energy and motivation but with nowhere to direct it.
Ultimately, she had no idea how to start addressing the issue. Other than an optional urban studies class at her high school and extensive Google searching, she didn’t know where to start learning about gentrification that was geared towards someone her age. In addition, she didn’t know what organizations there were in the area that worked on the issue. Yet, even if she did find one, she felt like she didn’t have the experience, skills, and necessary knowledge to reach out, volunteer, or apply to an internship. Breaking into the policy and advocacy space as a young person with little prior experience nor access to an experienced community activist was intimidating.
Across the globe in Singapore, Zoe struggled to even begin finding her voice. Dealing with disability from birth onwards, she attended a school that routinely neglected to provide accommodations nor support. Rather than ask for change, she accepted – as early as middle school – that this was the only possible way of doing things and that this was the only possible way of existing. The idea of demanding more never even occurred to her.
It wasn’t until coming to college that an entirely new realm of possibilities opened to her. It was here that she learnt to really believe that she deserved more. Never before had she been surrounded by people who so actively and vividly imagined alternative realities, who felt so assured in their own goals, and who continuously validated and uplifted each other’s worldviews. Joining Students for Educational Equity – and meeting Carina especially – allowed Zoe to finally start asking – and acting – for change. Through working as co-president of Students for Educational Equity, she grew to recognize the power of her own voice and her ability to make an impact.
Once we became confident in our community organizing skills through our work together with Students for Educational Equity in college, we realized that this process was much too slow and could have been facilitated at a younger age. For each of us, it took around 7 years to feel confident in our advocacy skills since we initially expressed interest, and we recognize that this was 7 years of potential changemaking lost. Revive is our method of cutting down on this process; by training motivated youth with the skills and knowledge necessary to get involved with already existing organizations and movements that will only foster advocacy skills even further through direct experience and mentorship.
As student activists inhabiting a community that neither of us are planning on staying in long term, we’ve learned to become even more concerned with the sustainability of our movements and the transition of knowledge from the older members of our club to the younger members. Of course, with only 4 years to spare, the loss of knowledge is even more drastic, but we see it as a microcosm of activist spaces all over. Youth, with all of their motivation and passion, and their own unique lived experiences, have so much to offer, but are often excluded due to a failure to transition knowledge. Thus, we hope to both sustain and revive already existing movements by facilitating the integration of youth voices into these spaces and organizations with large historical roots. We believe that with this expedited process, advocacy as a whole can be revolutionized, taking organizations’ work a step further than they’ve ever gone before.
Why is this problem important?
Youth under the age of 19 are often those most impacted by structural injustices – yet they’re also the most neglected when it comes to enacting change. Lacking any relevant mentorship, and without proper guidance, youth are kept ignorant of the avenues available to improving their realities. In the face of inequities, they feel lost, confused, and ultimately paralyzed; trying to make a difference, as one of our high school interviewees said, “feels like shooting in the dark.”
By allowing our students to continue down this path of felt powerlessness, we not only fail to support a huge reservoir of potential changemakers, but we let countless youth fall into learned behaviors of despair, self-doubt, and inaction.
Social good organizations likely have the opportunities and job positions needed to grow confident in one’s own power. However, because they lack the time, knowledge, and capacity to train youth, many of these positions are limited to those 18 and up. We see this as a missed opportunity that we’re working to address.
Who is your target market?
Revive is 2-sided marketplace between the social good organizations that need youth members and the youth that need organizations to work with.
We’ve defined social good organizations as any group whose mission is to address systemic inequalities, create better alternatives, and empower the communities with which they work. These range from mutual aid groups to civil rights organizations to environmental agencies.
Youth refers to students in middle and high school, with a particular emphasis on engaging with those who are most affected by existing inequalities.
What is something surprising that has happened thus far?
Admittedly, when we first started our B-Lab programming, we had no idea what we wanted to do with Revive anymore. After a bad meeting with a youth advocacy organization in Chicago, we were easily disillusioned with our ability to break into the space and develop something that the community actually wanted. Furthermore, after a meeting with a professor at a business school, we feared that in order to be sustainable we faced the threat of co-optation by the revenue streams we relied on, which were, at this time, large for-profit corporate companies.
Originally, we’d planned to subsidize our program through connecting our graduated youth advocates with corporations in return for a fee. We found a value proposition in the assumption that advocacy skills would translate into employable, professional skills. However, we soon realized the limitations of being dependent on these entities that often had missions that conflicted with our own. In our first meeting with Jason Harry, our B-Lab mentor, we expressed these concerns and general anxieties, feeling a bit lost ourselves. But after that meeting, we found ourselves soothed, with a shifted revenue model and value proposition that only continued to be developed even further.
By focusing our attention on other non-profit and social impact organizations, from smaller grassroots and well established organizations, we align ourselves more closely with our original goals of sustainability and revitalization. By working with already existing organizations, we ensure that we are addressing both youth engagement and training as well as expressed community needs without necessarily overstepping boundaries.
How is B-Lab helping your venture develop?
Revive is founded on the belief that mentorship is key to success, and B-Lab is a fitting means of proving it. The accelerator has provided us with the frameworks and structures needed to think systematically about developing our program, especially through the development of our new value proposition that we mentioned earlier.
Namely, we’ve spent most of our time up until now doing bottom up research through surveys and interviews with youth and leaders of advocacy and community development organizations. Prior to getting into B-Lab, we had attempted to do our own bottom up research, but with no clue on what the best methods were or how to design our questions, resulting in data that we couldn’t use for anything substantive. Through B-lab workshops, we feel confident in our ability to effectively carry out our interviews, which have thankfully led to some great discoveries of need and the confirmation of our value proposition. At this point, we’ve gotten some students who have almost word for word confirmed their demand, and their answers have started to become predictable.
Neither of us have much experience with entrepreneurship, so much of our work has been centered around our lived experiences as women of color and as activists in our own rights. These experiences are necessary and important, but we recognize that we lack the tools to really shape and put our venture into action in the most viable way possible. This is one of the main reasons why we had even applied to B-Lab, and our expectations for the program have already been exceeded. Being surrounded by so many trained entrepreneurs and other students with the same mindset of creating a viable business/product has pushed us to new levels.
Lately, we’ve slowly been moving away from bottom up research and have started to engage with more program design, where B-Lab has proven useful. It’s really helping us be careful and deliberate, and we’ve found that when working in advocacy spaces, with youth especially, intention is key.
What do you think are some key skills required to engage in youth advocacy?
When discussing “youth advocacy,” most people think immediately of the protests taking place over the last few years. From March for Our Lives to Black Lives Matter, students have routinely expressed their frustration through organized bursts of civil disobedience. And yet, what’s missing in these conversations is a recognition of all the necessary work to both build up those protests and then to sustain them.
What’s perhaps most undervalued is the importance (and difficulty) of building confidence in one’s own ideals. For many of us, especially for students living with older, disapproving authorities, it’s an energy drain to be constantly defending our beliefs – both to others and to ourselves. Consequently, we’ve found that a crucial aspect of effective advocacy is having a community that respects and encourages our worldviews. Such a space is simultaneously crucial to developing a “voice” – the ability to speak authentically and articulately about the issues at hand – and to gain a better understanding of one’s own identity and positionality. This latter point is especially important to be able to effectively work with others, imagine viable solutions, center the right voices, and responsibly engage in the community.
Speaking more to hard, tangible skills, youth advocates need to learn how to plan for the long-term. Instead of focusing exclusively on singular protest events, we have to think about movements as an accumulation of short-term victories. This shift in framework, as well as the necessary knowledge to strategize in such a way, is paramount to avoiding burnout.
Zoe Fuad (she/hers) is a ‘23.5 student investigating digital communities and their impact on cultural production. She’s spent a year developing curriculum, leading workshops, and helping with the pilot launch of a virtual youth-advocacy program. Here, she’s witnessed the impact of courageous, youth-centered spaces – where students’ opinions are heard, valued, and validated; their viewpoints are encouraged to grow; their identities are uplifted; and they learn to become confident in their own voice. She also has over a year’s worth of experience in social media management, from developing big-picture strategy to producing weekly graphic designs. During this time, she saw follower count, reach, and engagement grow by over 10x.
Carina Sandoval (she/hers) is a rising junior from the Chicagoland area studying International and Public Affairs (Development) and Urban Studies. She has done lots of community outreach work through her roles on Students for Educational Equity (SEE), Class Coordinating Board (CCB), and ONE Neighborhood Builders. She has been very much dedicated to listening to and responding to the needs of the community, making sure their voices are heard.She is also a part of the Social Innovation Fellowship through the Swearer Center and Social Enterprise Greenhouse, where she was paired up with a non-profit organization in order to learn more about how they operate and how they can be sustainable while still doing amazing work.
For the last year, Carina and Zoe have collaborated as co-presidents of Students for Educational Equity at Brown, a student advocacy group. Aside from growing together as a team and as leaders, they’ve gained firsthand experience in what effective activism means, what change entails, and how to center the voices of those most impacted by injustice.