Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

The Lewis Institute Activating Youth

Over the past 8 years, The Lewis Institute has put the power of entrepreneurship into the hands of over 32,000 youth. After officially rolling out our ACTIVATE curriculum in 2017, we had the chance to step back and think about all of the communities, individuals, and mindsets that have been transformed and the power of what we’ve set in motion around the globe.

When we think about the word “curriculum,” what often comes to mind is something stagnant, rigid, and strict. These words don’t inspire or empower educators who teach traditional “curriculum” or the students who are learning new concepts. As part of our mission to educate entrepreneurial leaders to create economic and social value simultaneously, the ACTIVATE curriculum helps educators and students use the power of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® to identify problems in their communities and create sustainable solutions. By incorporating best practices into their programs, educators empower students to take action and give them tools to navigate uncertainty in their lives. In the words of ACTIVATE author, Janai Mungalsingh ‘08, the curriculum is “designed to give practical hands-on experience that students need in order to discover and experiment with critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, leadership, and conscientiousness.”

Creating economic and social value can look very different in different communities, and we’re excited to see some of the ways ACTIVATE has helped spark change recently in different parts of the world.

In Boston, this curriculum has been used to educate 25 traditionally underserved Boston Public Schools students. These English Language Learners used ACTIVATE to create businesses that addressed needs directly in their community, including food insecurity and access to food from their home countries. This project, funded by The Verizon Foundation, was created in partnership with Sociedad Latina and Boston Public Schools teachers to bring students and educators to the classroom and to bring their learnings back into their homes, schools, and communities.

In cities and towns across Massachusetts, ACTIVATE is taught as a co-curricular option at both public and private high schools to stimulate entrepreneurial business ideas that address the unique needs of each community. This program empowers educators to directly teach their students entrepreneurship as it is relevant to their individual lives, and gives them a chance to further their ideas if they qualify for The Babson Boston Cup at the end of their 12-week journey.

In our flagship Summer Study for High School Students program in Wellesley, students from more than 35 countries progress through the entrepreneurial process both inside and outside the classroom to not only earn college credit, but to also cultivate the type of businesses and world they want to see in their future. These students return to their home communities inspired to tackle challenges relevant to them and activate their own new ways of operating.

In Baltimore, several of our former Summer Study students have taken their newly learned ability to see problems as opportunities home with them and created an entrepreneurial ecosystem to help create positive impact in the community. In the next few months, our Youth Programs Team will be partnering with an organization on the ground to train educators to teach with a new entrepreneurial mindset, thereby further amplifying what our students set in motion.

Later this month, Cheryl will join Janai and Katie from our Youth Programs team on a trip to Costa Rica where they will engage with the community and help map the entrepreneurial ecosystem for youth. They will also present ACTIVATE with the potential of bringing that curriculum to the Lincoln School and its broader stakeholder community.

The Lewis Institute is now in conversations with schools and organizations as far away as Saigon and Oman, and it’s exciting to think about the ripple effect of this work around the world. It’s even more exciting to see the change in our young entrepreneurial leaders, and to watch one person acting on an idea transform into an entire community being emboldened to create economic and social value.