A Youth Mind

By: Campbell Erickson

Information Access , Activist

There is a fundamental imbalance and cyclical nature in poverty around the world. While economists have long claimed that entrepreneurship is an important determinant of economic growth and development, there are not a lot of entrepreneurship-based classes to teach young people the necessary skills to effectively take on these roles.

Furthermore, western success stories have dominated the conversation, so much so that young people in a developing nation may not even realize that people from within their country, community or village could change the paradigm. 

From a young age, we believe business-minded young people have huge opportunity to make change in the developing world, and with our A Youth Mind curriculum and investment, we hope to both light the spark of entrepreneurship and provide for a launch to their projects. One of the ways that we inspire our youth counterparts is to show them case studies like Crocodile Browser, which was launched by two Nigerian Brothers who created a mobile web app tailor made for Africa. Their web app is faster than google chrome and has received hundreds of thousands of downloads.

We are currently running and facilitating a micro-investment project in South Sudan with 100 youth, another project in Zimbabwe with 20+ youth, and have run initiatives in Kenya, Cambodia, and Colombia.

We are a storytelling project dedicated to documenting the real lives of people in developing economies and communities.

Storytelling is the basis of mutual cooperation, both in business and relationship. Through exchanges of opinion and expression, as well entrepreneurship training and facilitated micro-investment, A Youth Mind works to create sustainable opportunity for young people internationally. 

One of our fundamental beliefs is that of partnership. Every program we run is a partnership, with mutual benefits to both parties. In this way, we guarantee respect and understanding between us and our partnered students or youth. 

We are fighting poverty in two ways: The first is international photography and storytelling exchanges; we amplify the voices of young people who have never been heard before and connect them with the stories of other young people. It is through global awareness that we believe empowerment arises. 

The second method is providing free curriculum and facilitating micro-investment for young entrepreneurs in partnered schools, featured mainly in developing economies and communities.

Team Members

  • Hi there! My name is Campbell Erickson. I am a 17 year old social and creative entrepreneur from Austin, Texas. In the past, I have been involved in multiple different organizations, startups, and projects — but throughout all of my adventure in the world, A Youth Mind has lit a fire in me that hasn’t existed before. You see, my drive in the world is based on this simple fact: young people are inherently similar and inherently different… our differences make us who we are and should be celebrated, but never should our differences grow so vast that they start to impede on equality of opportunity for young people everywhere, regardless of region, state, or nationality. And my goal, with the help of a wonderful organization like A Youth Mind, is to address and work towards equality of opportunity and life for young people internationally.

Impact

Advice for my peers

YOUR CREDIBILITY STARTS WITH YOU: I don’t believe there is any credential that gave me permission to start A Youth Mind. I started the organization because I wanted to give what I already had: opportunity. A Youth Mind is built like a start-up, we try to work like a meritocracy, so its not so much who you are or what you’ve done that informs our decisions on team members and leadership, its what you can do and the passion driving your work that matters. In this way, we are able to educate, empower and support an open-minded, interested generation of young leaders who appreciate one another and humanity.

IDENTIFY “THE RULES” BY WHICH YOUR ORGANIZATION WILL THRIVE: We have on rule at AYM: Everyone is equal. Every youth we work with is an equal and should have a say in shaping how the project looks for them. Through this motivation, we develop lasting relationships with empowered youth. We encourage sustainability by putting the responsibility in the hands of our parters as equals, not as givers. We, as a global community, provide support for each other. 

THINK BIG, START SMALL: We’ve definitely come a long way from where we started — originally this was a “hackathon” style project… “lets see how much impact we can make in 24 hours.” And then it took off, we expanded quickly from South Sudan to Kenya to Colombia. Now? We are receiving more requests to run projects in other countries and developing relationships with government and university partners alike!

RAISE ENOUGH MONEY TO MAKE IMPACT: We are currently working on winning grants and raising money. Our annual budget at our top-operating ability is roughly $20,000. This money though is mainly circulated back to youth we work with through the micro-investment! It is also used for expenses like purchasing cameras and developing film.

THE “BUMPS” OF YOUR JOURNEY MAY TURN OUT TO BE YOUR BIGGEST “BREAKS!”: One of our biggest bumps actually turned out to be one of our biggest breaks! We were originally planning on sending 250 cameras to South Sudan bling, with no proof of concept or preparation. Unfortunately, due to political disputes in South Sudan, it was deemed too dangerous to have any of our team fly over on the anticipated month. 

So instead, we expanded. We shifted our mission and chose new locations in the interim. We expanded to build our micro-investment program and looked for ways we could better work with youth in South Sudan when the program did run. 

We just got our first shipment back from South Sudan yesterday… and it is fantastic. We were prepared for the project and had testing our concept thoroughly due to the delay in action in South Sudan.  

LOOK AHEAD: In the future, we have high hopes! Part of the AYM mission is to compile entrepreneurship curriculum that is applicable to young people in developing economies - we are working on building and making this open-source now! We are also interested in operating our projects and photography exchanges in upwards of 10 nations this year! 


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