For those familiar with how we’ve done things at Yo!, you've witnessed how we’ve grown the platform over the past several years. It began with our magazine, providing a platform for community voices to express their opinions and perspectives. next came Yo! Camp, the first non-denominational overnight camp for teens, and Yo! Internship, offering a community outlet for our friends in college. Then, Yo! Records emerged, nurturing artists and bringing the community together through music.
Individual ideas, all under a united platform. This has always been the intent of Yo! - to nurture passion, support projects, and innovate to elevate and evolve our community. Now, we’re excited to formalize this cultivation process; announcing the inception of Yo! Accelerator designed to open our platform to builders and creators and drive innovate community impact.
Community at a Crossroads
Our community is at a critical juncture right now, and it’s been the case for a while. There’s frequent discussion around the importance of next-generation leadership and the sustainability of our community. Now on one hand, our longstanding organizations play a major role here - they’ve stood as the pillars of our community for decades, and we want them to continue playing this role for decades to come.
But, at the same time, these organizations are also seeking new leadership, new energy, and new ideas. There’s a desire for innovation, but that innovation doesn’t always pan out, let’s explore some of the ways in which this happens.
How Organizations Can Sometimes Stiffle Innovation
Here’s a scenario that we often see: when a new volunteer becomes involved with an organization, they bring fresh energy and new ideas. But, more often than not, the organization is eager to use the energy of the person to support their existing programs and processes, but not necessarily their new ideas.
There’s a multitude of reasons for this. Perhaps there’s entrenched leadership that’s resistant to change, or maybe the organization follows a culture where newcomers must “earn their stripes,” and the new volunteer hasn’t accumulated enough years of service. Sometimes, it’s a matter of limited resources, there isn’t enough money or volunteer power to support the idea.
So what happens next? In some cases the volunteer settles in, they adapt to the organization’s norms and customs. in other cases they get tired and decide to move on. But here’s the thing, regardless of the outcome, the result is the same: we lose the innovation, and both the organization and the community miss out on fresh ideas.
Now before we move on - I need to clarify that this article and the motivation behind Yo! Accelerator are not intended to undermine the great work of our existing organizations. Each of these groups are doing incredible things. We often hear the phrase “okagesama de,” which means “because of you, I am.” Now, personally, I find that phrase to be a little overused at this point, but it’s absolutely true. Community organizations have laid the groundwork for this and the next generation’s identity, culture, and sense of belonging.
There is a place for volunteerism and leadership within these organizations. But we also need to recognize the pressing need for innovation. With Yo! we believe that innovation requires direct resourcing and support to flourish and become something extraordinary.
What Ideas Born Outside of Organizations? Well, These Also Don’t Always Pan Out…
Sometimes people have ideas independent of organizations. In rare cases, the idea is fully based, but the ideator isn’t sure how to start it, who to talk to, or how to resource it… the idea doesn’t become a reality.
In most other cases, the idea is a fragment. Maybe it’s a community need, or an identified problem that needs solving. In these cases even before thinking about resourcing and volunteers, the idea itself needs workshopping and ongoing thought to help it become fully fledged.
The outcome is the same, we lose the innovation. The idea doesn’t launch because the right support and cultivation of that idea doesn’t currently exist.
Let’s Look at an Alternate Approach
Let’s reimagine these scenarios and see how we might reach a different outcome. Ideas need support; they need more than just a “you can do it.” Ideas need everything from business support to training and mentorship. Ideas need a scaffold, an environment and network where innovation doesn’t have to swim upstream. Instead, in this setting, ideas can ride a current that feeds on energy, support, and ultimately creates incredible impact.
Instead of individuals looking into the void and resigning themselves to defeat, we want the opposite. We want individuals to become even more excited about their ideas by seeing the support around them. Then, as the idea begins to launch, we want them to invite their friends. Now, it’s not just an idea, it’s community.
That’s Yo! Accelerator
Naturally, I’m not going to just outline how things “should be” and leave it at that. We have a new program - enter Yo! Accelerator. Our mission is to unite and empower builders and creators, driving innovation and lasting community impact.
Through our annual incubation program, we aim to offer mentorship, training, networking opportunity, and marketing support to change ideas into impact. Through the program and far beyond, we seek to provide ongoing fiscal sponsorship and business systems so that innovators can focus on their ideas, knowing they have a platform and business foundation to operate from.
About Our Annual Program
In our current model - Yo! Accelerator will select an annual class of projects and provide our services, training, and support through a two-year program cycle with additional support and fiscal sponsorship beyond. Be sure to check out our website for more information on the yearly schedule.
Each year will function as a cohort. Upon entry into the program, participants will be paired with a mentor who works with the innovator throughout the year. Participants will also be signed up for classes that occur throughout the year covering a variety of essential topics to help grow and run a project. Cohorts will also have themselves - a class of individuals who share passions and energy for community change.
Then, throughout the year, and well beyond, that’s where business assistance comes in. Fiscal sponsorship means that projects are housed under Yo’s business and our systems provide additional logistical support. This provides our sponsored projects with the business establishment to receive donations, conduct transactions, and conduct other activities that would normally require onerous setup.
Have an Idea? Join Us!
The requirements are simple and straight-forward. Projects must be cause-oriented, not for profit, and with the intention of making positive community impact.
During the application process we’ll host workshops to help interested parties craft their proposals. Application workshops will begin in the spring of 2023. Interested parties should visit our website to learn more.
We’re excited to see what kind of community innovation we foster. We invite you to join us on this journey, share your passion and creativity, and we’ll make some real positive change together.
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