As our founder, Caroline Boudreaux is fond of saying, “No one knows better how to fix a problem than the person who has the problem.”
This kind of “lived experience” can be vital to finding innovative solutions to long-standing issues—which is exactly what we need in the US Foster Care System.
As we expand our focus and impact on foster care here at home, listening to young people who’ve been through the system is part of our strategy for 2023 and beyond. We need their insight and enthusiasm. We want to encourage their ideas. And so we held our first ever “Social Impact Summit” this past weekend at our Austin office.
As envisioned, the Social Impact Summit would bring together motivated young people with first-hand knowledge of the foster care system. Then we’d hear their ideas to transform the way we take care of children and provide them with the resources needed to put these ideas into action.
First, we’d listen, then we’d invest.
Talented participants attended the Summit from all over the country, bringing with them a wide variety of innovative ideas.
Over the course of the weekend event, participants took part in workshops on fundraising, marketing, finances, strategy, and more, all led by Miracle Foundation team members alongside Madison Dao Whitten, co-facilitator with lived experience, and Robert Beasley, founder of Work for Life.
“It was great to see how collaborative they were,” Niyoshi Mehta said. Niyoshi is Miracle Foundation’s Director of Global Programs, and she helped facilitate the event. “All the participants were so supportive of each other’s ideas. Even though it was a competition, they were rooting for each other, giving and receiving feedback without any competitive edge.”
The event culminated with a panel of Miracle Foundation judges listening to ten-minute presentations from all attendants.
What made a winning idea? “All the winners had a robust and well-thought-out pitch,” Niyoshi said. “They clearly listed their mission, goals, and impact, they displayed strong leadership and showed the potential to carry out their vision. And their ideas were innovative and closely aligned with the mission and vision of Miracle Foundation.”
All ideas received some funding, from $2,500 – $5,000, but our top winners really stood out.
Channetta Stewart & Eshawan Peterson took home top honors and a $25,000 prize for their “Ripple Society Leadership Coaching,” training people with lived experience to become consultants and advocates. Loney Nguyen and her “Advocacy Angels” received $15,000 to provide innovative mental health support to children in foster care using service animals. And Crystal O’Grady won $10,000 for her vision to create culturally appropriate training for Native American families by Native American families.
“I am thankful for the gift, but I am so thankful for this gift,” Channetta told us in her acceptance speech, gesturing around the room. “If you said the win is to connect to people like you, that would have been the gift. This can change millions of children’s lives. It’s not just headwork, this is heart work. Maintain that heart, and build.”
“We believe in the power of young adults,” says Miracle Foundation CEO Leslie Beasley, “I was so inspired to be around so many incredible change makers, especially with the focus on the US Foster Care System. I can’t wait to see what our winners accomplish and the impact we can have together in partnership.”