Archive for August, 2010

Absurd thinking … or thinking absurdly

My favorite part from the song “Ugly Love” by EELS is when E (whose father, evidently, exchanged letters with Al Einstein) explains that he  “dreams about so much it is absurd.”  … That sounds like me!! … Well, except that my obsessions come minus the romanticism  of “dreaming”.  More accurately, I brood about so much it is absurd.  Or, I analyze so much it is absurd.  … The list could continue, but in the interest of time, energy, and cutting me a smidgen of slack, let’s just say that I think about so much it is absurd.

What are my finances?  Where will I do the pool portion of the course?  How many hours is the curriculum?  What is the most practical business model?  How is it possible that I’m not yet sick of bagels?  … The list could continue.

The truth is that there is a lot to think about.  As aforementioned, this isn’t the challenge for me.  The challenge is that I don’t entirely know what to think about.  But the good thing about thinking too much is that even if you don’t know what to think about, you’ll think about something anyways.  And whether it has been a waste of time or essential groundwork for the program, I have been thinking a lot lately about the “buy one, give one” business model and how to make this work for Schooba.  I have also been thinking about whether this would work best for The Academy in a for-profit or non-profit framework.  I have begun a comparative analysis of two different organizations that use/have used the “buy one give one” model, one operating as a for-profit and one as a non-profit.

TOMS Shoes

For-profit

“TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about. The TOMS mission transforms our customers into benefactors, which allows us to grow a truly sustainable business rather than depending on fundraising for support.”

One Laptop per Child (OLPC)

Non-profit

(Please note:  OLPC does not permanently operate under the “buy one give one” model.  They have simply offered this to the public through different times in their history.)

“The mission of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. In order to accomplish our goal, we need people who believe in what we’re doing and want to help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege.”

… Absurd, you say?  Tell ‘em, Don (Barthelme):

“Those who never attempt the absurd never achieve the impossible.”

Bye bye baby bonds

With the trifecta of my winning the trip to Antarctica (estimated retail value: $28,000), my receiving of the Segal AmeriCorps Education Reward ($4,725), and my selecting of the most incompetent accountant in town (who decided to inform me on April 18th that he wouldn’t, in fact, be able to file my taxes), the government has decided to stand firm in their position that I’m one wealthy, unpunctual son of a gun.  But there’s no need to fret!  The potential for forgiveness is high … so long as I immediately pay $7,500 …

And so, in the interest of me not starving to death, I have decided to free up a 1/16 of an inch in my desk drawer and part with my most ancient of gifts.  To those of you who were so generous in my youth, xie xie.  And to my middle school coin collection, you better watch your back.

Month at the Museum Contest Update

Well, I didn’t move on to the next round.  (Month at the Museum Contest)  I did, however, make the notable rejects list!

Check it out:

Month at the Museum Contest – The Latest

I’ve always been a fan of Tom Robbins

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

Just a thought.

Generating revenue

As stated earlier, ideally, The Academy would be an entirely self-sufficient enterprise, i.e. there would be no need for any outside source of funding, i.e. it would be able to generate enough revenue internally to cover 100% of its costs.

In thinking of ways to achieve this state of perfection, I have been thinking of ways that The Academy could generate revenue.  Hmm, I could charge a tuition, I could … I could … I could …

Dang.

What are some other ways that The Academy can bring home the bacon?

Through working with a partner??

Mission

To provide science enrichment to at risk NYC youth through working with a partner to learn how to SCUBA dive

I have spent a lot of time focusing on the few words which compose my mission statement.  When questions/distaste arise regarding it, they almost unanimously involve the “through working with a partner” part of it.  Evidently, what is clear to me is cloudy with a chance of meatballs to others.  Whose opinion carries more weight?

I see three components to a mission statement: the what, the who, and the how.

My what: providing science enrichment

My who: at risk NYC youth

I saw my how operating via two major factors: a working partnership and the learning of SCUBA.

“Partnerships” are a foundational aspect of SCUBA diving and its training process.  They are also a great way for students to engage in meaningful learning.  This strategy will continue to play a vital role in the program, however; I don’t think I can afford mass confusion surrounding my mission statement.  When I think about the mission statements that I like the most, they are concise, realistic, and leave little room for ambiguity.  (My favorite of the past week (although it includes no “how”): from the Khan Academy – to provide a world-class education to anyone, anywhere.)  And so, in the interests of a more universal understanding, I would like to try a new mission statement on for size:

Mission

To provide science enrichment to at risk NYC youth through learning how to SCUBA dive

Thoughts?

Sustainable Schooba

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make The Academy a sustainable institution, i.e. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the heck to make this whole thing work.  And the more I’ve been thinking the more I’ve been realizing that I want to rely as little as possible on outside sources, i.e. if I can generate revenue from within The Academy, this is a good thing and one that should be taken advantage of.  And so, in the present state of affairs – however tentative they might be – I will be moving forward with the development of The Academy as a program which, for at least some kids, comes with a price tag (hopefully a tax deductible one).  Ideally, The Academy will be able to stand on its own two (four?) feet … and then, break the 24-hour run world record.

(This is no way means, though, that I am no longer interested in unsolicited donations of gargantuan proportions.  Seriously, get on that.)

The New York Academy of Sciences

Also has the right idea.

Academy expands NYC science education initiative with lead funding from Infosys and Goldman Sachs

Schooba, so hot right now, Schooba

Esprit has the right idea.

Chic now in Vienna

Chic now in Vienna

Switching gears (pun intended)

So, we made it to Wien! (Vienna, for those of you that don’t speak Deutsch.)  I apologize for the lack of activity, but the route was much more rural than anticipated (don’t ask me why I anticipated otherwise) and computers (that I could use) were few and far between.  Nevertheless, there was plenty of time for thinking and getting ready to switch gears (har har har) for the big return to The States on August 20.

The vision of The Schooba Academy is getting clearer and clearer.  I am not sure/I don’t think that I will ever consider it “done” or “perfect”, but I am getting to the point where I am ready to move forward with what I have and move on to the next step/steps in the process, i.e. developing the curriculum and figuring out how to fund/implement it.  (This is where you tell me not to worry and that a most generous donation is on its way!)  The idea of a “partnership” or a “collaboration” with an already existing organization has come up before as a possibility to fruition.  The Echoing Green Applicant Coaching Guide states,

“Given that starting an organization is an incredibly difficult and expensive enterprise and that there are already over 1 million organizations in the US alone, it often makes more sense to find out which organizations are already working in your field and then see if you can collaborate with them to achieve your goals.

Wise social entrepreneurs spend a great deal of time researching their field.  They gather information on the major players and compare and contrast their respective ideas.  If they find an organization that’s already implementing their idea, they work with it to achieve their goals.  And even if no organization is already working on their exact vision, they find compatible organizations that may be willing to incorporate their new idea.  Only when they’ve exhausted existing resources do they attempt to start a new organization.”

And so, what organizations might I be able to collaborate with?

So far, I have gathered a list of five:

Outward Bound

Rocking the Boat

The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School

Harlem Children’s Zone

Stoked Mentoring

What am I missing?  Is there anywhere that The Academy fits in??


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