Insight to Action

Youth Challenge Incubation Phase 1, Week 3: Synthesis

Last week, project leaders interviewed students, parents, and other community members who might be impacted by their project. Week 3 of Incubation was all about stepping back and organizing the information that the Youth Challenge winners collected during those interviews. We used a process called Synthesis to turn the things they heard into new ideas that they can act on to make their projects stronger.

We focused on organizing information from the interviews in five steps. Here’s an example of N.E.E.D. project leader Carol’s process:

1. Identifying Learnings: Carol talked to students and parents and told them about youth programs throughout Chattanooga. She asked them if it would bother them if they were the only African American students at a particular program; to her surprise, they responded that it wouldn’t keep them from participating. She had assumed that parents and students would only be comfortable going to programs in places that were familiar to them, so she had been focused on helping neighbors get to programs in their own neighborhood. With this new learning, N.E.E.D. now has the opportunity to connect kids to programs they wouldn’t have had access to in the first place.

2. Organizing into Themes: This learning fit under the “Desires” theme.

3. Finding Insights: “Contrary to what I expected, kids are wanting to take part in activities outside of their neighborhood.”

4. Creating “How Might We” questions: This insight was then turned into a question: “How might we provide access to a variety of enriching experiences throughout the city for these students?”

5. Brainstorming Idea: Carol mentioned that the Hunter Museum, Chattanooga Theatre Center, Chattanooga Symphony, and even a meal at a fancy restaurant would all make for fun and enriching experiences.

It’s easy to see how interviews can expand and develop a project in unexpected ways. Carol wondered aloud to the group if it was okay that her project is changing in substantial ways as she talks with youth and parents. Our answer? Absolutely! In fact, we’d be disappointed if the Youth Challenge projects weren’t developing throughout the Incubation process, since good insights lead to good ideas.

Here are more insights and How Might We’s from Tuesday night:


  • Paula, Today’s Teens Transforming Tomorrow’s Teens: “The library needs to be able to communicate better, outside of social media, about its programming in order for more people to make use of their programs.”
  • Laura, Making the Write Choices: “Kids from the same neighborhoods have totally different outcomes depending on parental involvement. In other words, youth leaders aren’t from a higher socio-economic level or different area of town — they just have more involved parents.”

How Might We’s:

  • Judith, Break the Cycle — Love is Respect: “How might we help youth recognize the signs of date violence and warning signs as it pertains to social media?”
  • Lauren, What If: “How might we show the youth that they don’t have to follow the same “wrong” footsteps as the people around them?”
  • Jasmine, You Matter: “How might we help the students acknowledge their “now” in order to create steps that push them into accepting and becoming more confident in their life paths?”