This summer, as part of the social entrepreneurship training of our Fellowship program, we had to introduce our Fellows to the business concept of the ‘pivot’. Sometimes work doesn’t go as planned; sometimes your startup encounter bumps in the road; sometimes something game-changing and devastating occurs in life. For many people, that has been the coronavirus. For us, that was the death of our son. We have all learned that we cannot control the cards life deals us. But we can control how we react to them. I’ve been very impressed with how our Dragons have shown resilience in the face of this virus.
In July, I had a very memorable Zoom call with several of our Dragon Fellows. These students were running in-person projects with an organization that unfortunately, suddenly, had a population with several cases of COVID. It was a Friday and we had projects that had been planning for several months to start their projects on Monday. It would be too risky for them to run their projects in person. I had to ask these project teams to scrap their plans of running their project, perhaps indefinitely, on-site at this organization. Our Dragon Fellows had to quickly pivot, and find either other ways to run their same projects, or come up with something related that could still help their communities. There was a lot of disappointment, and I know a few students spent the rest of the afternoon in their rooms, more than a little depressed. But ultimately, they all rallied and made new plans. Ultimately, they all learned to pivot.
All of our Dragons have found ways to pivot. Instead of performing for senior homes in person, Sean and Hannah curated virtual concerts and performed for isolated elderly via Zoom. Instead of running a musical theater camp, Ella and Leilani spent the first half of the summer delivering socially distanced singing telegrams, sometimes to emergency responders serving on the frontlines. Even my husband, Daniel, got involved by organizing a project of his own: he started in Orange County a non-profit called Delivering with Dignity that paid restaurants to create family meals that volunteers would deliver to house-bound people that couldn’t get to the grocery store. This saved both restaurant jobs and fed our most vulnerable populations. None of us thought we’d spend the summer doing these things, but this summer there were big problems afoot in the world that needed solving.
Earlier this month, in working on our budget for the rest of the year, I had to calculate how much we were spending to serve all the people that we serve. And what I realized is that it’s really hard to calculate the value of what we, as an organization, provide. We teach teenagers that when you see problems in the world, you should ask yourselves, what can I do to help solve these problems? We encourage them to push themselves beyond what’s easy and comfortable to do what’s right. We help them formulate plans, create budgets, execute. We encourage them to reach into the community, of people that need help, and of the helpers. We inspire them to be the helpers. And we teach them that when needed, when life calls for it, you need to pivot.