Genius Hour Pitches

So, you have an idea. You’re running with it. And then…

You realize that there’s something missing.  You’ve left something out. A big something. A project-crippling something.

You need to organize. You need to answer the BIG QUESTIONS. You need to write your pitch. If you were stuck in an elevator for two minutes with your idol, what would you want to say about your passion–about your project? How could you make it unforgetable?

1. What is your passion? What’s your project all about?

2. What problem are you solving? How does your project make the world better?

3. How do you attend to accomplish this? What secret ingredient does YOUR group have that will make the world AWESOME or solve the problem you intended to tackle?

4. Ask for something. What do you want your audience to do? Support your cause? Donate? Watch your video? Join your organization? Shop fair-trade? Eat more vegetables? Be clear. Be direct. Ask.

Make your presentation beautiful, clear, and exciting. The world is at your door…

Food Insecurity and Water Rights

Food insecurity is a serious issue. Arable land can be scarce, and when combined with issues of water rights, we’re beginning to see areas of the world where this is getting serious.  In our “food” video, it becomes clear that food and water are connected.  We need to look at food and water supply together.

I told a story about growing up in Eastern Connecticut. I lived in a suburb that had a lot of farm country sprinkled in and around. Growing up, there always seemed to be a farm at the top of the hill. I did a lot of cycling, so I noticed this–at the exact point where I could barely inch up the hill, there’d be a chicken farm. You haven’t experienced life until you’ve breathed in the richness of a chicken farm, knowing there was nothing you could do to bike any faster. I didn’t love that experience at the time. I do now. Now, I recognize that farms like these are disappearing from the landscape. Big business is taking over. The food supply in this country has been industrialized.

The idea of getting quality food is coming back into vogue.

Urban gardening and “guerilla gardening” have become movements in the United States and many parts of the world, and organizations like Food Tank are changing the way we see our food supply and infrastructure world-wide. Sometimes the smallest change–planting fruit trees in road medians rather than decorative plants, or tweaking an irrigation system, help people.

Here, you can see how one person with a vision changed an entire village. The video included on this Learnist board shows how water rights were central to conflict in the region of Gambella, Kenya. Artist, author, and entrepreneur AJ Leon organized thirty people, broke up the costs of building a windmill, and got the job done. Each person raised just $500. That’s doable. The windmill now stands, pumping water to over 600 families.

Food and water are critical things to consider. Avoiding waste, innovating solutions…these are things we need to discuss. They’re also things you can act upon. People are doing it. You can, too.

Issues to consider: 

  • unequal distribution of resources–how to get food and water where it needs to go
  • neocolonialism–the fact that many wealthy countries are buying land in poorer countries who may need the money now. When the land is sold, it’s generally used for companies and farming for the new owner
  • industrialized farming–one side of this argument says that big farms are necessary because we have a lot of people to feed. The other side says that by developing new seeds–GMOs–we’re becoming less and less healthy.
  • pollution–food and water supplies have become or are still contaminated in many parts of the world
  • the organic and local food movements–there is debate as to whether shopping locally or being organic is actually better. People feel strongly on both sides of this argument.

“What Breaks Your Heart?”

We’ll work to identify the larger issues in the world that really cause you great sadness… things that break your heart that you wish you could change about the world. We’ll do this every Friday.  By the end of the year, you will be producing SOMETHING that addresses the problem. You will obey “the code.”

The code: “I promise to give all of my genius to this problem. I will not hold back. 

  • Promise to give all your genius to this subject–no holding back.
  • Promise to reach out and network on your issue–research the problem, communicate with others in the world, get people to support you on this.
  • Promise to do everything you can to move forward on this issue. You will change the world!

This activity has evolved from the lesson I’ve started with you already. On Fridays, we were working to identify issues on the world stage to become experts. You each chose themes you most wanted to research. You’d be the experts.

Yesterday, I had the chance to attend an amazing speech by Angela Maiers where she took the lesson we were going to do to the next level.  She asked “What breaks your heart about these issues? What are you going to do about it.” Truth is, we have amazing power we often fail to use. 

I changed our long-term lesson to include elements of Angela’s project.  Her quote to all students is “You are a genius. The world needs your contribution.” This is something we’ve said in this class, but sometimes we don’t take the time to act. This year, we won’t hold back!

The moral of the story: As you connect with your friends, family, communities, and the outside world, the ideas you have get better. You meet people who help you make things happen. You feed off other people’s energy, ideas, connections, and resources… and you change the world.  “Together, we are smarter.”  It was a theme I heard not only in Angela’s talk–she brought students to tell us their experiences, too, but it was a theme I heard over and over from the nation’s top innovators. The more we connect, the better we can make things happen!