The world's largest conversation series.

Photo of Michael Aaron Ioffe
4 9

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: www.tiletalks.co Instagram: tiletalks

Date Started

April 2, 2015

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

It was one specific experience with inequity that had the greatest impact on me. My sophomore year, I reached out to dozens of local business and nonprofit leaders, asking for a conversation. I wanted to learn about innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship and found it perplexing that innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs themselves did not have a venue to share their stories, insights, and advice. Soon, my mission became clear: I decided to create a space where every student, regardless of background, would have access to live conversations with the innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs they looked up to the most. I wanted to create a completely free and accessible educational resource, one that would foster incredibly powerful and meaningful connections. Thus, TILE was born.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

If you’re a typical student, you have no way to engage in live conversations with your idols: no place where you can hear their stories, ask burning questions, understand their perspectives, and learn from their experiences. Conversations with local luminaries have the power to inspire, illuminate potential, and create meaningful local impact, yet they are inaccessible to the students that need them the most.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Working with over 1,000 students in 280 locations and 43 countries, TILE organizes free, live, and accessible conversation series that bring together teens and a notable local guest. Our proprietary manual and resources enable students worldwide to host free monthly hour-long discussions between notable local luminaries and underserved youth. We’re facilitating the exchange of ideas, advice, and insights from one generation of changemakers to the next. The TILE manual and Platform are the backbone of TILE's operations. The manual is a proprietary 12-page document that explains in detail how to start and operate a TILE conversation series. Constantly updated with new information, the manual is easily accessible anywhere in the world. The TILE Platform—an online resource guide featuring guidelines, case studies, directories, and templates—and our student-led support team allows TILE to scale everywhere where there is basic internet access. By putting teenagers in the driver's seat, we can operate with minimal overhead while hosting high-quality events.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

In early 2016, Mohammed Al-Adlani, a high school student from war-torn Sana'a, Yemen, reached out to TILE. Mohammed wanted to start a chapter in high school, which was located in the epicenter of the conflict. Mohammed had learned about TILE through our partnership with Google. We sent Mohammed the TILE manual and he subsequently organized five events, many of which took place in a bomb shelter. Over the course of the season, hundreds of students from all across Sana'a came to talk with notable local innovators, leaders, and entrepreneurs, who were sharing their stories, insights, and advice with a broad student audience for the very first time. In September 2017, with the help of TILE, Mohammed secured a full-ride to American University in Beirut, escaping Yemen and the conflict there.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our unique model serves underrepresented high school and college students, particularly those with limited access to traditional educational resources. Our target audience includes teens everywhere from suburban New York the war zone in Sana'a, Yemen. We have locations on six continents and reach an incredibly diverse audience. The common connection? Attendees and organizers of TILE events want to make a change, whether that's in their local community or in the world at large. No other organization currently facilitates similarly accessible conversations at our level of scale.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

To date, over 100,000 students have attended TILE events worldwide. Our past speakers have included visionaries such as Larry Miller, CEO of Jordan and Kim Malek, founder of Salt & Straw, while our roster of upcoming speakers includes changemakers such as UNICEF USA CEO Caryl Stern. To date, TILE's chapter leaders have received over $2 million in external scholarships and have gained entry into top universities both in the United States and internationally. 73% of our chapter leaders come from a minority background. TILE is also one of the world's fastest-growing non-profits, with 15 new locations launching per week. We estimate that over 1 million students will have attended a TILE event by the end of 2019. Mohammed Al-Adlani explains the power of TILE best: "One simple conversation helped us realize that we should still have hope; we should still take action to shape our future."

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We hope to reach 1,000 locations in 100 countries by the end of 2018. To reach that milestone, we have translated the TILE manual into five languages and have launched significant outreach efforts abroad. We are in the process of securing funding for a scholarship competition which we hope to launch this summer, and we are also finalizing the acquisition of TILE.org as our primary domain name. We won't stop until there is a TILE chapter in every single school, village, and city. We firmly believe that venues for important conversations are vital (and lacking) in our day and age, and empowering students to host and lead these conversations is the solution.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Funding from foundations or corporate sponsors and support with international outreach efforts are the two primary resources we need.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k
  • Donations over $10k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We encourage anyone and everyone to start a TILE chapter! It's simple, easy, free, and will have a tremendous impact on your local community. The application is on our website.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

College friend


Join the conversation:

Photo of Noelle Holdsworth

Great approach to allow real, authentic conversations. Many times business professionals pass up on mentorship opportunities because there is a set strict time commitment where this allows more flexibility and put it upon the students to continue the conversation. All the best! Noelle

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