Openly

Openly increases social organizations' impact by helping them share intellectual resources and collaborate.

Photo of Jessy Huang

Written by

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

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

11/19/1998

Where are you located:

Boulder, CO 80302

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

www.upshift.one
(Formerly Upshift One, now Openly)

Date Started

09/30/2017

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

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

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..."

When Finn worked with various non-profits by playing a key role in an organization that facilitates collaboration between Boulder’s 120 environmental businesses and nonprofits, he realized that there is a better way.

When Jessy couldn't access elite colleges’ case studies and business resources, she got frustrated not only because she had limited resources, but because she knew more small entrepreneurs like her would benefit from learning about the solution landscape and building upon existing knowledge.

Further, when we spoke with an investor last year, the investor said she had received over 50 proposals for solar stoves in last year alone. Solar stoves are amazing. But it’s also problematic because these social enterprises are all working in silos, reinventing the wheel and sinking vast amounts of money into R&D - rather than building upon the work already done by their peers.

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

Being two of the 500M social entrepreneurs in this world, we realized that social entrepreneurs work in isolation and repeatedly re-invent the wheel.

Of our 100 interviews with social organizations, 90% want to collaborate with others, but early-stage orgs lack an effective strategy to do so while established orgs mostly collaborate with only local orgs.

This is wasteful as the world's established knowledge and people are not tapped into.

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

Openly helps organizations increase social impact by sharing their organizational knowledge - their business plans, programs, curriculum, research, and best practices.

We are confident that every single organization, no matter what stage, is sitting on intellectual resources that are of value to others. Right now, however, these resources are lying locked away on our computers and clouds. What if we were to put these resources on the Internet for anyone to see, learn from, and build upon?

Our strategy:
1. Focus on niche organizations (educational orgs)
2. Contact them, explain the benefits of sharing intellectual resources (be a part of the network, increase impact, transparency, credibility). Ask for 1-3 resources (in the form of documents) from them and understand the type of resources that would be valuable to them
3. We create a profile for the organization and upload their resources for other orgs in the network to access
4. We contact the org if others shared something that could be of value
5. Once orgs benefit from the resources others shared, they can reach out to those orgs and collaborate. This cuts down resources spent on R&D and reinventing the wheel

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

1) Jerry from New Zealand wants to start an alternative higher education program, he browses other higher-ed organizations on our platform and learns what worked for them and what they are doing now.
2) Jerry found Watson University and its open-sourced curricula, best practices, mentorship/professor vetting process, research. From there, he builds his organization upon everything Watson has already done, making adjustments to fit his situation, wherever necessary.
3) When Jerry later posts iterations of this content back on the platform, Watson benefits from Jerry’s learnings and improvements, too. Together, they both come out ahead.
4) The more "Jerrys" borrow from Watson, the more Watson's model can be replicated around the world, the more impact and credibility Watson can have.

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

GitHub - high level of entry for the rest of us who are not in the programming world - we help the rest of the world who we think would benefit from the open-source idea (i.e., social impact organizations) by using language that they will understand
OpenIDEO - crowdsource knowledge for new ideas from individuals, not developed organizations with existing research and traction who's work is proven - we enable organizations who are already involved in the space to share their knowledge with others to learn from and build upon

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

-Conducted 30 - 90 min interviews with 100 orgs, ranging from educational non-profits to impact-driven B Corps.
-Found that 90% are excited to see what like-minded orgs are doing, collaborate and build upon each other, and potentially share their organizational knowledge
-Built our prototype; 2,302 lines of code written (excluding tests).
-Testing prototype with organizations: Impact Hub Boulder, Watson University, and Cultures of Dignity, The Shoulders of Giants engineering education org, and the Curious Institute
-Established an advisory board:
Andrew Brown, Founder of the Curiosity Labs (Rapid Prototyping)
Rich Frankenheimer, Partner at AVL Growth Partners (Financials)
Jeff Orrey, CEO at GeoVisual Analytics (Software Engineering)
Micah Gurard-Levin, Business Manager at Liberty Global (Community Outreach)
Chris Deardorff, CEO at Magic Flight Studio (Business Strategy)

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

1. Test our prototype - get three organizations per day to share their intellectual resources
2. Incorporate into a Public Benefit Corporation
3. Apply to accelerators - get mentorship resources and funding to extend our runway of working on this project

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

Finn will graduate from Watson University this semester, for him (German citizen) to come back in the US after adjusting his student visa, Openly needs to be incorporated.

Our current single focus is to build a product that people actually want. To do so, we will go through a 2-month prototype testing and iteration phase. Jessy will still study at Watson University so she will work on this besides Watson. But Finn will graduate from Watson, so for him to focus on this, he would need to make a living to stay in the US.

We are also looking for contacts of organizations, specifically educational organizations, who are potentially willing to share their intellectual resources and become part of the network.

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

  • Family support

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 utilized our network from Watson (e.g., Erin Krampetz of AshokaU) and our mentors/advisors to flesh out our idea and gain contacts to other related organizations. We also used the internet to find org's contacts and cold-called them to schedule meetings and establish a relationship. That's how we were able to interview 100 organizations.

Besides that, we tested our ideas and prototype out with all of our classmates. We are also attending conferences, for example, hackathons and the Global Engagement Summit at Northwestern University to brainstorm and collaborate with talents there.

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

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

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

  • Communities of color
  • LGBTQ community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

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

Megan Christensen of Watson University.

12 comments

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Photo of Anastasia Walton
Team

I love how your project gives people a chance to grow their own projects & goals by learning from others, its a great "recycling the knowledge" process! I definitely, would love to participate in both giving and receiving information for my own project.

Photo of Jessy Huang
Team

Hi Anastasia, I would love to stay in touch with you to help you share your resources! If you are free, please shoot me an email at jessyh at http://foxmail.com. Let's connect! :)

Photo of Anastasia Walton
Team

Hey Jessy, I would love to stay in touch also! I just sent you an email.

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