Encouraging young social entrepreneurs to learn collaboratively and dream big.


Design Researcher, Lead Designer


Aaisha Fatima, Melissa Nadeau,
Ray Thamthieng, Caitlin Yee


Service and UX Design, Qualitative User Research, Concept Generation, Prototyping


Make it Mondays is a programming initiative designed to engage young entrepreneurs who have ideas for social innovation and need a community for support and guidance. It offers social entrepreneurs/makers opportunities to meet and learn from like-minded peers and experts through exciting, interactive short-term projects and workshops.

While more and more youth are interested in social entrepreneurship as a means for tackling some of the world’s toughest challenges, many aspiring social entrepreneurs fail to move beyond the initial idea phase because the infrastructure to support them is lacking. Some are unable to gain access to networks or mentors that could provide the knowledge and experience to confront major decisions, while others lack the capital they need to start their venture.

The project was developed through +Acumen and IDEO.org’s Human-Centered Design course across nine weeks, and was refined through a process of inspiration, ideation, and implementation. I worked as a team lead alongside 5 group members, leading our weekly workshops and collaborating on the interviewing, researching, idea synthesizing and prototyping processes.
In order to narrow down a solution for our challenge to enable more young people to become social entrepreneurs, our team needed to conduct research to identify the current landscape for our audience as well as the barriers to entry that stopped current young people from pursuing social entrepreneurship. The data that guided our design solution focused on human experience was gathered through interviews and field observations. We interviewed individuals across various stages of the entrepreneurship process as well as the senior programming manager of an innovation center with expertise on social entrepreneurship. We also conducted on-site observational research at mHub, an existing space that encourages entrepreneurship in the Chicago region, as well as at Startup Weekend, a 54-hour weekend event where teams pitch and develop startup companies. Our research participants and observations helped our team understand the current landscape of social entrepreneurship and identify the barriers to entry for young people.

I was very lucky…got the right cards and played them right. Resources got me thinking about interactions between public and private sectors, tools to do social activism in a way outside of politics. I wish that social entrepreneurship had more recognition.

Aspiring Social Entrepreneur
Aspiring Social Entrepreneur

I’ve had to seek experiences elsewhere by being open to engaging with people who have expertise in the field.

Aspiring Social Entrepreneur
Aspiring Social Entrepreneur

I couldn’t find non-profit work that I wanted to pursue, so I made my own opportunity.

Former Social Entrepreneur
Former Social Entrepreneur

The young part doesn’t really matter… success has more to do with hands-on experience, resources: network, financial, timing.

Senior Programming Manager, mHUB Chicago
Senior Programming Manager, mHUB Chicago

Upon sharing and systematically synthesizing our interview findings, several clusters of insights emerged. We came away with three key insights:

Community Support

People desire safe spaces for emotional, professional, and brainstorming support.

Learning from Others

Young entrepreneurs find it hard to find a good mentor (and role model) match that allows for a long lasting relationship.

Skills Development

There is no defined trajectory or curricula for skills learning, except for some online courses geared towards hard skills.

These insights provided a framework for us to craft generative questions that would gear us toward developing solutions to our challenge at hand:

  • How might we foster communities for people interested in social entrepreneurship that encourage knowledge sharing, creativity, and personal support?

  • How might we create ways to facilitate connections between people with interest in social entrepreneurship and mentors that encourage meaningful relationships?

  • How might we help individuals cultivate practices and skills that allow them to pursue their unique social entrepreneurial aspirations?

With our 3 core questions identified, we began to brainstorm potential solutions for each of them. Patterns emerged amongst our ideas and we used those to reorganize our potential solutions into conceptual groups. Our solution ideas ranged in feasibility and creativity and included online, digital services like forums and networking sites, as well as offline programs that ranged from ‘speed dating’ events between mentors and mentees to co-working spaces and classes that facilitated learning and sharing. The process of brainstorming helped us to clarify the one specific challenge that was at the core of all the experiences we aimed to learn from: it was difficult to develop a supportive community. Not only was this specific challenge highlighted across all the participants we spoke to, it was the lynchpin or the other two challenges of addressing skills development and appropriate mentorship matching.
Ultimately, we filtered down our ideas to ones that best addressed how to develop supportive communities for young people who have ideas for social change.  Our most promising ideas centered around recurring offline opportunities that would bring social entrepreneurs together to work collaboratively on short-term projects. The three ideas that we merged were a ‘mentors, mint tea, and monkeys’ social event, ‘Fail Fridays’ that encouraged individuals to be comfortable with making mistakes and sharing their failures, and brief project opportunities that allowed people to test run mentor and mentee relationships. The core of these ideas fostered a supportive and relaxed environment to meet entrepreneurs of all skill levels, encouraged individuals to cultivate an entrepreneurial mentality and actionable skills, and allowed people to collaborate and learn with others.
Lastly, our team developed a user persona and storyboard. Our prototype focuses on a single step of the user experience process as outlined in our storyboard. We agreed that the group project/challenge phase would be the most integral step to finesse and develop.

Make it Mondays was designed with our three key insights in mind, as it aims to provide a casual, collaborative community for individuals interested in social entrepreneurship through short, but instructive activities to allow people to expand their entrepreneurial toolkit while connecting with like-minded changemakers. Through our research, we found that drive, a strong support network, and accessibility to resources that encourage growth and learning were all fundamental instruments in entrepreneurship development. With our program geared more specifically towards social innovation, the platform connects individuals that 1.) are interested in learning more and engaging with local social innovation programs, 2.) want to expand their entrepreneurial skills through productive projects, and 3.) want to connect with like-minded individuals who can provide mentorship, collaborate on future projects, and more.

Our prototype for a group challenge was based off of an iterative feedback process where we found what aspiring social entrepreneurs were most interested in learning. Each event consists of an opportunity to connect with other attendees and your teammates for that day’s event, an activity co-led by a local nonprofit or social innovator, a team challenge designed to engage and teach a new skill while providing an opportunity to collaborate and learn from your other teammates, and a talk/reflection from an established social entrepreneur. This format allows attendees to learn from a wide range of individuals with a variety of experience levels and skillsets through visual, auditory, and experiential learning styles. Meanwhile, the short-term projects encourage attendees to venture outside of their comfort zone in an low-stakes environment that encourages failures and out-of-the-box thinking. Attendees leave with a new skill in their social entrepreneurial toolkit, insights into the local social innovation sector, and new connections that can help with their longer-term social entrepreneurship projects.
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