Youth Services Insider: New Innovations with Youth Services Implications

Entrepreneur is a cool business magazine that Youth Services Insider invariably buys on flights to and fro the nation’s capital.

I grabbed the most recent issue on a recent flight back from Florida, where YSI had the pleasure of speaking about foster care and the public dialogue at the Daniel Foundation’s national foster care conference.

The June Entrepreneur cover feature is a look at “100 Brilliant Companies: Ideas, People and Technologies on the Cutting Edge of Business.” In reality, it’s a mix of business profiles and smaller vignettes about specific applications, software and products.

Here are a few that jumped out to us, with some half-baked thoughts on how they might be valuable from a youth services perspective:

gDiapers: A reusable, cloth diaper with disposable inserts. Also, an excellent name for a child rapper.

Youth Services Connection: From a quick scan of product reviews, looks like the market demand for these will need to rise before it becomes a more affordable option. Once it is, gDiaper bulk purchasing by child welfare agencies or nurse-family partnerships might be a good way to help keep costs down for poor families.

Wickr: A free app that allows for sender-controlled messages that will “self-destruct,” like the messages in Mission Impossible but without the actual explosion. The technology behind the app is encrypted with the same security used by the National Security Agency, who probably got it from someone they were following on Facebook.

Youth Services Connection: From a selfish perspective, we’ll throw this out there: leaks! If you see something egregious happening within the system you’re a part of, Wickr would allow you to reach the media or a watchdog group without having to worry about someone tracing that back to you.

For youths, it would be a similar concept: Wickr can help youths report on abusive or dangerous situations they are in without having to worry about the “snitch” factor. Examples: abusive foster parents or biological parents, conditions in juvenile facilities, or potentially dangerous situations in schools.

Wildblue: A satellite-based, high-speed internet service. The company offers steeply discounted rates to rural communities, thanks to funding from of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Youth Services Connection: Is Wildblue perfect? Hardly. Like anything else that involves satellite, customers will have interruptions because of snow, rain, or intergalactic wars. But it’s a cheap option for youth programs to use to connect participants to all things Internet, which in the right context can mean learning opportunities that rural youths might go without.

Speek: A free conference-call platform that operates around a website link created by at least one user on the call. Other callers can click on that person’s unique link, type in their phone number, and join the call. The webpage connected to that unique link acts as the hub for the phone call, and you can share documents on the page.

Youth Services Connection: In the cost-cutting era, meeting over the phone and web is a pretty obvious sources of savings versus travel, lodging, mileage, etc. We’ve yet to trial run Speek at The Chronicle, but if it lives up to its billing it seems like this might also be a way around the cost of a webinar in some cases.

Speek also seems like it could assist with communication between youths and families involved in child welfare or juvenile justice, or for calls between those parties and legal representation.

Mindblown Life: The boys at California’s Mindblown Labs used Kickstarter to raise money for this game, which aims to teach young gamers how to manage money in a fun way. For old-timers like YSI, it’s reminiscent of the Oregon Trail’s actions-have-consequences mentality, but with modern relevance.

Youth Services Connection: Straight line here. Pretty much every young person in the country needs this lesson in one medium or another.

MapBox: This company uses OpenStreetMap – which is basically the location version of Wikipedia – as the template for a map-creation program. It has been used for all sorts of projects, including Pew Research reports and USA Today’s election platform.

Youth Services Connection: Community mapping (Richard Murphy would salivate over this technology), and mapping associated with youth-related research and advocacy.

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1212 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at