learn / 2020

The Why Project

The Why Project

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Novus Think Tank

The Why Project empowers underprivileged students in the [NEIGHBORHOOD] of Los Angeles. Inspired by neuroscience research demonstrating that we can only think deeply about things we care deeply about, we start with the why, working with students to hone in on their passions and develop creative projects around them. Those projects expose students to new ideas, challenges, and opportunities, promote their self-agency and project management skills, and above all, reinforce upon them that their passions are worth being passionate about.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Pilot project or new program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Novus Think Tank

What is the need you’re responding to?

The Why Project is a direct response to the current education system, which lacks in its ability to support the passions of students in ALL subjects. Education should not be limited to essays or exams, but applications of how knowledge can be used to empower and change the world. Unfortunately, underprivileged communities are further disempowered as students are not motivated to believe that their ideas can change the world. Ultimately, this squashes their ability to bring forward their ideas and make them into reality.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

As a grassroots organization, we’ve seen firsthand how execution of a passion project incites creativity and self agency, an essential skill to flourishing in all endeavors. Our organizers have gone on to become successful academics, engineers, and entrepreneurs due to the skills they’ve learned within our organization. Novus carefully crafts an environment in which the community built in the organization fosters collaboration in the creation of robust, specific solutions to problems endemic to our community. Novus more accurately simulates the “real world” job market outside of an educational setting, further empowering students with the toolkits they need to pursue what matters to them in any career. The Why Project doesn’t teach students what to think, but rather how to think critically and pursue their goals, regardless of the current structures in place. We want to emulate these values found in our own organization to foster the same type of passion amongst students.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

We hope that The Why Project is able to change the way in which education is approached within the classroom. This includes a curriculum that is focused on discovering the passions of each individual student. Moreover, a proper execution of the project may further prove the level of imagination and productivity students may have when given not only the proper resources but also the guidance of individuals who genuinely believe in their passions and creations. We aim to inspire the next generation of passionate creators, and provide them with the assistance that they lacked prior to carrying out their ideas, and we believe that a holistic approach such as the WHY Project is best suited for it.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The vision for the Why Project is to develop a community of passionate, empathetic and driven individuals in high schools across Los Angeles that embody values of self agency, vulnerability, and compassion. Because the Why Project’s main focus is the development of people and projects, we will measure success by tracking students personal growth through the use of journals. A big part of the Why Project is action so success can be tracked via the tangible improvement of student engagement and productivity. The goal of the program is to empower students, through self agency, to pursue a project in whatever subject choice in a structured setting. Usually, students aren’t given any autonomy in the work that they are assigned, nor have much say in the content of what they are learning. Through the Why Project, students will be given autonomy to build out their projects that are representative of their learning and ability. From this goal, we are able to track their success through their own set milestones within their projects, which emphasize their autonomy, enabling them to follow through on their project ambitions. Furthermore, their milestones can be used as a marker to give guidance to students, allowing them to develop their project in their own ways, but also enable for constructive input on their progress while maintaining the project’s independence. We hope to be able to guide the students along their projects and provide them with the guidance and resources that they’ll need, but also be able to see a tangible project that they are fully invested in and responsible for.

Which of the learn metrics will your submission impact?​

  • College matriculation
  • High school graduation rates
  • Opportunity youth (“Disengaged youth” 16-24 not working or in school)

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
  • Capacity, including staff
  • Strategy assistance and implementation