November 21, 2023

Measuring Impact on Teenage Mental Health Entrepreneurship: Insights from the Connected Learning Summit

Categories: Connected Learning, Equity, Featured, New Trends, Research, Youth Well-Being

Image: Innovators from Headstream’s cohort 3 celebrating the culmination of the program. Image courtesy of Headstream Innovation. Download high-resolution photo here.

This blog is part of the Connected Learning Alliance’s Post-CLS Blog Series, where we are highlighting work presented at CLS2023. Check back here to see more posts in this series. 

The Connected Learning Summit and Headstream

On October 27th, 2023, during the Connected Learning Summit, an event dedicated to exploring innovative approaches to education and youth development, Headstream Innovation had the opportunity to lead the session “Measuring Impact on Teenage Mental Health Entrepreneurship.” This session delved into the pioneering work of Headstream, an innovation program from SecondMuse. Headstream’s mission is to radically improve adolescent mental well-being, with a particular focus on BIPOC, Latino, and LGBTQIA+ youth. This blog post provides an overview of the session and key insights shared by the presenter – David Ball, Headstream’s Director – and the attendees.


Introducing Headstream’s Vision and Mission

Headstream’s core mission revolves around catalyzing a revolutionary transformation in adolescent mental health through the fostering of inclusive environments and economy-building initiatives. The program is dedicated to empowering young individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities, by advocating for innovation and systemic change within the pivotal realms of health, education, and social tech—systems that profoundly influence youth well-being.

The focus on marginalized groups, such as BIPOC, Latino, and LGBTQIA+ individuals, underscores Headstream’s commitment to addressing the unique challenges and disparities in access to mental health resources that these communities endure. Headstream acts as a steadfast advocate for those who are most in need and lack the vital support required for their well-being.

The heart of the CLS session recognized Headstream as a catalyst for change. The program actively brings together changemakers and industry leaders, fostering collaboration and innovation in areas crucial to the mental well-being of young people. This collective effort is indispensable for instituting systemic changes that prioritize mental health within the very systems that wield significant influence over the development of youth.

Headstream’s approach hinges on the creation of inclusive environments where individuals from diverse backgrounds collaborate. Through the encouragement of dialogue and cooperation, the program empowers communities to shape the direction of policies, allocate resources, and spark initiatives impacting youth mental health. This collective action is pivotal in ensuring not only the recognition but also the effective addressing of marginalized communities’ needs.

Addressing the crisis of mental well-being is no small feat, and Headstream recognizes that collaboration is essential – the organization cannot navigate such complex terrain alone. Instead, Headstream’s strategy to combat this pervasive issue involves rallying the game-changers, movers, and shakers who can address the root causes.

Headstream drives innovation by actively collaborating with visionary entrepreneurs who are reshaping the landscape of how young people interact with digital platforms. By providing these entrepreneurs with resources and support, Headstream aims to empower them to scale their businesses and extend their reach, thereby making a more significant impact on the mental well-being of young individuals.

Headstream also emphasizes including young people in the conversation. Acknowledging their rightful place at the table, Headstream ensures youth voices are heard, particularly in decisions related to the technology they use. This inclusion is grounded in the belief that involving young people in the creation process ensures that the solutions developed truly cater to their needs.

Finally, Headstream strategically engages with the most influential sectors where youth are nurtured — education, health, and social tech. Through close collaboration with these sectors, Headstream endeavors to make mental well-being a top priority within their systems. By working hand in hand with educational institutions, healthcare providers, and social tech innovators, Headstream aims to instigate a systemic shift that embeds mental well-being considerations into the fabric of these critical sectors.

Headstream’s multifaceted approach leverages collaboration with innovative entrepreneurs, active involvement of young people, and strategic partnerships with influential sectors to create a comprehensive strategy for addressing the mental well-being crisis. By uniting these key players, Headstream aims to effect lasting change and make mental well-being a shared priority across various domains impacting the lives of young people.


Zooming in: Driving and Elevating Innovation

Image: Attendees at the Headstream Innovation Festival last November 2022 engaging with the different tools and resources Headstream offers. Image courtesy of Headstream Innovation. Download high-resolution photo here

In the past four years, Headstream has been dedicated to the identification and promotion of startups that are driving significant advancements in addressing youth mental well-being across the United States. These digital products, pioneered by innovative entrepreneurs, can potentially broaden access to mental health resources, ensuring that care reaches individuals currently lacking access. Moreover, these initiatives aim to fortify the existing mental health workforce while providing multifaceted support to students based on their distinct needs.

Digital well-being innovations play a crucial role in offering tailored support for the mental well-being of young people, addressing their unique challenges across various areas. Headstream has actively supported more than 36 promising innovations committed to enhancing youth mental well-being. This support extends beyond mere recognition; Headstream has played a pivotal role in refining these products and optimizing them for their target audiences.

Headstream’s involvement has encompassed the refinement of value propositions, the establishment of a robust community that fosters mutual support among innovators, and the facilitation of connections with young individuals who provide valuable guidance on product development. Additionally, through strategic initiatives, Headstream has successfully secured investments for these startups, propelling them forward on their journey to advance and scale their innovations.

Headstream has not only nurtured startups but has also contributed to the broader ecosystem by creating a range of tools and resources (below). Understanding the complex dynamic of factors influencing mental well-being is crucial for designing effective interventions. Headstream’s evolving approach, from the foundational Causal Loop System’s map to the innovative Digital Wellness Landscape, has allowed it to refine its understanding with each step, and develop practical tools for addressing mental well-being challenges.

  • Causal Loop System’s Map: A visual representation of dynamic relationships in the mental well-being landscape. This tool has been instrumental in helping Headstream identify key intervention points within the ecosystem. Mapping out interconnected factors provided insights into the variables shaping mental well-being.
  • Digital Delta: Building upon the insights from the Causal Loop System’s map, Headstream introduced Digital Delta, a crowdsourced research tool specifically designed to identify the primary factors influencing adolescent well-being in digital spaces. This evolution allowed Headstream to zoom in on the unique challenges faced by today’s youth, highlighting the significant role digital environments play in shaping mental health.
  • Impact Navigator: Recognizing the need for a standardized evaluation framework, Headstream developed Impact Navigator. This tool provides entrepreneurs, institutions, and investors with a shared language for assessing the efficacy of startup products and services in promoting youth mental well-being. By streamlining the evaluation process, Impact Navigator empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions that contribute to the overall improvement of mental health initiatives.
  • Digital Wellness Landscape: In Headstream’s ongoing quest to stay at the forefront of innovation, it introduced the Digital Wellness Landscape. By compiling data from sources such as Candid and Crunchbase, this tool systematically examines the actors within the wellness landscape, allowing Headstream to identify emerging innovations and potential funding opportunities in the field, ensuring that its programs remain adaptive and responsive to the evolving digital landscape.

The session “Measuring Impact on Teenage Mental Health Entrepreneurship” during the Connected Learning Summit shed light on the transformative work of Headstream. By addressing the specific mental health needs of BIPOC, Latino, and LGBTQIA+ individuals, and fostering collaboration among changemakers and leaders in the industry, Headstream is contributing to a brighter and more inclusive future for young people. This session served as a reminder that innovative solutions and collective action are essential for improving the mental well-being of teenagers and creating a more equitable society.

In the ever-evolving landscape of adolescent mental health, Headstream’s work stands as a beacon of hope and progress. It is a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity in addressing the mental health challenges faced by youth.

Guest post by David Ball

David Ball leads SecondMuse’s Headstream, an innovation program focused on sourcing and scaling innovations that address the complex intersection of technology and well-being for adolescents. Over the last decade, David has advised more than 100 social entrepreneurs to solve global environmental and social challenges. Currently based in Oakland, California, he continues leading that work at SecondMuse, collaborating with industry leaders, governments, and funders to scale these impactful innovations.

More articles written by David Ball can be found here: 

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