Last week I checked in with Zach Essig, the student leader of The Paper Project, one of our amazing grantees we’ve been working with for the past year. Zach’s group based out of Wilson High School works with low-income middle students to provide mentoring through student journalism. As part of The Paper Project’s social capital grant of $25,000, we provided a pro-bono volunteer team to help address their biggest strategic challenge. Actually, they had a bunch and that is a very good thing. You can see the whole team here in this great shot when they first met Zach in February 2015. (Hint: Zach is the one wearing the lei:)
First, The Paper Project’s leadership team turnover is intense. The high school student leadership team has a ticking clock that requires them to train and transition new leadership on an annual basis before they depart for college. Talk about a human resources challenge.
Second, the organization was wrestling with how to tackle their biggest challenge to sustainability–the cost of printing the student newspapers. While going digital seemed like the easy solution, Zach and his team were adamant on the need for a paper product that the students could hold in their hands. It was clear this young team of millennial leaders felt that paper had POWER.
Third, the team wanted to encourage the independence of middle schoolers as quickly as possible to produce, fund, and develop student papers of their own. That’s right, they were looking to shift core costs of product development onto their client. Kind of genius but very, very tough when you realize we are talking about 11-13 year old clients where 97% of them are living below the poverty line.
Well, the ink has dried and the dust has settled on our pro-bono team’s recommendations. So how’d we do? Stayed tuned for a future post about how Zach and his team of pro-bono consultants leapfrogged some pretty tricky problems.