Helping millennials develop their ideas for social change through ACCESS

Everything you need to get your “legacy project” off the ground

I was interviewed on Moving Millennials as part of a series (all episodes are here). One of the topics was ACCESS, the non-profit organization I started back in high-school.

You can listen to the audio interview here.

Recording Moving MillennialsDave Anderson:  Welcome to yet another incredible week where we are featuring an inspiring millennial mentor. And if you haven’t heard Daniel’s entire story yet (we’re at episode 81 today), so go way back to episode 4 and you can listen to that, but I’ll just give you a quick idea as to who Daniel is and what he’s about. Daniel is an entrepreneur and an activist. He runs a youth-led nonprofit called ACCESS and he also runs a creative services company called Now Creative Group. And with that, he blogs and he speaks and he’s averred in all social media. And I have to give Daniel a ton of creative because it is the Now Creative Team who are behind the branding and the visual identity of not just Moving Millennials but also of my other company that I run with Blake Fleischacker, Small World. But Daniel’s team is behind the branding for both of my projects and we’ve got him back today. So first and foremost, Daniel, thank you so much for taking time out of your week to be with us on Moving Millennials.

Daniel Francavilla: No problem, Dave. I’m super excited to be back and to see how your show has grown since I was first on. It’s awesome to see how it’s evolved.

Dave Anderson: Well Daniel, I want to dive in to the topic for today because we’re going to be talking about your youth-led nonprofit called ACCESS, and more specifically ACCESS Innovation, which is a new program you’re running through the charity. Why don’t you just give all of our listeners a summary of what ACCESS is all about?

Daniel Francavilla: Alright. ACCESS is, as you said, it’s a youth-led nonprofit and it’s something that I started back when I was actually in grade 10 and it kind of came out of a desire to create change, like an underlying desire to create change I guess, with my mom always encouraging us to donate. It’s just a given that every year we’re going to drop off stuff at the food bank and there’s always used clothes donations going out of the house and stuff like that, but where it really started was in grade 10 there is a trip to Dominican Republic. This was through my high school. They recruited for this trip in grade 9 and it was interesting because it wasn’t positioned as a vacation, of course. It was an exposure trip and you were going to be exposed to what life is like in the developing world. Being someone who’s, again, growing up with the whole social justice lens, I showed up for the meeting. In the end, there was only about five of us that agreed to go, and so we had to team up with two other schools. And we went on this trip, and the leader, the teacher leading the trip actually he had never been either, so he really didn’t know what to expect. And it was this whole thing of expect the unexpected and having this whole faith and you’re going to see what you need to see and something will come out of it. We went on the trip and we saw what life was really like behind the scenes, outside of those all-inclusive resorts that we know places like Dominican Republic for. So we went on the trip, really inspired by the people there and their incredible desire to learn and to speak English and to grow and to better themselves. You see pictures of people just sitting helplessly, sitting around. But in reality they’re vibrant, they’re energetic, they’re excited, they’re happy that you’re there. We saw that there was an opportunity and I knew for sure when I got back I need to do something. And it turned out that without school uniforms, they actually couldn’t attend school. That was a barrier to entry to education, and without education, of course they couldn’t learn English. They couldn’t work in the tourism industry, they couldn’t go to university, they couldn’t do anything else.

It was already established that I was going to be doing a presentation at my local church when I got back.

It was funny because of course I had no idea what to expect from this trip. I knew I would be presenting when I got back. The following weekend, I think it was on March 4 and 5 in 2010 I presented my experience with a slideshow at every mass, at every service that whole weekend, so maybe 5 or 6 times. And sat outside with a little table and thought I would collect change for school uniforms and I thought they’re around $20-$30 per uniform with shoes and I’m going to collect some change. And even my parents had said they were expecting handfuls of change that people give. But in the end of that weekend, we have raised over $8000.

That was something that for me as a grade 10 student, who just sat there at a table, it was really unexpected and it was the drive forward for the organization. That was my initial kickoff. Since then, ACCESS has obviously evolved over the last 8 years.

It does sound long in history. A lot of people do start up organizations or initiatives in high school and it kind of drops off, but I’ve had a great team. We’ve obviously come and gone in cycles based on everyone’s school careers. But right now we’ve shifted to not only focus on education specifically, but we focus on empowerment. So we focus on education, empowerment and inspiration. And that happens both locally, here in the GTA in Toronto, Brampton-Mississauga areas, and internationally. So we work in other countries as well like Haiti, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, but now we’re expanding our local programming and there’s where ACCESS Innovation comes in.

Dave Anderson: First and foremost, if anyone wants to follow ACCESS on Twitter, you can do that by just following @ACCESScharity. Daniel, I just want to speak to everyone here and just realize that how powerful this story is. You just went on a trip in high school to the Dominican Republic and made a very simple decision when you came home but you were going to actually do something after that to create real change in the world. Through that simple decision, you’ve now, for 8 years, been running this successful nonprofit and you guys have had such an amazing impact on not only the world in the developing countries but you’ve also done so much incredible work locally in our province of Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area and our country. You’ve evolved, obviously as you just alluded to, and ACCESS Innovation is really now centered in this idea of empowerment and allowing other young people who are really in a place very similar to where you were when you started ACCESS in the first place. You’re giving them the tools that they need to be successful in starting up their own cause. I think this is so important and it perfectly aligns with the vision of Moving Millennials, which is really just creating that new millennial life of travel, contribution and freedom, and the freedom to do what moves you and that when you do what moves you, you end up moving the most people, inspiring the most people and changing lives. Can you just, very quickly, as you wrap up this first conversation of the week with you and we can talk about this more throughout the week in different ways, but just really speak to ACCESS Innovation and exactly what you guys do for young people who are looking to initiate their own venture.

Daniel Francavilla: To back up tiny bit; it did actually evolved organically out of this. We didn’t just decide “hey, let’s start collecting school supplies.” then “Let’s help people with their projects.” It kind of grew as I graduated from high school and then from university, and our team members are kind of were all in different points in their life as well. We looked at ways that we could maximize our impact. One of those ways was to have chapters in universities, so we had chapters at Western, at Laurier, at McMaster, and a couple other schools that are starting up. But then we thought, what do we with these high school students? Early on we knew that we would need to help continue that torch, right? Pass on the torch. As I developed skills in the creative field, which you’ll hear about later…

Through design and marketing and communications and branding, we decided that we’ll apply all of that to helping these new groups. Typically they’re high school-age right now, but we have a few that are in university and we’re definitely open to working with people that have graduated as well. Anyways, the idea is to help them take their idea into action on a practical level and to help it become sustainable from the start and to be focused and strategic. All of the challenges and hurdles that we went through with ACCESS, we can help people jump right over those to start off and proceed with what their actual vision really is, and clear away the things that are very tiresome when it comes to registration, dealing with the legal status, dealing with the bank accounts, dealing with naming, and things that could actually stop people because if you realize how many things there are to do, like if someone gave you a checklist…

Dave Anderson: You’ll get overwhelmed.

Daniel Francavilla: A lot of people would get overwhelmed or stop.

Dave Anderson: You just not do it.

Daniel Francavilla: You can stop before you can start kind of thing. We help these students that have awesome ideas and we do hope that they’re innovative ideas. We don’t want to be duplicating projects that are happening. There are some awesome large organizations that provide aid and relief programs that are well established, and so part of it is how do create innovative solutions and innovative projects that people can jump on board with and that really make an impact. We help to group a few groups so far but we actually just started working with three new groups and they’re all based in the Peel region, but the great thing is that they’re students across Ontario, at the universities. Instantly they’re able to spread their work. But really we help them with branding it, making it different, making it stand out, and then making their programs and their events something that’s unique and something that aligns really well with their vision and mission. Keeping that all on point so that their energy can be used in the best possible way and they can make the best possible impact.

Dave Anderson:  I just think, Daniel, that you are truly the right person to be creating a project like this, ACCESS Innovation, because you bring so much experience both in actually doing it yourself. You’ve been through the process, as you’ve said, and you can help people shortcut so many different things that you had to stumble your way through firsthand and you can help people move through those obstacles and those details and the legal stuff very quickly. But also, and we’re going to talk about this throughout the week, because you have a skill set in branding and in design and in web development and you have so much experience in running events successfully, you can bring that area of expertise to these young people who are creating their impact projects as well. And so just very quickly, we’re going to wrap up this first conversation of the week. Tomorrow we’re going to talk about something that you call coworking, the benefits of coworking and exactly what that means. But for anyone who’s listening right now, who either knows someone who might have a project, a cause that they’re excited about and they want to do something about it, or if you yourself listening right now, if you have an impact project that’s been sitting in the back of your mind and you pushed it off to the side for a long time, and it’s beginning of the year, 2015, a new opportunity to create impact in the world, Daniel, how can people connect with ACCESS Innovation?

Daniel Francavilla: For right now, we actually have an application open at ACCESSinnovation.ca, which is part of our existing website that we just recently refreshed. You can go to ACCESSinnovation.ca and fill out our support request and don’t be daunted by the format. It is actually very concise. And also you can apply at various stages. Your idea doesn’t have to already have traction. You can just be starting it; you can be in the planning stage.

Dave Anderson: Awesome.

Daniel Francavilla: You could be well established but are totally changing it or rebranding it and you need help with that. So ACCESSinnovation.ca, any type of youth-led social change project nonprofit social venture we’ll be happy to help you. And we have a few project we’re working on right now that we’ll be sharing very soon for you to see.

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