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As Margaret Mead so eloquently asserted, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

New York City is brimming with these powerful citizens- talented designers, passionate entrepreneurs, thoughtful philosophers, brilliant marketers, and ambitious do-gooders.

But how do you harness and leverage their curiosity, desire to connect with like-minded individuals, and passion for social change?

With a pertinent challenge and a great meal of course! The Feast fosters an innovative community dedicated to driving social impact through their annual Conference and The Feast Worldwide.  The Feast Worldwide is a series of independently organized dinner parties focused on a theme that runs parallel with the conference.

February’s theme was empathy. How can you cultivate compassion and understanding in our fast paced world, especially when we are bombarded with work, deadlines, and constant pleas for our attention?

On February 24th, The Feast brought together 30 professionals from diverse careers and backgrounds at WILD in the West Village.  Dim lighting and a cozy ambiance set an inviting mood and sparked thoughtful engagement.

The guest speaker for the evening was Nancy Lubin, Founder of Crisis Text Line and CEO of DoSomething.org.  After receiving a number of calls for help in response to DoSomething announcements, including a text message from a girl being raped by her father, Nancy knew that teens had a dire need not being addressed.  Over 13,000 people tried to text 911 last year, but text messages to three digit numbers are undeliverable and go nowhere.  Teens faced with substance abuse, physical abuse, eating disorders, and other challenges were looking for a safe, fast, and easy way to reach out for help.

Crisis Text Line (741741) provides free support from trained specialists to teens in trauma or crisis via text messaging 24/7.  It has received over 1.1 million messages since launching 6 months ago with little marketing.  There is clearly a need and desire for this service- but how can this free service be scaled to provide quality support for everyone in need?  As Nancy said, “I want to make sure that every teen who sends a text message receives a response and the support that they need.”

After introducing Crisis Text Line and explaining the pivotal role that the organization plays in the lives of teens, Nancy posed four problems to the engrossed audience:

  • How can we make it easier for social entrepreneurs to start new things? How fund non-profit, social good initiatives like Crisis Text Line?
  • How do we create new data visualization and fragmentation of Crisis Text Line
  • How do we bring science to counseling? And keep shrinks and counselors from freaking out?
  • How do you release real time data well to public and other organizations?

Attendees let the questions percolate while they munched on crisp salads, fresh hummus and vegetables, and gourmet gluten free pizza.  Excited chatter filled the room as ideas were generated, discussed, and developed.  The diverse talents, experience, and skills that attendees brought to the table sparked innovative suggestions and an ardent passion to help Nancy bring Crisis Text Line to teens all over the country.

After dynamic conversation, each table presented their suggestions to Nancy and the rest of The Feast group.

Some suggestions that stimulated the group included:

  • Rebrand as a healthcare technology nonprofit to overcome the difficulty of situating and finding funding for a unique social enterprise
  • Partner with telephone companies to create a “Minutes Bank” that enables customers to donate minutes, which would help alleviate the costs that Crisis Text Line and the teens who use it
  • Create a data visualization map in a major transportation hub (i.e. Grand Central Station) to illustrate local issues on a heat map or clock to force the local community to see the immediate and critical issues afflicting friends, family, and neighbors
  • Leverage the Uber model to expand and geo-target Crisis Text Line services
  • Share Crisis Text Line data with networks of counselors and psychology associations to give them more information about what teens are going through

Do you have ideas or suggestions for Nancy?  Please email them to The Feast at hello@feastongood.com.

Do you want to connect with fellow social conscious New Yorkers?  The next dinner is March 23rd around the theme of All Hands on Deck.  If you're interested in attending, please apply here: http://feastongood.com/2014/join-us.  Guests will be chosen by lottery to come to the dinner party and workshop ideas for an entrepreneur.

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 Photo Credit: Greg Baker

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