The Preflight Story

          In order to solve the complex and wide-reaching problems our world faces, we will need to give everyone the opportunity to take part in finding the solutions. This fact has become clear to me through the process of developing and implementing Preflight.


          I’m Gavin Cosgrave, a high school junior in Davis, California. Through an online class, I heard that an online platform called OpenIDEO was hosting a design thinking challenge around youth employment. I checked out the platform and submitted my story in the research phase of the challenge. I was surprised that other community members took the time to comment and give their thoughts on my contribution.


          I looked at the problem of youth unemployment from a student’s perspective. Often times, youth are unaware of the wide range of career opportunities available to them. And, even if they do have an idea of what career they want to pursue, they might not be aware of what that job actually entails on a day-to-day basis. Internships are a great way to get some of these answers, but they are hard to come by for the majority of high school students. Could there be a way for a program to combine inspiration and mentorship with skill building and practical experience? And, could businesses actually benefit from the opinions and ideas of young people?


          It was from these thoughts and online conversations with OpenIDEO community members that “Real World Challenges Visit the Classroom” (as it was called at the time) was born. I submitted the idea of bringing professionals into classrooms to host challenges related to their work on the first day of the “ideas phase” of the challenge. The input and feedback from the community instantly blew me away. Over the course of the next six weeks, the dozens of comments and conversations helped strengthen the idea into something more tangible and concrete. I had a blast working on the idea, designing empathy maps and having conversations deep in the comments under the idea. People thought through every step of the process, and got feedback from their own networks. Even the name “Preflight” and logo came from the community.


          As the challenge came to a close and Preflight was named one of the seven winning ideas, it was the end of the online challenge, but only the beginning of the journey. I got to attend the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York, where I was inspired by some incredible people doing incredible things to help the world. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the OpenIDEO team, and a couple other community members with whom I had previously only met online. Everyone I spoke to was excited by the idea, and the experience was truly life changing.


          What’s next? After so much thought and effort, it’s time to take action. Moving forward, I’ll need partners to help scale and amplify the impact. In November of 2014, the first Preflight pilot challenge was held in a journalism class I was taking. Learn more here


          In the end, it isn’t about whether or not Preflight becomes a global success, rather it’s about inspiring students to become problem solvers themselves, whichever career path they choose. It’s a powerful experience to collaborate with passionate people with diverse talents and perspectives towards a common goal, and OpenIDEO does a fantastic job giving anyone with Internet access a way to take part in attacking global challenges. This experience has been transformative for me, and I’m thankful for all the opportunities it has given me.

Thanks for reading, feel free to email me on the contact page!