Paganucci Fellows collaborate with Positive Tracks

by Tianhang Dong | 9/15/16 1:01am

This summer, five students — Alexa Sonnenfeld ’17, Steffen Eriksen ’17, Kelly Moore ’18, Robert Crawford ’19 and Kelly Chen ‘18 — helped Positive Tracks, a Hanover-based nonprofit, improve their philanthropic U23 challenge program through an eight-week long consulting project. The students, who were selected for the annual Paganucci Fellows Program, also worked and learned from Tuck School of Business faculty.

According to Nini Meyer, the president of Positive Tracks, the U23 challenge is designed to help young people “sweat for good.” The name “U23” indicates the targeted demographic: youth across the world, especially those under 23 years of age.

Positive Tracks accepts submissions for ideas that combine philanthropy and athletic events. The nonprofit then chooses ventures to support throughout the whole process by helping with organization, fundraising and event support.

“We call that ‘Philanathletics,’” Meyer said.

Sonnenfeld said that they embarked on the consulting project by interviewing 55 individuals in the Upper Valley — including both those who had and had not heard of Positive Tracks — to evaluate the U23 challenge.

In their final presentation, the fellows offered Positive Tracks several recommendations, including the initiation of a Youth Mentorship Program, the modification of the nonprofit’s digital platform and the improvement of an existing fund-matching system.

“We came up with the idea of the Youth Mentorship Program as a group,” Moore said, adding that her past experience in similar girls’ skiing mentorship groups helped her contribute to the proposal.

In order to accomodate Positive Tracks’ expansion as an organization, the fellows recommended that the original digital platform be modified to more efficiently deliver the philosophy and mission of Positive Tracks to new users. Eriksen said that they divided working on the platform into two parts. First, the organization would explain its “Sweat for Good” curriculum and why it is meaningful to participate in the U23 challenge. The second part would feature a “Tool Kit” that displays the resources Positive Tracks can offer to users.

Eriksen also explained that their newly designed fund-matching system could encourage participants to raise more funds. Previously, Positive Tracks would donate 23 dollars once a participant successfully raised more than 23 dollars. After careful consideration, however, the fellows suggested that Positive Tracks should match as much money as a participant could collect, up to 23 dollars.

Meyer said she was really satisfied with the recommendations. She said Positive Tracks initiated the Youth Mentorship Program immediately because it could help their previous participants “stay in the network” and also help introduce others. She said she was amazed by the level of detail provided by the fellows.

Meyer said the new digital platform is in progress and “hopefully will be finished in the fall or winter.” Furthermore, Positive Tracks is now considering a mobile app to reach out to more young people.

“We received a full-fledged consulting for free, which was really helpful for a nonprofit like us who cannot really afford service like this from elsewhere,” she said.

Besides working in Hanover, the fellows also travelled to South Africa to see how other nonprofits were already practicing the philosophy of “Philananthletics.”

Crawford said, “Part of the reason we went to South Africa was to see a could-be pilot of the U23 program near Johannesburg.”

For example, the fellows saw “Yoga4Alex,” a nonprofit in Alexandra, “a low income and extremely densely populated neighborhood,” Eriksen said. Yoga4Alex offers free yoga classes to youths to help them deal with everyday stress and anxiety. However, due to various regulations, Yoga4Alex could not be designated as an official pilot for Positive Tracks’ program outside the US.

Eriksen said that the fellows met with 12 nonprofits, many of which dealt with youth development and education.

“We talked to people about what went right and what went wrong, which really helped us to form our recommendations and final presentations,” Crawford said,

The fellows also attended events held by various nonprofit organizations in South Africa.

“One of them was Football Center for Hope in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town,” Eriksen said. “The curriculum they delivered was not only about soccer, but also included HIV and AIDS prevention, general women’s health.”

Crawford, who is interested in consulting, said he applied for the fellowship because it offered deeper responsibilities than “what a normal intern would do.”

Richard McNulty, the faculty advisor and co-founder of the program, said he looks for nonprofit organizations that a team of fellows could actually make a difference with. In the future, McNulty said the fellowship will look for more international opportunities.