MindRight empowers youth of color to heal from trauma from systemic oppression
By the time Alina Liao and Ashley Edwards met in graduate school, they had individually developed deep passions for supporting youth suffering from trauma. Through their work in schools and nonprofits, and with their own families, they had each seen how untreated emotional trauma impacted student education outcomes. They were also deeply troubled that schools and other institutions were not supporting students emotional and mental health needs. Ashley and Alina cofounded MindRight with the firm belief that if students were given the right emotional supports, it could not only improve their academics but help them succeed in life. They envisioned a world where all students have access to mental health support.
After researching different kinds of mental health supports, Ashley and Alina were ready to run a “quick and dirty” test of their idea: texting-based socioemotional coaching for low-income students, using Whatsapp as their platform. By using an existing tech platform and focusing on content, Ashley and Alina were able to test their core assumption that students would engage with the service. Students told them that their service was one of the only spaces they felt safe expressing their raw thoughts and feelings. By the end of their first set of tests (like what they would run at Essentials), Ashley and Alina had the evidence they needed to start testing how to support a greater number of students.
With evidence that students would engage with their service, Ashley and Alina were ready to run larger tests with more students. By using a tech platform, they knew there was an opportunity to scale to serve more students, but needed to learn more about how to encourage students to sign up for the service and what would keep students engaged over a longer period of time. They joined Wave 2 of the Tiny Fellowship as they expanded to include several new partners and with a goal of serving 700 students.
During their Tiny Pilot, Ashley and Alina learned that while their tech platform enabled them to serve more students, the human connection was crucial to their success. To get students using the service, Ashley and Alina needed build trust with students and demonstrate their long-term commitment to supporting them, since many students had already had their trust broken by adults. They also learned that while volunteers were a powerful tool for expanding the number of students they could serve, volunteers needed coaching to support students effectively as well as the flexibility to be themselves and form genuine relationships with the students they served. They completed their pilots with the data they needed to support more students and coaches more effectively.
“Tiny gave us tools and support to take a systematic approach to running tests. The approach pushed us to identify underlying assumptions for our hypotheses and connect clearly-defined outcome metrics to tests. To this day, we still use the testing approach to come to decisions.”
With the data from their Tiny Pilot in hand, Ashley and Alina were accepted into the Camelback Ventures Fellowship, Halcyon Incubator, and FastForward Accelerator. Each program provided capital, coaching, and connections to help them continue to grow their venture.