30+ impassioned teens recently gathered at The Mix at the San Francisco Public Library to meet one another, build skills, and together embark on an epic design challenge. Organized by local Bay Area education champion Libby Falck, the Resilience Challenge is a 10-week competition and design thinking bootcamp for youth focused on directing the creative potential of young people towards social impact. 

At the launch, we met a gamut of participants. Some of them identified themselves as social activists, environmentalists, and wicked problem solvers, while some came as start-up enthusiasts, interested in learning how to execute a project with a team. Some came because they were simply interested in becoming a stronger coder, builder, storyteller, or researcher.  

To give a more nuanced view of the types of young people that gravitated to The Resilience Challenge this session, here are a few pretty amazing survey responses that I came across while looking over intake applications:

Q: Why are you passionate about creating a positive impact in the world?

A: As a Queer Trans Person of Color, I have faced a lot of unnecessary adversity as a result of my identities. I no longer want to live in a world that devalues my existence. This past year I fell in love with social justice. Being a part of my community and making positive impact on my environment makes me feel empowered. I want to continue to make change so that my communities and I can reach liberation together.
A: There are millions of problems all over the world that are meant to be solved, and the only way to do that is by contributing any resources, whether it be money, skill, or time, to society.
A: I feel that as a teenager/young adult, we are the future of this world. I’m currently taking an AP Environmental Science course at school, and the more I learn, the more frustrated I get about what humans are doing to the world and the insanely large amount of damage we cause. I didn’t realize that everyday things we take for granted, such as plastic water bottles, cellphones, electricity, and even the little plastic wrappers around our snacks are causing the destruction of habitats in the North Pole, eutrophication in the rivers of Asia, and the deaths of thousands of organisms everyday. To put it bluntly, I believe that humans, especially this generation, are doing a lot of harm to the Earth. However, I also feel like we’re the ones with the most power to change that. With creativity, innovation, and ambition, we can make a difference, whether it’s in the world, in our community, or just to a few friends.

From the mouths of babes. These teens were an inspiration from day one.

All of the participants are required to join a team and tackle this session’s challenge: How might we reduce carbon emissions? As the teams move through the design process, they will earn points by completing carefully curated tasks. As they unlock tasks of their choosing, they will level up through the game, all the while exercising their leadership and competency as 21st Century citizens. As someone who is deeply interested in the call to action to re-envision school to better suit the needs of today, I look forward to following along as the participants engage in The Resilience Challenge. This approach to learning is fairly unprecedented,* so there will undoubtedly be some compelling takeaways as the platform gets tested, broken, and hacked by the teens.

To learn more, visit To follow along with this session's leaderboard, check out the Steam.Directory player portal. To get involved with The Resilience Challenge, email

*Here are two exciting examples of entities that are trying to reimagine learning through a similar approach: LRNG (US), and reap benefit (India). 


Kadi FransonComment