The latest cohort of social entrepreneurs to participate in RADIUS’ Trampoline Business Model Validation Program recently delivered their final presentations. Under the leadership of sessional instructor Greg FitzGerald, the cohort of fourteen entrepreneurs (across ten ventures) met every Thursday for eight weeks to test alignment in three major areas:

  • The Problem: Is the venture focused on addressing a real, meaningful, and impactful problem?
  • The Solution: Is the proposed solution viable and effective in addressing the problem without creating new ones?
  • The Entrepreneur: Are you the entrepreneur or team to move this project forward? 

A diverse set of amazing ventures came through the program in its latest iteration. Two of these projects shared the common element of utilizing a games-based approach to improving mental health in children: Dr. Randall Gillis’ “Move your Mood” game and Nicholas Cheung’s “Leefy”.  We interviewed both to learn more about the problems they are solving and the impact of the Trampoline Program on their journeys.

Dr. Randall Gillis | Registered Clinical Psychologist & founder of Move your Mood

What problem are you trying to address?

Many youth experience mental health challenges that significantly impact their daily functioning.  Some reports estimate that at any given time, 20% of youth (4 – 16 yrs) in BC are affected by mental illness.  This is particularly concerning given that 75% of adult mental health challenges are reported to begin in childhood or adolescence.

There are well researched approaches that help youth and adults overcome mental health challenges.  In particular, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be an effective treatment of a number of mental health challenges.

CBT is not often implemented with a prevention focused goal; however, research demonstrates that teaching youth and their families about CBT, and ways to incorporate the principles into everyday life, helps to prevent significant mental health challenges from developing.

I am trying to make an impact on the large scale problem of mental illness by addressing a more specific question: how do we provide prevention focused CBT skills to youth and their families in an effective, accessible way?

How does your project solve this problem?

I have been working to develop a fun game that could be enjoyed by youth and their families regardless of whether they are experiencing mental health challenges. The goal of the game is to teach youth and their families a core piece of CBT – that we can be flexible in our thinking (i.e., there are many different thoughts that can apply to one particular situation or topic) and that we have some control over our thinking. A key feature of a number of mental illnesses is the tendency to focus on negative thoughts, while discounting positive thoughts. By helping youth to be more flexible in their thinking, I anticipate that they will be more likely to be able to entertain more helpful “green” thoughts and challenge their unhelpful “red” thoughts when they arise.

How has participating in Trampoline changed your approach to solving this problem?

My learning through the Trampoline program has been extremely valuable. When I started, I only had an idea. Trampoline pushed me to not only turn that idea into a concrete project, but also to consider how to make it viable. For example, through the process of completing customer segment interviews, I learned a lot from parents. I realized how busy parents are and that they don’t tend to seek out specific materials to support the development of positive mental health unless their children are experiencing significant challenges. Therefore, I realized that to create an effective prevention focused game, it was going to be less important to address all of the aspects of CBT and more important to make the game fun and appealing to a broad audience. I decided that I would focus on one aspect of CBT and make extra materials available to parents to consult in case they are interested in learning more about CBT and how to incorporate information from the game into everyday life.

Nicholas Cheung | Independent Business Consultant & founder of Leefy

What problem are you trying to address?

Social-emotional skills are secondary to academics for a lot of families and schools. Our ability to be happy, successful, and mentally healthy relies heavily on how well we’ve learned these skills. With all the technology access, media and globalization, it’s a new challenging place for kids to learn to deal with complex emotions (i.e. anxiety, sadness, fear , anger ,etc) and social situations ( i.e. interacting with multicultural and multilingual people from diverse social and economic background). 

My project’s mission is to create a fun and engaging mobile role playing game for kids to learn social-emotional skills. The reason for a game is because kids learn best through play. The game will also need a feature that allows parents to be involved in the face-to-face component for social-emotional skill development. It’s fun for the kids and supports the parents.

What led you to develop this solution, and how are your passions and skills complementary to this work? 

I spent the last 2 years developing and delivering a 9-week social emotional learning program with a team of counselors and designers. After launching the program in Vancouver and Hong Kong, we learned that we would take too much time, money and effort to build it to a financially sustainable business. Our team then went our separate ways and I felt very defeated. After a few months of reflecting on the previous venture, I questioned myself and asked: “Why not combine my passion for mental health, technology, and business together?”. That is when I started to develop this project.

My educational background in Management Information Systems and Psychology from SFU, work experience as an independent startup/tech consultant, and volunteer experience as a family and youth support worker helped me build a good foundation to start this work. I also have a great network of game developers & designers, child development experts, counselors, entrepreneurs and business mentors that support me.

How has participating in Trampoline changed your approach to solving this problem?

Participating in trampoline made me change my approach by quickly validating my assumptions. The structure of the program helped me feel the urgency to focus on the immediate need for the project. It was great to have an open and safe environment for everyone to share ideas. The sense of community really helped with the progress in my validation work as well. I definitely recommend Trampoline if you need to help organize your thoughts or to get feedback and direction for your project.

We appreciate Randall and Nick taking the time to answer our questions and giving us some insight into their fascinating work. All of the participants in our third Trampoline cohort are doing amazing things and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for all of their important projects. 

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