Just in case you were wondering, here’s our story:

In May of 2013 the greater Buffalo region will welcome the 27th Annual Veterans Golden Age Games. Sponsored nationally by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs and locally by Veterans Affairs of Western New York, the event attracts over 900 veteran athletes over the age of 55 who will compete in a total of 17 events. As advertised in the marketing literature, the Games are “the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States,” “the only national seniors’ program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans” and “one of the most progressive and adaptive rehabilitative senior sports programs in the United States and the world.”

When our team of three graduate students from the International Center for Studies in Creativity, approached the WNY VA in search of volunteer opportunities, something magical happened. They asked for our help with their most pressing challenge! At the first point of contact with our new client, only 270 volunteers were registered for the Games while 3,000 were required. Moreover, very few youths had signed up to volunteer. It was clear that it was time for an innovation! Challenge accepted!

So what is volunteerism? How might one engage in this type of business? In what ways was the VA volunteer drive lacking? How might our team help solve their challenge? How might the WNY community better support the Games? And, most importantly to our team, how might we inspire the youth of WNY to play a larger role in the solution?

To answer these questions, we spent weeks researching each and every volunteer organization in WNY. Our focus being WNY youth, we found that not one organization focused specifically on providing volunteer opportunities for elementary and middle schoolers, just a few remotely tied volunteer work to the new Common Core learning standards, and only one or two offered their volunteers the chance to work on highly creative products, thus driving their motivation and allowing opportunities for a variety of intelligences to essentially “dig” their work.

Our creative in?

Inspire volunteerism in WNY and promote initiatives such as the Golden Age Games with a youth organization that believes in the aforementioned values. Who could resist but to be inspired to volunteer by our youth, their creative hard work and community dedication?

We went to work. Using Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and Design Thinking, our team built the 1WNY4U prototype as a social innovation with a new and unique offering, i.e. creative, standards based volunteerism for ages two and beyond. This week was our first broad implementation of the prototype of 1WNY4U. Needless to say, what happened this week, and what continues to develop as the days pass, has greatly strengthened our position in the WNY community!

Our hard work is paying off! It is never for the press, but shortly after an article about 1WNY4U was printed in the Buffalo News, we have not stopped answering phone calls and returning emails. A local councilmember has joined the team! A principal of a local charter school has invited 1WNY4U to his school to assist in their Global Youth Service Day celebration! Our current project was tweeted and posted by World Creativity and Innovation Week founder, Marci Segal, of Toronto! WNY’s largest volunteer organization invited us in for a meeting to talk about a partnership! We formed relationships with Savoy Buffalo, The Globe Market, Home Depot, Via Venetta Pizzaria, Drew’s True Value Hardware, True Value Home Center, and Custom Tee! Our litter collage project is now represented from Mailbu, CA to West Palm Beach, FL to Charlotte, NC to Nashville, TN and back to WNY! The list goes on…

The power of words!

1WNY4U is off and running…the future holds great things!

Our best,

Katrina Whitlow
Josh Mahaney
Jason Hall


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