Forward Focus: Tiffany Yau firmly believes that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions - Generocity Philly

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Nov. 12, 2020 11:30 am

Forward Focus: Tiffany Yau firmly believes that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions

The CEO of Fulphil shares how they are using online programming to teach students how to be changemakers in their own communities.
“The mantra of everything we do from how we run our organization to how we teach our students is that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions.”

Tiffany Yau is a dedicated leader passionate about creating sustainable social impact through social entrepreneurship and more importantly, empowering people. She’s been nominated for the Greater Philadelphia Social Innovation Award and also recognized by Generocity, Social Innovation Journal, Philadelphia Citizen, Wharton Business Radio, and Penn News as a leader of social entrepreneurship. Yau is the founder & CEO of Fulphil, which she created to empower the youth to pursue their passions through entrepreneurship on the micro scale within cities to create a collectively broader effect. She is also the founder and executive director of Hult Prize Ivy. She recently completed her graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a dual degree in M.S. Nonprofit Leadership (Cl ‘19) while holding her B.A. in Sociology, concentrating in Health and Medicine (Cl ‘18). She has also worked for the City of Philadelphia‘s Office of Innovation and Technology.


Generocity: Generocity’s ADVANCE focuses on “advancing” both your mission and your career. What are the benefits of hearing from other organizations in the Philadelphia social impact sector? How have professional development experiences helped you deliver on funding goals for your organization?

Yau: Better understanding other organizations’ work in the Philadelphia social impact sector is very insightful in helping us learn how we can collaborate and help further each other’s work.

Professional development has been really important in helping Fulphil deliver funding goals. In 2019, I completed my M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania, and a lot of what I’ve learned in the classroom has been very informative in helping our team create strategies to continue to grow.

Generocity: 2020’s economic turmoil has significantly impacted, largely in a negative way, the livelihood of our socially-driven organizations. Has your organization found any creative ways to preserve budget, raise donations, or acquire new funding? We understand this is a sensitive topic; please do not feel obligated to answer.

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Yau: Our organization (Fulphil) has always made efforts to be a sustainable, revenue-generating nonprofit. This means, in addition to traditional methods of nonprofit fundraising, like applying for grants or creating fundraising campaigns, we also monetize our curriculum and charge more well-resourced schools/programs. Doing so allows us to sustain our operations and donate our curriculum to those who are otherwise unable to afford it at our standard cost.

Generocity: In July, Generocity launched TRACE (Toward Response and Community Equity), a year-long initiative tracking Philadelphia’s response to a pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism. In the midst of COVID-19, how has your organization adapted to meet the changing needs of your stakeholders? What do you hope to learn at ADVANCE that will help you better serve our community?

Yau: We initially had a lot of in-person workshops and partnerships with our schools. Prior to COVID-19, we were already looking to bring our curriculum online so we could scale our growth and impact. The in-person programming we had before was used for the purpose of validating and testing out how students and teachers interacted with our curriculum. As COVID rolled around the corner, we had to pause our in-person programming. Instead, we brought high school students who have completed the curriculum in the past to join our team in iterating and improving our curriculum. Our intention with this is to really emphasize our user-centered design by having them (the users) make it more tangible and engaging Fulphil students of the upcoming school year. So far, two months into the school year, we’ve received very positive feedback on our curriculum from the teachers and students using it. With this, we intend to continue to offer our fellowship program to high school students to not only optimize our content but also provide meaningful work experience to students of marginalized communities.

Generocity: Our nation is currently grappling with the many ways systemic racism infiltrates our society: it affects our policing system, our education system, housing, health care, and more. Through your work, how do you advocate for racial equity? How can ADVANCE help you create a more diverse, inclusive, equitable organization?

Yau: All of Fulphil’s work revolves around empowering marginalized communities, and for us, it begins with our youth and teaching and inspiring them at the most developmental stage of their lives. The mantra of everything we do from how we run our organization to how we teach our students is that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions. We always seek to instill this idea with our students so they can see themselves and their schools and the problem solvers and changemakers that their communities need.

Based on our metrics to date:

* 80% of Fulphil students identify as a PoC.

* 60% identify as Black/LatinX.

* 60% of Fulphil students create ideas to provide for their families.

* 45% of Fulphil students identify as first-generation.

In regard to ADVANCE, I’d be very interested in hearing about best practices for creating and managing a diverse, inclusive, and equitable online community.

Generocity: During these physically isolating times, innovative technology has become increasingly important. How has your organization used technology to solve the unique challenges posed by COVID-19? What has helped you, your team members, and your stakeholders stay connected?

Yau: Through bringing our curriculum online, we realized we needed an effective way to help our team and our teachers track student progress throughout in a very personalized way so we could continue to receive feedback to learn how to improve and iterate upon our curriculum. To solve this problem, we created a smart dashboard system that tracks each student’s mastery of core career technical education standards and personal growth. The system we’ve created also provides insights and recommendations on ways for students to grow in their improvement areas to help personalize learning and inspire restorative practices.

In addition, because connectivity is more important than ever, we’ve also created an online community with a few hundred Fulphil students who are now able to connect to each other across the country and collaborate on their startup ideas and learn from each other. Teachers can also collaborate with each other through this community and co-create best practices for teaching their classes.

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Yau is part of our Forward Focus series, a series of stories highlighting the experiences and work of nonprofit leaders in Philadelphia. The goal of the series is two-fold: 1) to provide insight on shared challenges in the social impact sector and 2) to help nonprofit professionals get the most of Generocity’s virtual ADVANCE conference.

ADVANCE is taking place today! You can still attend sessions through 3:30 p.m. today. Register for the free conference now!

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