The SparkOpportunity Challenge: Jon Bon Jovi Wants to Hear Your Ideas!

April 12, 2012

We all know that the economy is in a dismal place and unemployment is high. The latest jobs numbers are disheartening. If you’re up on recent research like Opportunity Road, then you know that young people are being hit especially hard. In fact, one in six young people ages 16 to 24—nearly 7 million kids—are out of school and unemployed.

The consequences for these young people and their families are severe, as are the costs to our nation as a whole. We’re missing out on the talents of millions of young people at a time when we have serious shortages of skilled workers.

It’s fitting, then, that the White House Council for Community Solutions—a coalition of leaders in business, government, art and philanthropy—chose disconnected youth as its focus, and has called on government and the private sector to step up and prioritize these issues.

The SparkOpportunity Challenge* is a cutting-edge crowd sourcing competition to answer the Council’s call. It is being launched by SparkAction, the Youth Leadership Institute and a coalition of leading organizations.

How does it work? The Challenge is designed to spotlight and celebrate the best new ideas from young people of all walks of life. Young people and their adult allies log on, submit videos or text detailing their solutions for rebuilding pathways to jobs and education, and use social media to campaign for the ideas that they think can really work. All solutions are fair game, from entrepreneurial start-ups to ideas for social change.

The top-voted winners will receive an iPad, start-up grants of $1,500 and mentoring from recognized business and policy leaders to see their ideas brought to life locally.

Musician and White House Council Member Jon Bon Jovi joins us in our efforts to give the best ideas for youth and by youth a megaphone and an opportunity to become a reality.

A rock star of many generations, Jon Bon Jovi is also a thoughtful and well-informed youth advocate who spent  much of the past year traveling the country listening and learning from young people in schools, shelters and community centers.

“What I saw on these visits were bright, determined, focused young people who were seeking out opportunities to overcome obstacles. These young individuals have learned which services work and which don’t. They have learned that working with like-minded organizations in their communities can create jobs and opportunities," said Jon Bon Jovi.

SparkAction and our partners believe that young people know better than anyone what will work to rebuild pathways to education and opportunity. Most young people have experience with public systems – whether it’s education, child welfare, juvenile justice or health care assistance – and they know first-hand what works and what doesn’t. They know what the job market looks like in their community, and they are the ones best suited to re-imagining these realities and offering innovative new solutions.

It’s time those solutions got a megaphone. The SparkOpportunity Challenge will help get those ideas in front of decision-makers, peers and others.

We hope you’ll get involved by sharing your solutions and encouraging your friends and peers to do the same. Get creative, test the boundaries, and don’t be afraid to think big (or small) – as we planned the Challenge, we heard ideas like opening a food cart, creating a bike share program so young people can get to work, and changing the rules at homeless shelters. Whatever your idea, just don’t delay! The deadline for submissions is May 15. Voting ends May 24. The winners will be announced on June 4 in a special video with Jon Bon Jovi, premiered at the White House Youth Summit in Washington, DC.

So don’t wait! Check out the SparkOpportunity platform and Jon Bon Jovi’s promo video call to action at, and follow the Challenge chatter on Twitter at #sparkopportunity.

For more information and ways you can get the word out, contact Tara James at

*UPDATE: The SparkOpportunity Challenge has ended. Meet the 10 winners and check out their ideas.


Alison Beth Waldman is Editorial Assistant and resident Millennial at SparkAction. Email her alison[at]


Alison Beth Waldman