I had just given my practice “pitch”—a 3 minute rationale for my
PresenTenseLA venture—and our guest speaker, Adlai Wertman, Director of the Society and Business Lab at USC, clearly was not impressed.
“Your venture sounds cool. But you spoke about a very broad problem—I’m not clear at all what the ‘pain point’ is, nor why you are the one best suited to address it.”
During our PresenTenseLA Roundtable on Wednesday, February 26, Adlai pushed us to answer three questions: “What’s the problem? How are you going to fix it? Why you?” And further, to hone our ideas by asking ourselves
“why?” at least 5 times.
As a PresenTenseLA “intrapreneur,” representing BJE Los Angeles, I believe my venture addresses a very real pain point—one that I, as a teen educator, feel very acutely: that the “Bar/Bat Mitvah Project” (a social action project connected to B’nai Mitvah preparation) is experienced by most students and their parents as one more
painful “to do” on the B’nai Mitzvah checklist. Without adequate help or explanation, they are left overwhelmed, unsure of where to begin to build a project that will be meaningful (both for themselves and for others), and so, in the interest of “getting it done,” find the simplest and easiest way to meet the requirement and check it off the list. And, as the Director of BJE Sulam: the Center for Jewish Service Learning, I also know that this project represents a lost opportunity—if done right, it is a chance for the student to experience their own power in making an impact for others, and tangibly understand how their Jewish identity informs that impact. It is that outcome that the synagogues and educators assigning the projects hope to achieve—yet there is a clear disconnect between desired educational outcome and the experience of the students.
Despite feeling this pain point, I did not make it the central focus of my pitch. Instead, I spoke about the benefit to the larger Jewish community (“a powerful way to address the ‘teen engagement” problem”), and in the process, lost a chance to speak about the very real, and specific, problem, that I am passionate about addressing. Adlai’s critique, and ensuring discussion of “human centered design,” which puts the experience and needs of your user at the center of your inspiration and problem solving process, pushed me to be crystal clear with myself and with others as to what the “pain point” is that is at the center of my venture, and to be able to answer all of the ensuing “why’s.”
It is this type of experience that is at the heart of the PresenTenseLA fellowship—being pushed and challenged by other fellows, our coaches, mentors, and expert presenters such as Adlai Wertman, to hone our ventures to be truly innovative solutions to the problems we hope to solve. I am honored and grateful to be challenged in this way as a PresenTenseLA Fellow.
Alisha Pedowitz, MAEd/MBA, is a Specialist in Teen Experiential Education at BJE: Builders of Jewish Education. In this role, she directs BJE Sulam: The Center for Jewish Service Learning. She is also lucky to be wife to Dave and mom
to Itai and Faye. Her venture is to build a digital toolkit and workspace for B’nai Mitzvah students and their parents that will utilize best practices in Jewish Service Learning and power accessible, easy, and meaningful Mitzvah Projects.