What if you found an old bus, ripped out the interior, and turned it into a farmers market on wheels?
You could drive around to each of the 15 food deserts in St. Louis, where there’s limited access to fresh produce, and while you’re at it, give some cooking lessons or hand out nutrition information.
Sound like a good idea?
It's the dream of second year Saint Louis University medical student Jeremy Goss, who is one of 1,200 people gathering at Washington University this weekend for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU). Goss and other participating students were asked to bring ideas for how they would solve a specific social problem or civic issue.
While Goss said he’s been inspired by speeches from a laundry list of movers and shakers in the world of social entrepreneurialism, like many students, he said the weekend is also an opportunity to network with and find motivation from other young people like himself.
“It’s an opportunity to raise awareness about your own project, to make connections,” Goss said. “There are a lot of people who are working on similar issues. So, I’m just amazed by the whole weekend and still trying to take it in.”
For Staci Shelton, a second year student and Air Force veteran studying at the University of Missouri St. Louis, speaking with other participants is a chance to get a nudge in the right direction.
“I always have the ideas, but the follow through I need a little bit of help with,” Shelton said.
Her idea, called “Project Rethink,” is geared toward renovating abandoned properties in the city’s urban core. A St. Louis native, Shelton said she was inspired in part by vacant buildings near her childhood home on Delmar Ave.
She said the chance to talk with alumni of previous CGIU events has given her the confidence to push forward.
“I’ve sat down and talked with them,” Shelton said. “It’s not as daunting as you think it is, but you have to get started.”
It may ultimately be a local connection that brings Shelton’s idea to fruition.
During the conference she met De Andrea Nichols, a graduate student in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. Nichols' idea is called “D* Serve,” which would educate disadvantaged youth in design, entrepreneurship and civic leadership in the north St. Louis community of Hyde Park.
“In the St. Louis area, I feel as strongly about those dilapidated homes as she does,” Shelton said.
Shelton said the two hope to collaborate, using the curriculum developed by Nichols to fulfill the mutual vision of fixing up historic homes that have fallen into neglect.
A local match made at a global conference, the irony wasn’t lost on one of CGIU's hosts and speakers, Chelsea Clinton.
“I think it’s awesome that CGIU had to come to St. Louis for De Andrea and Staci to meet each other,” Clinton said.
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd