Behind the Scenes of the Social Impact Marketplace

by Clara Ngo, Hillbrook Hub Maker and Design Teacher, Annie Makela, Scott Center Director, and Fiona Maloney-McCrystle, Scott Center Program Associate

On the afternoon of Friday, October 29, the edge of the first- and second-grade playground was abuzz with activity. Over the sounds of the Fall Family Festival music coming from the amphitheater in the center of campus floated words from conversations about laser cutting, meeting the needs of food insecure Silicon Valley residents, and how quickly products had sold out. In other words, the Social Impact Marketplace was in full swing, as threads of agency, advocacy, making, and design all wove together to produce an event where middle school students got to take their creations to market and raise $1234 for local organizations working for people, animals, and the planet. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, middle school students in Ms. Ngo’s Digital Fabrication and Made to Sell course had moved through a thoughtful design process, thinking about what their customers (in this case, Hillbrook community members) might want, making a prototype, surveying their audience to assess demand and feedback, adjusting products, carrying out quality control, and researching pricing and sales numbers. The resulting products–ranging from stickers to keychains and bookmarks to paracord bracelets–were arranged carefully on the marketplace tables and met an enthusiastic response, as nearly all makers ended up selling out. 

But buying something at the Social Impact Marketplace didn’t just mean handing over cash, picking up your goods, and walking away. Each item purchased came with a Hillbuck, Hillbrook’s own currency designed in 2019 during the Scott Center “Money Matters” elective as a way to assign value within our community. Buyers could then take their Hillbuck to a table on the far side of the market and place it in a jar representing one of three organizations selected by sixth graders in the Identity and Impact RBB: Second Harvest, the World Wildlife Fund, or the Santa Cruz County SPCA. Students from the course were present to talk with buyers about the work of all three organizations, and the table was surrounded by the posters and graphics they had created to advocate for donations through data points, art, and stories. 

In short, the Marketplace was an afternoon of many moving pieces–and also the result of weeks of partnership and planning between the Hub and the Scott Center. Often united by the common principle of Design, a driving tenet of Hub activities and one of the Center’s Lenses of Social Entrepreneurship Education, these two Hillbrook entities continue to expand their collaboration, finding common ground, purpose, and increased impact through creativity harnessed with others in mind. Scroll on to see and read more about the stories behind this event! 

Lizzie ‘23 prototyped many types of products to sell and learned various skills along the way. She worked on designing laser-cut keychains and making reindeers with wood found around campus before finally settling on macrame keychains.  
Carsen ‘24 making a paracord bracelet. Many products ended up selling out during the Marketplace, prompting students to gain confidence in their creations. 
Maya ‘23 noticed that there was a lot of old cardboard packaging lying around and thought she’d give it another life by making bookmarks. While selling her finished products, she shared various facts about how much cardboard is used per year. “I didn’t know how hard it is to make a product,” she reflected. “How you have to think about what people will buy and how much they care about your product. I was originally going to make a ghost keychain. Then I discovered not many people will buy it. Pricing and resources also had to be kept in mind.” 
Austin ‘23 with his collection of scrunchies. “l learned that all of the scrunchies we wear every day, each of them were made by someone who cares about what we wear in our hair, and that making scrunchies are not easy!” he shared.
The week before the Social Impact Marketplace, sixth graders in Identity and Impact worked on posters to advocate for the work of organizations supporting people, animals, and the planet: Second Harvest, the Santa Cruz SPCA, and the World Wildlife Fund.
During an October service day on campus, alum Julian ‘21 works on “minting” a new collection of Hillbucks to be used during the Marketplace! 
Laser-cut keychains and homemade earrings displayed at the Social Impact Marketplace. Students went through many design pivots as they tested prototypes. One student even had to adjust the content of her protest stickers when her audience thought that her message was to protest the concept of stickers itself! 
Buy a product, get a Hillbuck! Here the process happens in real time as a paracord bracelet, money, and Hillbuck are all exchanged. 

Marketplace attendees got to use their dollars as a vote for donations. Henry ‘23 places a Hillbuck in the jar corresponding to the World Wildlife Fund.
Identity and Impact students Emily and Max ‘24 help Marketplace attendees decide where to place their Hillbuck donation as they describe the work of the SPCA, WWF, and Second Harvest.