Overdam, comprised of only youths mostly in their 20s, is a social enterprise founded to help youths seek and pursue their dreams by providing motivation and networking opportunities through events. With the word Dam meaning wall or fence, the name Overdam contains the members’ vision to help the youths jump over or even break the wall of reality and find their dreams.
Overdam started as a small project by a group of high school students in 2012 including Jeong Sung-won (Kyunghee University, 1), the representative of Overdam.
“It all started when I suddenly felt doubts about the students’ reality,” Jeong said. “Students are forced to study and judged by the results regardless of their dreams. I thought school could teach me nothing helpful to pursue my dreams. So I started to prepare Overdam.”
The fact that Overdam is a group of youths themselves attempting to solve other youths’ problems that adults could not completely comprehend gained recognition and received support from both Social Enterprise School that offers students education about social enterprises and Seodaemoon-gu startup incubator that provides financial aid and an office.
At first, Overdam mainly filmed documentaries that speak for youths who had to give up their dreams due to various limitations, including financial burdens and parents’ oppositions.
However, as documentaries can only portray one-sided perspective, there were limits. Jeong felt a need for a place where youths could communicate both ways and interact physically.
As Jeong met the current joint representative Koo Hyo-jeong, they together designed “Knock on your dream project,” which is a concert where youths gather to share their dreams and communicate freely with other youths. Instead of inviting adults who are successful in their fields as speakers, youths who are still searching for or endeavoring to achieve their dreams are the speakers.
“The goal of the concert is to motivate participants by providing them an opportunity to listen to stories of their peers and talk with others about their dreams,” Jeong said. “The ultimate goal of the concert is to create a networking system between the participants that continues even after the concert is over, and most importantly, give them a chance to start their own project. There actually were some participants who formed a group and started their project after the concert.”
The first concert had 74 participants. The second concert was held in Songtan by a request of a girl who participated in the first concert. The experience of working with this girl brought a huge change to both Overdam and the girl herself.
“When we met her to discuss the second concert, she was an extremely shy girl,” Jeong recalled. “She hardly talk and did not even answer questions. Later, we got to know she was extremely stressed, hurt and tired of school bullying. When we suggested her to be the speaker of the concert, she looked astonished. However, talking about her life in front of many people as a speaker gave her courage and after the second concert, she participated in arranging the third concert. It is not an overstatement to say that she was in charge of it and led it to success.”
The incident became the starting point for setting up Overdam as an official enterprise.
“We thought that if we could change one person, we would willingly throw ourselves into this business,” Jeong said. “Cases like this girl, letters and messages from other students are what make this business ever so rewarding. We feel a sense of duty and responsibility, thinking ‘This is the work we should do!’”
Holding the third concert successfully with about 300 participants, Overdam is currently preparing to stand as an official social enterprise with the support of Smart Venture Institute. Unlike the past when they had temporary teams for each projects, they are now building a startup team, six members in place and recruiting for more. Overdam is planning to form a youth dream platform through Social Dreaming service. The service is a flow of network from “Knock on your dream project” to a smartphone application and a Web site, where youths can chat about their dreams, form a community with other youths and start a new project online and offline.
“What Overdam is trying to achieve through the Social Dreaming service is creating a continuous network between youths who are seeking for their dreams. Overdam wishes to change one by one until world becomes a place where all youths can freely dream, a world where Overdam will not be needed.”