Besides the COVID-19 Pandemic, it seems that the other major event of 2020 has been the US General Election. No matter who you voted for, this year seemed particularly politically significant in terms of getting people engaged in the democratic process. At the forefront of this effort is Zainab Baloch, an entrepreneur and the co-founder of the app, Young American’s Protest.
Young American’s Protest (YAP!) is an online tool to get the next generation involved in the democratic process. Zainab, a former candidate for Raleigh mayor, is a deeply motivated millennial, who wants people to understand that democracy can be expressed in more ways than just through voting. Although voting is an integral part of the democratic process, Zainab believes that there is much untapped potential for political activism, particularly on the local level. When describing YAP!, Zainab wants it to not only be a tool for increasing local civic participation, but also for changing the prevailing mindset around how we participate in our democracy. The national political narrative can feel overwhelming, and does often overshadow events happening on the local level, however with a tool like YAP!, Zainab believes that local civic engagement can be increased.
Though the COVID-19 Pandemic certainly upended aspects of Zainab’s plan for YAP!, including the app’s launch date, potential funding, and more, it has reaffirmed the belief that the risk of establishing YAP! was worth taking. Before Zainab established Young American’s Protest, she was employed at a self-described “dream job.” It was definitely a risk for Zainab to leave that stability and that path behind to follow her passion and become an entrepreneur. However, through this journey, Zainab has realized her passion for entrepreneurship. She credits her growth as an entrepreneur as also further grounding her in her values and faith, and the difficulties of the pandemic adding to her sense of urgency to address current issues. Perhaps ironically, rather than upset YAP!’s mission, COVID-19 actually motivated it to grow and expand further. The current environment has made for unprecedented innovation in the areas of entrepreneurship and civic engagement. Though fitting into current conditions perhaps requires more thought, research, and hard work, adapting to these conditions will only benefit businesses like YAP!, in both the short and long-term future. As Zainab described, if YAP! can handle and grow in spite of COVID, then there are very few barriers that pose much of a challenge to it.
In terms of the future of Young Americans Protest, Zainab hopes to launch the YAP! App sometime in the first half of 2021. Along with launching the app, Zainab also wants to finalize and define YAP!’s mission, in order to make sure that it expresses the full meaning and potential of the idea behind YAP!. Zainab also plans to keep working with young people, particularly high-schoolers who are members of Gen Z, and get their input on local initiatives, and how best to increase local civic engagement amongst their peers. In this vein, YAP! has even hired a high school student to help develop the technological side of the app. Ultimately, Zainab says, “the knowledge and resources are out there, it just takes drive and motivation to uncover them.”