Explore the Data


Why are big problems so hard to solve?

To begin with, they are too big. They can’t be understood or solved by a singular person or organization.
They are composed of many

root factors.

Root factors are the underlying actions, feelings, situations and other experiences that contribute positively and negatively to a topic
If you break them down, the amount of smaller problems that emerge can make solving the overall problem overwhelming.
The root factors are interdependent which prevents you from isolating one solution for that specific factor.

Digital Delta set out to find the root factors that have the largest impact on youth wellbeing in relation to making digital experiences more beautiful for young people. The question we wanted to answer was which root factors, if solved, could have the biggest cascading positive impact?

large overview of map

We found that 13 factors had the highest


Leverage is determined by the number of root factors that are influenced by it and the number it influences

on and highest


Reach is determined by the fraction of the network that can be extended to that factor by two outgoing hops.

across the system at large, in turn giving the root factor a high catalytic score. We believe these 13

catalytic factors,

Catalytic factors are the root factors that have the highest leverage on the system at large. These are the factors we believe will have the greatest influence on the current state of youth wellbeing.

if we address them, will have the largest effect on the entire system. 

accessible resources

The 13 catalytic factors were sorted into three themes or opportunity areas – positive relationships, accessible resources, and balanced content. These three areas are where this community of leaders can gather together to focus our energy, effort, investments, policies, technologies and innovations on the core areas with the highest potential for impact.
We want to thank Eric Berlow, a social impact data scientist, for working on this project with us and explaining how to find simplicity in complexity so clearly.


Digital Delta uses crowdsourcing to make this research more equitable, inclusive, and to bring together the diversity and wisdom of the community at large. The statistics below highlight the richness and diversity of the people and process behind Digital Delta.

answers on how the root factors relate to each other
of the data came from young people
community members participated
of participants identify as female
of participants are LGBTQIIA+ individuals
of the data came from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color
Digital Delta leveraged learnings from over two years of research and program implementation from:
1. Headstream’s Accelerator and youth programs.
2. The development of a causal loop systems map.
3. Interviews and focus groups. 
What emerged was a need to, "make the internet a more beautiful place."

1 - Our North Star

Make Digital Experiences Healthier and More Beautiful for Young People

Young people have grown up using the internet and all manner of digital tools as key parts of their daily lives. However, the internet is still a wild place with few rules or clear paths to follow. Some digital platforms and tools offer young people fantastic experiences and are an asset to their development into adults. But other digital environments can be too harsh, and without adequate support, may harm mental and emotional development. "Making digital experiences healthier and more beautiful" means creating digital places and experiences that support positive outcomes for young people as they — or you! — grow up. 

2 - Root Factors

We compiled the 77

root factors

Root factors are the underlying actions, feelings, situations and other experiences that contribute positively and negatively to a topic

(e.g. access to support when bad things happen, self-esteem, or supportive relationships through/with social media) that relate to youth wellbeing or contribute to the erosion of wellbeing. We asked caring adults, researchers, innovators, healthcare providers, educators, and youth themselves to compile these factors. We then supported the factors they listed with attributes from academic and popular literature that could contribute to the North Star.

In the classic example of crowdsourcing, Francis Galton asked people to estimate the weight of an ox. He asked a lot of people a simple question to get a single number. The trick is that while one person could not be expected to know the exact answer, together they did (and do).

3 - Crowdsource Answers

Over 800 people from a community of entrepreneurs, innovators, youth, investors, researchers, policy makers, educators, and builders worked to figure out systematically how all the factors related to one another. Through a gamified survey, this community rated how the factors were connected.

We asked a series of simple questions to arrive at an answer to a more complex question: how do we identify the strongest opportunities to impact the wellbeing of youth as they grow up, make connections, face challenges, and mature in digital places? While no single person can be expected to know what the strongest opportunities are, together we can.

We intentionally chose to


Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining information from a large number of participants. We choose to use crowdsourcing to make our research more accessible, just, and equitable for the communities we work with and for.

answers from BIPOC respondents and from youth to make this research more inclusive, and to bring together all the diversity and wisdom of the crowd at large.  For that reason, 54% of our respondents identify as BIPOC.

4 - Mapping the Findings

Using the community-created findings, we analyzed the data to identify which factors are the most catalytic. Then we mapped the catalytic factors that emerged to show how they influenced each other. The result is a visualization to guide our community to understand the highest-leverage opportunities. Digital Delta is a starting point for everyone interested in advancing youth wellbeing to develop businesses, initiate programs, raise funds, or advocate for causes that will catalyze the change we want to see.