Ashoka Trend-spotter: John Woldenberg & Ashoka Fellow Mike Marriner
This February, we were thrilled to welcome The Roadtrip Nation co-founder Mike Marriner as an Ashoka Fellow.
Mike Marriner and the team at Roadtrip Nation are helping students to “define their own roads in life,” by exposing them to an unlimited number of careers and pathways they would not otherwise know about, and equipping them with the tools and skills they need to make those pathways a reality.
Be sure not to miss Mike’s interview on Forbes.com, where he emphasizes the need for mentors in America’s talent pipeline.
THE FELLOW TRENDSPOTTER: MEET JOHN WOLDENBERG
What social issue motivates you most?
My goal is think about what I can do daily when confronting education reform, the environment and poverty. With kids of my own, I’ve found the education system to be broken. I am unnerved by the amazing disconnect that exists between the modern world and how we teach our children to be contributing members of the world. Similarly, I am highly motivated to bring back health to the planet. We don’t run through our own houses with mud on our shoes, yet we openly pollute the oceans and abuse the earth’s resources.Poverty tends to be a byproduct of these two social deficiencies.
Bring empathy, compassion and creativity into schools. Clean up the planet and teach sustainable lifestyle. Reduce economic inequality and its byproducts. I aim to make a dent in these areas!
How/when did you start engaging with Ashoka?
I was first exposed to Ashoka at the first Clinton Global Initiative in 2005. While being surrounded by incredible thinkers, civic leaders, activist celebrities and entrepreneurs, I was most wowed when I met Bill Drayton. Bill and I ended up having coffee and talking for about an hour. It was a spiritual conversation AND conversion. I was shocked that I had not heard of Ashoka, given its remarkable approach to social enterprise. I quickly found that Ashoka is all about “content,” not “packaging.” Ashoka has quietly built a strong community of incredible people who are not reliant on accolades but rather the selfless pursuit of “change.”
Where did you meet Mike Marriner?
I met Mike in Bozeman, Montana about 5 1/2 years ago when we were both asked to speak and serve as mentors at an experiential conference aimed toward activating “creativity” as a tool to make the world a better place. While I believe we both heard each other speak, it wasn’t until we slipped away to have a beer that I got a real taste of the remarkable, deeply intuitive and introspective culture of Roadtrip Nation as a platform to enable lower income and disadvantaged youth to find their own unique path in life. While his target audience is youth with fewer resources, I felt that his approach was highly relevant and applicable to me AND to my kids. The following year we went fly-fishing (also at the same conference in Bozeman) and Mike literally pulled me out of a hole in the river, saving my life (not kidding). After ANOTHER beer, dry clothes, a long discussion about giving back, I have been an admirer, a friend and a board member ever since.
What strikes you most about his work?
When you meet Mike, you would have no idea that he and his co-founders have created a television show and a new approach to education that has literally touched the lives of millions. Mike is a listener. He listens to students. He listens to educators. He listens to parents. He listens to employers. Mike is also a sharer. He wants others to benefit from what he has learned. His approach is highly collaborative and non-possessive. Every good idea is embraced. As I have explained to many people, Mike has mastered the art of “staying small” as you get big. Relationships are warm. Handshakes are not unheard of. He has allowed the audience to own the platform philosophically - and not the other way around.
John Woldenberg grew up in Chicago, attended the University of Michigan and The University of Chicago Graduate Business School. Mr. Woldenberg, whose film company produces, finances and acquires feature and documentary films, integrates social responsibility with filmmaking. Prior to film, Mr. Woldenberg founded an Internet company with Apple, was a partner in a national investment firm, and served in the capacity of concept creation specialist for the biggest restauranteur in Chicago.
Over the past 10 years, John has also been involved with The United Nations, The Clinton Global Initiative, Google Zeitgeist, Biomimicry Science and the TED Conference in their efforts to exact change for global good. He is also a Board member of the PBS Television show, RoadTrip Nation, The Plastic Pollution Coalition, UCLA Evolutionary Biology Department, The Hollywood Literary Retreat, and Broadway: 1000 Steps. He serves as a TED and HATCH mentor to filmmakers and musicians. John lives (with very little sleep) in Los Angeles.