This week, we welcome five new Ashoka Fellows to our network of more than 3,000 social entrepreneurs and every Thursday for the next five weeks, we will be featuring each of these Fellows on our blog hosted by Forbes.com.
You can read about our first featured Fellow, Sarah Hemminger here. Below, you can also learn all about Lennon Flowers, who was among those who helped us spot Sarah in the first place.
Q & A WITH ASHOKA TREND-SPOTTER LENNON FLOWERS
Lennon serves as the Community Director for Ashoka’s Start Empathy initiative, where she leads our efforts to find the next wave of “Empathy Fellows,” and to distill and share the key principles and practices that underpin their work with educators looking to follow their lead. She is the co-founder of The Dinner Party, a collective of men and women out to change the way we approach life after loss, through candid conversation and the art of breaking bread.
What social issue motivates you most?
I can’t say there’s a single issue. If anything, it’s our tendency to conflate circumstance with a lack of potential: to condescend or outright dismiss people because we believe them less than capable, when the reality is we’ve simply failed to create systems through which anyone, at any age, can thrive. So it’s efforts to unlock agency that inspire me most.
When did you start engaging with Ashoka?
I first joined Ashoka in the Fall of 2007, having graduated from college that May. At the time, it was the only place I knew of that could capture a vision as grand as “everyone a changemaker,” while simultaneously taking a very hard look at what real impact actually looks like, and the need to invest both money and trust not just in academics and policy wonks, but in the people who very often lived the problems they sought to address.
Where did you meet the Fellow you spotted?
Our friends at Echoing Green gave me the first tip-off: Sarah became an Echoing Green Fellow in 2009, just after formally launching IMP. I spend much of my time scouring the US in search of what we call “Empathy Fellows”: systems-changing social entrepreneurs who’ve uncovered a powerful means of cultivating empathy, or creating the kinds of conditions in which empathy can thrive. That’s not something you can easily Google, so we tend to find those Fellows the same way we find all Fellows: by relying on our network to surface game-changing ideas in a variety of fields, and then unpacking how they do what they do. I’d worked with Johns Hopkins during the early days of Ashoka U’s Changemaker Campus Initiative, and a few conversations with alumni and faculty still there confirmed our suspicions: Sarah was on to something big.
What struck you most about her work?
It was so simple: Sarah proved that turning around the lives of the kids who’d been virtually written off since birth didn’t require a clinical degree, or the creation of an entirely new school system. What makes IMP work — the commitment to do whatever it takes, to never give up, to, quite simply, love more — are principles that anyone can put into practice. The last cohort of students had an average GPA of .8 upon entering IMP. To date, every single kid has gone on to college, and among the oldest cohort, 66% are due to graduate from college this year. You simply don’t find those kinds of statistics elsewhere. What Sarah’s done is to create a model for how to mobilize an entire community behind a shared challenge: a model for transforming not only the lives of the students they serve, but of every volunteer, and the very communities in which they live.
Aaron Swartz - tech prodigy largely responsible for developing the code behind RSS and parts of Reddit, “Open Access” advocate – took his life on January 11, 2013.
To honor him, friends have launched an awareness campaign about Open Internet and Open Access principles called #pdftribute.
You can read more here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/01/14/aaron_swartz_death_pdftribute_hashtag_aggregates_copyrighted_articles_released.html
RIP Aaron Swartz.
(picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Ashoka Seattle introducing themselves on our bi-weekly team meeting :-)
How will you be celebrating Internet Freedom Day on January 18?
Real Life: I'm a Principal -
Want to know what it’s like to sustain a school culture of empathy? In ”Real Life: I’m a Principal,” Michelle Hughes takes us behind the scenes of High Meadow School, a school that strives to build empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills in its students and staff.
The Meetings Manifesto! I found this emphatic declaration of meeting principles taped to the wall in the Ashoka Changemakers office. They sound like good ideas to me!
A glimpse from today’s internal webinar about Ashoka’s study of the Fellow’s impact. Looking forward to sharing it all with you in January!
Bill Drayton’s advice for social entrepreneurs - what the future holds and how to adjust: http://ow.ly/g2AQW
Want to share your vision, advice, suggestions, trends etc. for the future?
Join us and some of our partners for a #socentchat Thursday December 19th, 3-4.30 pm.
Age considers; youth ventures.
- Rabindranath Tagore.
Ashoka’s Youth Venture is based on our experience that if kids learn that they can make a change, then they will continue to do so as grown ups. It’s a super important step towards a changemaker society.
Donate to keep us going https://www.ashoka.org/donate/usa
It’s panel week!
Between second opinion interviews and panel sessions with industry experts, we try to find the time to interview the candidates for our digital channels. The outcome will be sort presentation videos, like the ones we’ve done with other candidates in the past. Like the one around Mitch Hedlund's work.