The change-maker space is in need of disruption. Like all other spaces, it has its gatekeepers. Those who control our access to opportunities, money and networks of other people with whom we want to collaborate. Their relative position of power gives their world views, values, and theories of change (all deeply informed by their beginnings, backgrounds, and lived experiences) preeminence. They disproportionately decide what is and what is not a problem, what is and what is not a solution, and who is and who is not a problem-solver. It can all be very narrowing and suffocating. Indeed, for some time, their favored problem-solver has been the non-profit founder with an “S” on his (it is usually a him) chest and a cape on his back swooping into a community that is not his own to save the day.
We can do better than that.
It is time to do better than that.
We want to make the change-maker space more accessible, diverse and inclusive by:
1. Diversifying the change-maker population in terms of race, religion, sex, geography, socioeconomic status, and educational background.
Toward this end, our IMAGINE U initiative will target students at HBCUs, HACUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Women’s Colleges, Community Colleges, Predominantly Black Institutions, Urban Serving Universities, and Land-Grant Universities. We will also have a focus on first-generation college students, students with disabilities, homeschooled students, and students from fly-over country.
2. Stretching the definition of who is a change-maker.
Toward this end, our courses will accept project proposals from students who imagine their future-change-maker-selves as investigative journalists, public interest lawyers, teachers, politicians (at all levels of government), artists, grassroots movement mobilizers, community organizers, religious leaders, public servants, thought leaders, individuals within corporations and government bureaucracies shaking things up, social enterprise owners and of course non-profit founders.
3. Developing the skills young change-makers need to build their own tables.
Toward this end, our Better Changemaker Curriculum will highlight skills traditionally overlooked in the change-maker space like empathy, relationship collateral, and cultural competence. Business modeling, accounting and strategic thinking are important. But, they are not everything.
And, consistent with this objective, our Grassroot(s) Garage initiative will focus on democratizing change-making by teaching other start-up social entrepreneurs workarounds, hacks, and the beauty of bootstrapping. We will celebrate creative ways to do things for less. With less of a need for external funding, there is less of a need to conform to another’s world view.
Diversity in the change-maker space will be accompanied by a diversity of experiences, beliefs, and narratives regarding how to build a more just and livable world. It will also generate a multiplicity of questions. Some will be expansive like “What does a more just and livable world look like?” Some will be more specific like “How do you exercise narrative humility when sharing another person’s story of struggle?” It will also foster nuanced conversations as we sit in circles and seek common ground with one another.
We have a diversity of problems.
We need a diversity of problem solvers.