"My name is Gwendolene Mugodi and I am a writer and the founder of Paivapo Storytellers, a movement that aims to provide better access to local, good quality literature to the children in Zimbabwe--and eventually beyond. Our work would not be complete without the help of local artists like Abel Zvorufura who I met through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. As two different artists we spent about a month and a half going back and forth on this book until we got to a place we were both happy with. I look forward to sharing that full book in a few months, but for now here's a little bit about Abel and why he does what he does."
From the Bottom Up
The new iPhone 6 just came out a few days ago and, to no one's surprise, thousands lined up across the world for this latest must-have gadget. Despite the rain and the cold nights, many were unperturbed; the only thing they could think about was the prize at the end of the line.
If you've ever waited for an iPhone launch, a Black Friday sale, or for tickets to a Sox game, you'll have experienced how all-consuming the competition for a scare resource is. At that moment, being one of those who "got it" and not one of those who waited with no payoff seems like the most important thing in the world. This single-mindedness, reminiscent of our ruthless and raw drive for survival in earlier days, is why we hear about how someone was trampled at a Walmart on Black Friday or how two women fought with a stun gun at a Philadelphia mall over a sale.
But what if this fight for scarce resources extended to your very basic needs? For the poorest in our society -- the homeless -- the illusion of camaraderie between "bums" we see in Kerouac's On The Road and other works in popular culture is shattered by the stark realization that, in an under-resourced social welfare system, either I get by or you do. And when it gets down to the wire, I'll pick myself over you.
I volunteered at a meal site in South Providence yesterday. While all patrons of the site were courteous, all decisions were made against a backdrop of subtle aggression and tension: who would get the bread first? Which table would get bread refills? Who got two cups of coffee milk? Why did she get seconds and I didn't? This isn't a moral indictment of poverty -- I don't believe that those who are poor have inherent flaws in character. Rather, what I'm describing is the evolutionary drive to get by. I'm describing the world of someone whose main focus is on the bottom tier of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, who is focused on a physiological need for air, food, water, and sleep in order to survive.
With the creation of an Office for Digital Excellence, Rhode Island in recent years has pushed heavily to digitalize portals for accessing government services. Initiatives such as BroadbandRI seek to expand opportunities for internet access to close the digital divide that has emerged to parallel the class divide. Yet, these initiatives will not have their full impact unless those reliant on social welfare have had their basic needs met. How do you find time to worry about which vocational training program makes the most sense if you don't know where you'll be sleeping tonight? For those better-off, how do you write a paper when you're fighting for an iPhone?
There are two solutions for an under-resourced system: either allot more resources or make the system more efficient. The currently fractured political climate renders the first unlikely, leaving enhancing efficiency as the only viable short-term option. Our approach to this dilemma is a text-messaging platform called TextUp that seeks to use government-subsidized and privately-purchased cell phones to enable the efficient and instantaneous relaying of critical information between providers and constituents. From number of beds available at the closest shelter to a two-way channel of communication between case manager and client, an integrated text messaging platform has the potential to reimagine the scale and scope of social service delivery.
August 11, 2016
June 13, 2016
Lauren Maunus '19 is starting a bold new venture.
Its goal: To help eliminate food waste and bring healthy, affordable food to "food swamps" in Rhode Island and beyond.
March 15, 2016"If little girls like me were saying Barbie is the pretty one and the brown one is the ugly one, that's a problem."
Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation.
March 12, 2016An Excerpt
Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She traveled to her home in Iran last summer and brought back a cultural souvenir: the book she wrote, Taste of Culture. She explores Iranian families, streets, stores and the stories and spirit embedded in the recipes of Iranian food. She hopes to start a conversation about the benefit of knowing cuisines of different cultures to connect societies.
This year's class of Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellows have just begun their yearlong foray into the world of social entrepenuership. Check out their projects here.
December 16, 2015
Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder of No Country for Women (NCFW), an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India. Ria and her co-founder, Shreena Thakore ’16, who grew up in India, were awarded the Projects for Peace fellowship and used this grant to launch the project in May of 2014. NCFW was set up to educate the people in India on gender, rape culture, and misogyny through a series of workshops and initiate informed discussions about social change.
I was inspired by Ria’s story because she was determined to start a conversation about an issue in a country that fights hard to keep such issues silent and hidden. We reflected on Ria’s experiences, her interactions with young people, most of whom had never thought about this obvious form of discrimination before, and her moments of self-doubt and extreme conviction.
October 2, 2015