"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."
Impact or Catalysis?
Macklin Fluehr is a Sophomore Mechanical Engineer interested in product design, architecture, and Rural Design. Mac is a member of the Brown Sailing team and performs rock music on campus.
How do you positively impact society? So far, a good part of my life has been centered on that question.
In high school I immersed myself in a wide variety of projects—I did student council, Model UN, participated in several sports teams, and ran the school newspaper. Looking back, I might say I did them just because they were fun, and that would be a pretty straight answer. However, I think part of the reason I enjoyed these activities was because I could see that I was making an impact around my school through them.
When I got to Brown I began looking for new outlets. I soon discovered design. By my third semester I had jumped onto a design project aimed at developing a new Rainwater Catchment and Storage system in Kerala, India, carried out by Brown Engineering and Rainwater for Humanity. Our first complete test run will take place during the spring of 2015, and we plan to carry the project into the future to see how far we can push our ideas to better serve the community.
However, it occurred to me throughout the Rainwater project that design on its own isn’t worth much if it isn’t somehow amplified to reach many people.
In my fourth semester I enrolled in a course in Social Entrepreneurship, where I began to explore how my designs could be amplified into something bigger. The class presented me with four methodologies to create social impact: for-profit businesses, government, non-profit organizations, and social entrepreneurship (which blurs the lines between the previous three).
These models paint the picture that the only way to make socio-economic change is through an outside organization or top-down strategy from the government. Though these have and do work, I think their success is largely dependent on the interconnectedness of the targeted population and the rest of the planet. My interests are in rural, developing areas with fewer connections with the rest of the world, where these models may not be as effective.
Time and time again, I find the most innovative socioeconomic change spurs from the people within these communities, not the organizations that go in to help. Locals generally know much more about the issue than organizations do and produce the most innovative and resilient ideas, if given the right opportunities and resources. They just need a catalyst.
Which is why I think the whole idea of creating impact is a little contrived. Yes, you can provide money, labor, and resources, and yes, that gives “impact.” Yet, this makes the socioeconomic well being of the people you are working with entirely dependent on you. As soon as you leave and you stop innovating, the benefits go.
I’m not sure how this mindset will look in real life, but at the very least, the mindset of our social impact models need to change. Rather than being the change, these organizations need to catalyze the change by offering ideas and resources to support people invested in and doing the work in their own communities. Without this, I think social benefactors are severely limiting their creativity, sustainability, and potential for impact.
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