"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."
Making the Rounds
We never realized it would be so easy to walk into the offices of the House of Representatives. Congress is an unapproachable fortress. It often feels as though only the most persistent and important among us can have influence. When you think of the federal government, you think of the Capitol building and the White House with extensive security and gatekeepers… One must always get by the chiefs of staff to the chief of staff, then the chief of staff himself before meeting with someone important. Not to mention that you usually need a badge and an official invitation.
The truth is slightly different. House office buildings are adjacent to the Capitol, and their facades are not so glamorous. There are no paintings adorning the walls, no dome reaching to the sky. The halls of a typical building are unspectacular, and the doorways lead to a maze of alcoves where scurrying interns and harried staff members grease the cogs of America’s government.
The first time we did “walk-ins” we were nervous. Unsure of how our pitch would be received, we entered the first office we saw, a representative from Texas. It wasn’t a success. We came on too soft, explaining that we were merely a youth group hosting fun events this summer and the interns quickly categorized us as an organization that was just like the rest. The next office we were too aggressive and we scared our target audience away after saying that we wanted to create a political movement (“that YOU should be a part of”) after the third sentence.
Walking into the third office, we knew what we wanted. We explained ourselves to the intern coordinator (“we throw events for interns”) and saved the meat of the pitch for the interns. We started slow by inviting them to our next event where we knew that we would be able to further discuss the idea of Common Sense Action with them.
The approach worked. After days spent walking up and down the halls of the House office buildings, we turned out over 130 interns to our event with Senator Olympia Snowe. From there, we recruited ten people to join our Steering Committee, officially laying the groundwork for the rest of the summer.
For us, the most exciting part of doing “walk-ins” was the variety of accents, opinions, and perspectives just 20 feet apart. Discussing the necessity for education and investments with an intern from a New York representative was followed five minutes later by exploring the need for fiscal sustainability with an intern from a Georgian office. The fun part lies in connecting those two people and hearing them debate, compromise, and agree on issues that are important to our generation. If we can continue doing that, we’ll find our success.
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