"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."
Mindfully Stepping on Ants
Here in India, there’s a lot to notice on the streets, but there’s a lot on the streets that notices you back. Even a simple walk to the store down the block can feature children playing cricket in the middle of the street, groups of adolescents loitering and teasing one another, swaths of adults going about their business, jams of cars, motorcycles and rickshaws, and a mélange of stray dogs, cats, and occasional monkeys. But being identified as a foreigner—a privilege that white skin immediately nets me—makes many of the surroundings that fascinate me return the favor. Whether it is a simple glance, an elongated stare, an approach and questioning of “Which country?” or an insistence that I need to buy these sunglasses, or hire this rickshaw, or give to these beggars, I seem to constantly be in the spotlight.
This is a daunting reality for several reasons: first, because this type of unbalanced attention sends a dangerous message—that I or any other foreigner deserves more attention than any local. But second, and more importantly, it is daunting because my impact, whether positive or negative, is magnified.
The cliché goes that something as simple as a butterfly flapping its wings or someone stepping on an ant can change the course of history. Even in my two days so far in Bangalore (which I’ve spent largely just recovering from jetlag) I’ve not only literally stepped on an uncountable number of ants or turned countless heads, but arranged meetings with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments of some of the largest companies in India to the end of outlining a strategy for enhancing their business’ social impact. At a high level, I hope to change the way business decisions are made by making social factors an important consideration. Because of the size, quantity, and reach of the corporate sphere here in India, their ant-squishing power is almost unrivaled; through their powerful influence, they have the potential to be either great vehicles for social change or perpetuators of rampant injustice.
Thus my journey and that of my clients begins in the same place: in understanding—or at least in constantly questioning—who we are, which actions we take, and what impact we are having, even with our smallest decisions. Just as I, under the enhanced scrutiny of a foreigner in the common streets of Bangalore, must be aware of how I interact with and impact the community, so too do I hope to urge for-profit companies to do the same. And while we may not know the exact impact of every step we take, being aware of every ant we step on can help us construct a greater understanding of our actions and perhaps chart us on a path to only stepping on the right ants. Because, after all, the spotlight is on us, whether we like it or not.
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