The idea for a School of Social Change has been a long time coming. Almost 10 years in fact. It’s based on a few pivotal life experiences.
The first was a trip to Cambodia where I saw extreme poverty for the first time and felt heartbroken by it. I thought then that if I could create visceral experiences that brought people into issues, everyone would start to care more and take action. I no longer believe that to be true (we're not all bleeding hearts thank god), but a belief in the transformational power of an experience remains.
My professional life over the last decade also drove me to make the School. I’ve worked on 12 different social or environmental issues, and it’s always daunting to get my head around what the root causes of the problem are, and what solutions we should be trying out. I’ve never found an ‘off the shelf’ solution, so I rely on a systematic research approach and the privileged access I get to experts because of the powerful corporations or donors I work on behalf of. The School wants to make it easier to access these people, and we believe it’s essential to listen to the people who have dedicated their lives to an issue. I’ve also learned to think about issues systemically. It's not enough to get the policy or legal perspective, change-makers need to understand how culture is affecting their issue too. And the market. And the environment. Change happens in concert. Our content is curated based on this understanding.
The School also draws on how personal development retreats usually work - you stop what you’re doing and focus on learning one thing for a few days, usually in a place that’s outside of your everyday environment. It’s efficient, fun, and the learning actually happens. When I try to tackle an online course or commit to reading a bunch of books about something, I usually fail.
Finally, it was hard for me to get into social change, and no one took me seriously. I took up running in January in New York City to keep my spirits up from all the rejection. I called my mom crying most days. (Poor woman). I don't want anyone who wants to give back to experience that, and I want everyone to feel welcome in the change community, regardless of where they are coming from or how much knowledge they have on an issue. I broke through by finding mentors, giving myself an education, and building relationships with other people who care about making a difference.
Creating a meaningful career for myself is the best decision I’ve ever made. I have trouble sleeping some days because I am so excited to get out of bed in the morning and make a difference. I want others to feel the joy of a purpose-driven life and hope the School can help.