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Change, Justice, Equity: The Optimism of Solutions Week

Echoing Green kicked off our 30th year with a series of timely conversations in partnership with WNYC and The Greene Space. Change, Justice, Equity Solutions Week brought twelve Echoing Green Fellows to a series of conversations with WNYC Radio’s Jami Floyd, host of All Things Considered. Over the course of four nights, these Fellows shared their visions–and their optimism–for addressing the ways that racial inequality limits opportunity and the collective imagination in the United States.

These timely dialogues explored the intersections of racial inequality and tech, big questions for justice reform, how race affects access to healthcare, and thinking critically about accessing power and employment. Each night, Fellows shared how they’re tackling the challenges and in conversation with the audience, they also offered some hope by way of tangible solutions individuals could apply to help move the needle on these systemic issues.

How can we change the culture of tech?

Tech is a driver of the way we communicate and learn in addition to being a core element of sectors beyond the tech industry itself. Laura Weidman Powers ’13 (Code2040), Kalimah Priforce ’13 (Qeyno Labs), and Kathryn Finney ’16 (digitalundivided) are thinking about what it means when the builders of tech don’t reflect the communities engaging with the products and the long term economic and exclusionary effects this has.

“Having a diversity of things we want to impact is critical. The key is that you’re stepping out beyond yourself on a daily basis…Think about how you can show and be visible for a cause you care about physically or digitally.” – Laura Weidman Powers

Watch Race and Changing the Culture of Tech featuring Kathryn, Kalimah, and Laura.

How can we return justice to the criminal justice system?

The effects prison industrial complex and mass incarceration in the United States are hard to ignore: more than 2.3 million people are incarcerated, with more than 11 million people jailed annually (most remaining un-convicted). Glenn Martin ’14 (JustLeadership USA), Gina Clayton ’14 (Essie Justice Group), and Deanna Van Buren ’16 (Designing Justice + Designing Spaces) are tackling the issue by urging us to rethink the role of justice as we conceive it.

Glenn urged the audience to not shy away from holding people accountable to their commitments but also to ensure that we listen to people directly impacted by the problem. “Take direction from people affected by the system…Be bold and audacious so that solutions match the scope of the problem.”

Watch Race and Justice Within Criminal Justice featuring Gina, Glenn, and Deanna.

What intersections need to be addressed to make healthcare equitable?

Access to healthcare is not just an insurance issue: race and language are significant barriers to receiving effective treatment and understanding your health. Anurag Gupta ’16, Maria Vertkin ’13, and Vineet Singal ’13 think about this challenge at the individual, provider, and institutional levels to improve access to healthcare while also addressing how bias plays a significant role in locking people out of options.

Anurag is working to break bias at the institutional level, beginning with hospital networks where eliminating bias from the medical decision making process can improve treatment options and quality of care for all. His suggestion for tackling unconscious bias at the individual level? Engage in a long dialogue with someone with whom you disagree, and begin with story and humanity to establish common ground. Ask them “what breaks your heart? And what brings you alive?”

Watch Race and Equity in Healthcare featuring Anurag, Maria, and Vineet.

How can we create equitable access to power?

Jordyn Lexton ’15, Donnel Baird ’12, and Jessamyn Rodriguez ’08 see their work as fundamentally intersectional with other issues discussed throughout the week. As Donnel put it, their work is about converting waste–of potential, talent, and resources–into opportunity.  By listening and co-creating solutions with people often locked out of economic opportunity, they are working across sectors to address this issue with the urgency it requires.

When it comes to understanding – and then doing something about limited pathways to employment in the United States – Jessamyn urges optimism around the incremental progress made to sustain energy around the work in the longterm.

Watch Race and Pathways to Employment featuring Jordyn, Donnel, and Jessamyn.

Our Commitments

Thirty years of supporting leaders implementing dramatic and effective solutions for addressing the world’s most overwhelming issues has taught us that everyone has a role to play. The resourceful, solutions-oriented perspectives of this community make it clear that to truly bring change to the fore, it’s important to listen first and then be specific about how you want to show up. Taking a cue from our Fellows, we’ve thought about the concrete ways we can show up to continue the conversation. In the spirit of not only seeking to understand the problems but creating opportunities to be part of the solution, we’re sharing three commitments we can achieve within the next 10 days, 10 weeks, and 10 months at Echoing Green.

  • 10 Days: A conversation on racial equity. Within 10 days, Echoing Green is hosting UpStart with Melinda Weekes-Laidlow, Echoing Green’s inaugural social entrepreneur in residence. Melinda is the founder of Beautiful Ventures, an investment fund for creative entrepreneurs of color, and will be in conversation with Andy Shallal to answer how we can address anti-blackness through the creative economy.
  • 10 Weeks: The Path to the Class of 2017. Within 10 weeks, we commit to finalizing the selection of our Finalist pool. Taking a tip from Anurag’s work to break bias at the institutional level, we are continuing our effort to remove unnecessary barriers from our selection process.
  • 10 Months: The Stakeholders of Social Entrepreneurship. Within 10 months, this conversation will continue in the Bay Area as we contribute to the social innovation conversation at All Fellows Conference 2017.

Change, Justice, Equity Solutions Week was sponsored by H.I.G. Capital.

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