Peter Jacob

Tell us about the work you do.

We are currently engaged in a battle to end corruption in politics; I am a Licensed Social Worker who, in 2016, ran a record-breaking campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th District, receiving the most votes for a Democrat in the history of the District. We see another run as viable in 2018.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

The corrupting role of big money in politics is what inspired me to run for public office. For far too long we’ve seen special interests put over the public’s interest. If we wish to address income inequality, healthcare, climate change, war, immigration – issues I’ve personally tackled as an activist and social worker – we need to address the fact that politicians are bought by the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

I realized that for every second I did not face my fears, there was a mother who could not feed her baby, a veteran suffering from PTSD who could not afford treatment, an elderly person who had to choose between eating or getting their medication because of a greedy health insurance industry. It was the motivation to help others that allowed me to take my first step.

In nearly every election, it feels like we’re forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils.” Why is that?

That it is impossible for someone like me – a brown skinned, bearded, millennial, social worker, Progressive Democrat – to win. In fact, people like myself are not expected to run. Establishment politics, media, and industries often suppress the noise we make. However, in 2016, we proved that our District can reflect the values we fought for. Our campaign received nearly 45% of the vote and has become an inspiration for people throughout the nation. Knowing that we can restore confidence in our democracy by speaking truth to power. After all, the stakes are high and the time is limited to settle for sitting on the sidelines hoping for the best.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

In today’s political climate it is even harder for us to do the work we are doing. When the man who holds the highest power in the land openly shows hatred, makes overtly racist and discriminatory comments then fuels others to do the same, our fight becomes incredibly difficult. But that does not mean we give up. In fact, now more than ever, we need to resist and stay resilient.

In our work, there is a misconception that focusing on women of color means that we do not want all women to succeed. This is incorrect. Our work by no means discounts the challenges that other women are facing. We are choosing to focus on women of color specifically because it is a part of our identity and we want to bring more light to the conversation regarding the intersecting issues of race and gender.

We also face the challenge of navigating and dismantling the structural inequalities that exist in the workplace. We combat this by remaining honest, vulnerable, authentic and making a conscious effort to bridge the divide through open dialogue and discourse.

What keeps you going?

The protester who stops me at a rally to tell me they voted for me last time and hopes to see me run again, the college student who gets inspired by the campaign, and the disenfranchised that I mentioned before; the people who are trying to build a better life keep me going.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Democracy is not a noun, it is a verb. We would love your help; you can visit Jacob2018.com and sign-up to learn more about how to volunteer, contribute, and learn more about us. Please be sure to follow us on social media as well: Twitter- @PeterJacobNJ Facebook: @PeterJacobNJ

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

You can call me the Defender of Democracy

Dilim Dieke & Dipabali Chowdhury

Tell us about the work you do.

We started The Women of Color L.I.T Network, the first-ever women of color (multicultural) young professional network of emerging leaders nationally.  We empower women of color young professionals to achieve greater authenticity, inclusivity, and mobility in the workplace by providing a growing professional network, data informed trainings + workshops, career and life coaching, and advocacy initiatives.

L.I.T stands for Learn / Invest / Transform – which is everything that this network encompasses. We want to make sure that, we as emerging leaders in our industries, are constantly learning, constantly investing in ourselves both personally and professionally and working to transform our communities, being advocates for those whose voices cannot be heard. It just so happens that when you combine these words, the acronym is LIT – something that is authentic to us as people of color, vibrant, and a real testament to living in our truth which is at the core of the work that we’re doing.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

Dilim: Throughout our lives we always had strong and passionate female role models guiding us. These women help mold and shape us. Without their guidance, love, and mentorship we would not be here!

Dipabali and I dreamed as young girls of one day cultivating a women empowerment organization where multicultural women can be mentored, supported and for us to uplift one another.

Dipabali: The L.I.T Network journey started back in February 2017 when Dilim and I both worked at a local NYC non-profit organization. We started to have conversations about being a woman of color in the workplace and we felt like outsiders. We noticed disparities amongst those who were front-line and those in management positions. Managers didn’t reflect the demographics we served nor did we have anyone in the executive team who was a person of color.

Dilim: These stark disparities made us question why this was happening and if there was anything out there that addressed this issue. To our surprise, we did not find any groups that supported women of color young professionals. There were groups that focused on women of color managers and directors but none that focused on women who were 2-3 years out of college.

Dipabali: What started off as just a networking group expanded in vision to become an organization that not only provides trainings and workshops for women of color but also an organization that focuses on collecting data and research, which is truly limited for our demographic.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

We truly believe that when your heart is in it, the universe will find a way to make things happen for you. We worked for an organization that gave us an ultimatum and told us to choose between our full-time job or pursue creating the Women of Color L.I.T Network. The answer was simple for us. We chose L.I.T. We knew we were giving up our steady income and stability, but deep in our hearts, we believed in the power of creating an organization that so desperately needed to exist. Authenticity is one of our core values and we knew that staying at a job that did not support our passion and vision would contradict our values. Looking back, we could not be happier with our decision.

On another occasion, we met with a startup coach, who after hearing our mission, told us immediately that we were going to fail. Though we were taken aback, we knew that there will always be people who will doubt you. This doubt actually fueled us to work even harder.

From these experiences, we learned that you should never let other’s expectations limit you from living your reality. Always do what matters most to you. When you find yourself in a place where you have to make a huge decision, always let your values guide you and you will never be disappointed. Fear is a natural feeling. It’s what how you use your fear that defines you. We used our fear and barriers as catalysts for strength and resilience.

Even though the mainstream is in the midst of awomens revolution,” the reality is that womens voices are embarrassingly underrepresented in positions of leadership. Why is that?

According to the report, Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership, women only make up 19% of Congress and 28% of Corporate Executives. For women of color, these numbers are even more dismal. Latina, Asian, and African-American women hold fewer than 4% of senior executive level positions despite being 17% of the workforce. Although women are getting degrees at higher rates than men, there is something inherent in our system that is keeping women out of leadership positions. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women face both subtle and overt discrimination in the workplace. There have been 30,000 cases of sexual discrimination in the past 5 years alone. Just think about all the cases of sexual harassment that are coming to light today.

Additionally, it becomes very challenging for women who wish to have families and succeed professionally. Unfortunately, this is still one of the biggest barriers preventing women from top level positions. Research shows that, women are not only the primary caretakers of their children but also for their elder relatives and aging parents. The Barriers and Bias report states that women often leave the workforce during their peak employment years. When women want to return to their careers after giving birth, they are often forced to quit their jobs because they aren’t given paid parental leave. Out of the world’s 196 countries, the US is only one of four that has no federally mandated policy to give new parents paid time off. That burden is placed on individual states and employers. Even when employers offer family-friendly policies, women are hesitant to use them because of fear of seeming “not committed” to their work.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

In today’s political climate it is even harder for us to do the work we are doing. When the man who holds the highest power in the land openly shows hatred, makes overtly racist and discriminatory comments then fuels others to do the same, our fight becomes incredibly difficult. But that does not mean we give up. In fact, now more than ever, we need to resist and stay resilient.

In our work, there is a misconception that focusing on women of color means that we do not want all women to succeed. This is incorrect. Our work by no means discounts the challenges that other women are facing. We are choosing to focus on women of color specifically because it is a part of our identity and we want to bring more light to the conversation regarding the intersecting issues of race and gender.

We also face the challenge of navigating and dismantling the structural inequalities that exist in the workplace. We combat this by remaining honest, vulnerable, authentic and making a conscious effort to bridge the divide through open dialogue and discourse.

What keeps you going?

Knowing that a universal platform of women of color young professional regardless of career industry does not exist, but is truly needed! By 2024, WOC are also projected to make up a larger percentage of the US labor force, which is driving the urgency behind the creation and passion of the L.I.T Network.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Since we are new to the social entrepreneurship/startup space, we are always in need of folks who can mentor and guide us as we move to fully develop a social justice oriented startup. Additionally, we are always looking for organizations and business who would be interested in partnering and collaborating with us (i.e. hosting workshops and trainings). Why reinvent the wheel, when you can just come together!

However, this is not just our fight. This is all of our responsibilities – to make sure that we’re continually fighting so that our voices are heard, that we have decision making power, and that we can bring our whole selves to work. This is why we’re creating the LIT movement so that we can get there together. We want you to join in on this movement.

Allies (men and white women) – this is your fight too. We can’t do this alone. Don’t be a bystander. Speak up and elevate our voices. The fight does not start with you joining the LIT Network. The fight starts when you go back to your office and you see a woman of color being the victim of a microaggression, being treated differently than her white counterparts, not getting promoted when she rightfully deserves one.

Lastly, we would love people to support in spreading the word about the L.I.T Network! Follow us on Instagram; @woclitnetwork and add us on Facebook @ The Women of Color LIT Network. Tell you social network that the L.I.T Network exists and we would love for them to join us in this movement!

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

Wonder Women of Economic Equity and Mobility

Ahalia Ramlogan

Tell us about the work you do.

I am a New York City civil servant in the Information Technology (IT) realm. In a quick sentence I help other NYC Agencies by designing and creating Cloud infrastructure as a home to future applications that serve City residents and tourist alike, and enabling a more connected and efficient City.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

When I was younger, I was certain that I’d end up in outer space, as I was always fascinated by Science and the Extra Terrestrial. A healthy fear of heights squashed that dream, but it didn’t stop me from admiring upward and keeping up with new developments in Space and Technology. You can’t help but think about how connected we all are, and that is what attracted me to Telecommunications and eventually IT. Well, that and the night shift at the Computer Lab on campus paid about $1 extra.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

I don’t recall having fears about entering my field. It was more of insecurities about feeling inadequate or not qualified enough to apply for certain positions. A lot of my success I attribute to those around me that gave me the courage to take certain leaps or alternately to stay where I was at the time. Always talking to folks that are older is a great thing because they have a perspective that is invaluable and you can make that your own after listening to several people’s stories and advices. It is important to make the final decisions your own, but a good set of homework helps!!

Government has a reputation for being antiquated or inefficient, as opposed to keeping up with the innovation of our times. Why is that?

We joke about our governmental IT roles “bringing you yesterday’s technology, tomorrow.” But the reality is that NYC is far ahead of many Cities in the realm of technology. We have a robust network and have attracted talented and dedicated people in our work force — many native New Yorkers that have resourcefulness and ambition in their blood. I think, the more we focus on transparency, accountability and use technology as a means to continue to provide it, everyone benefits. There is a lot of work to do, especially as a government worker, but times are changing and NYC at least is moving with that, once our Mayors continue to invest in tech.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

Resistance shows its head in so many ways. The challenge is recognizing the magnitude, the target and tactic to overcome it. When the challenge is across the board and not particular to a specific group or person, it is easy to rationalize. However, when you feel like a challenge is tailored just for you, because of a factor you have zero control over (e.g. gender, race, age) or something you do (e.g. personality, attitude, skillset), then I have two schools of thought. If someone is judging me on something without my control, I address it quickly and privately and directly. If that doesn’t change things, I chalk it up to perhaps they have a hang-up I cannot fix, and I move on; I work around them. Most times people aren’t aware they are behaving in such a manner and a call out will tune that behavior and give them the chance to be more self-aware. If someone is judging me on something within my control, then I address it with myself first. I am my own worst critic and will usually try to either gain the skill or adjust my attitude to see if that affects a change in me and how others react to me.

What keeps you going?

People keep me going. I love knowing that my work has purpose and indirectly makes a fellow New Yorker, or global tourist’s lives a little easier or better. Having a good team helps a lot too. I’m okay staying with a good group where the relationships are symbiotic and a lot like family. The reward might be longer term to realize but I never question loyalties and motives after seeing how someone behaves in hot water, and they can say the same for me. My work is my pride, and technically it is part of my legacy here on Earth. It doesn’t make sense to nickle and dime the City because it is all helping me become a better person, a more empathetic person and it tests my limits for flexibility through changing leadership (every 4 years per elections).

Lately, I have been echoing the saying “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” I do each of these within a day.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

The work I do is for you. If you want to join that movement, also consider becoming a New York City government employee. Break the stereotypes of the City-worker and revitalize it with your drive and passion to invoke a change in the status quo. If you are in the position to hire, give people chances that are different from you but show a capacity for innovation or resourcefulness. If you are a technical worker, don’t throw things over the fence until you’ve exhausted all avenues and know for sure you cannot do anything about it, then make it your business to follow up and see it through.

Stir the pot. It might get ugly, but no one wants a crappy foundation – no matter what industry you are in.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

As a huge GOT fan, my husband and I together created a tagline for my twitter account @kloudeesi: Halstormborn of the House Ramlogan. The first of her name, the Unbullied, Khaleesi of the Great Hybrid-Datacenter, Breaker of Glass Ceiling and Mother of Cloud.

Bobby Jones & Afdhel Aziz

Tell us about the work you do.

We wrote ‘Good is the New Cool’ to help inspire world-changers, those business, social and cultural entrepreneurs who want to use the power of brands and culture to do good. We spend our time speaking and doing workshops to help our community find new ways to use their talents to positively impact the world.

Bobby: In addition to my work with Afdhel on’ Good is the New Cool’ I am also the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Peace First, a nonprofit organization that provides young people with the resources and support they need to compassionately solve injustices around the world.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

Afdhel: I was always inspired by the creativity and power in marketing but I wanted to put it in service of something that was more meaningful.

Bobby: I started working in the field of youth marketing when I was a teen. I have always been inspired by the energy, creativity, and influential power of young people particularly in underground and popular culture. So, I always knew I wanted to stay connected to youth culture and I’ve done so throughout my career as an entrepreneur, executive and now as an author and activist. I realized in 2015 after a lot of introspection that my calling in life was to feed the good in young people and to help them feed the good in the world. That clarity put me on a path to working at Peace First and continues to guide everything I do including telling the story of how young people are making good the new cool in business and culture.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

Afdhel: We followed the mantra ‘clarity follows action’. The important thing is to take the first step and follow your intuition. The universe will figure out how to respond.

Bobby: I battle with fear, procrastination and insecurity as much as anyone but what keeps me going is a clear understanding of my “why”. I do what I do in service to others – its not just about me – its about doing the work I believe I was called to do. Throughout the process of writing the book and starting a new career, whenever I had doubts, I just reminded myself of why I am doing this and that clarity gave me the courage I needed to keep pushing. I also have a great support system that keeps me going, and Afdhel, along with my wife Renee, and others are a huge help.

Humans are driven by purpose, yet the advertising world (and even the corporate world as a whole) can’t seem to find theirs. Why is that?

Afdhel: I think its because we are stuck in an outmoded way of thinking – disrupting people’s lives instead of finding ways to delight them.

Bobby: I think corporations, like individuals, can lose their way. Most businesses, even the largest ones start with the intention of solving a problem in people’s lives or in the world but many lose sight of that. I’ve seen so many times where brands struggle to find their purpose and then they go back to unearth the story of the founders and realize the purpose and a great story was there all along, they just lost sight of it being overly focused on revenue and other less meaningful motivations

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

Afdhel: Skepticism. Systemic inertia. Cynicism. These are some of the common attitudes. We try to overcome it by appealing not just to people’s minds but their hearts too. People know deep down in their hearts what the right thing to do is.

Bobby: I agree with Afdhel

What keeps you going?

Afdhel: Hearing positive feedback from the people we speak to, or who reads our books. Every story is inspiring to us.

Bobby: We are in some troubling times, to say the least. However, everyday I work with young people, professionals and culture creators who are all working to change the world for the better. Seeing their efforts and knowing my work is contributing in a real way to this movement for change is what keeps me going.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Afdhel: By reading the book ‘Good is the New Cool’ available on Amazon here.

Bobby: Read and share the book here. Support Peace First here.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

Afdhel: Um…maybe ‘The Deadpool of Purpose’?

Bobby: I can’t top Afdhel’s. But according to my superhero name generator, I am Commander Janus. Otherwise described as a professional thief who’s just stolen a weird technological gizmo from a scientist – only to find that using the device transforms me in a bizarre and amazing way! I can now use my powers for good – if I can avoid being caught by the scientist responsible…I have the ability to generate up to six identical copies of myself enabling me to accomplish tasks faster and bewilder my opponents!

Teodora Pavkovic

Tell us about the work you do.

I am a psychologist and psychotherapist, working with The School of Positive Psychology based in Singapore, where I just recently moved to NYC from. The scope of my role is quite varied, and includes one-on-one therapy sessions with clients, speaking on panels and delivering talks, facilitating workshops for children and adults, and supervising psychotherapy and counseling students. In addition to that, I am currently undergoing additional training in personal coaching with the Robbins-Madanes Training Center.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

I have always been drawn to people and fascinated by the huge spectrum of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that our brain can conjure up, especially those on the extreme ends of that spectrum. Why do some people addicted to drugs self-harm to the extent of killing themselves? What are the inner workings of the mind of a serial killer? What is an exceptionally gifted child’s view of the world? These questions excite me now just as much as they did when I first considered studying psychology as a young teenager, and it is because of that that I always knew I would be working with people. The beauty of the psychotherapy profession is that it’s the perfect vehicle for me to both satisfy my own curiosities, but help people as well. I did at times also toy with the ideas of becoming either an actor, a geneticist or a neurosurgeon- all very different professions, but tied together by my desire to ‘pick on people’s brains’ both literally and metaphorically.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

That “first step” is always the most intriguing one isn’t it! We have this perception that it is the most difficult one to make, and so we pay it an awful lot of attention. I believe though, that the more we think of that first step as a single distinguishable and effortful action, the more difficult it becomes to take it- we expose ourselves to the paralyzing power of all those self-defeating thoughts like, “What if I fail?” In my case, I allowed my genuine curiosity and love of learning to drive me forward into becoming a therapist. I was, and still am, a big sponge for all knowledge related to the human psyche, and I am passionate about sharing that knowledge with my individual clients and with the groups I work with in my workshops. So, by reframing my role from a very rigid idea of being a “fixer” of people into a more fluid one of being a teacher and guide, I took out the fear associated with taking that “first step” and possibly failing. I also see my work as really having started years before I actually became a therapist. I think that this can be a very useful approach for anyone who is unsure of what their professional role should be in life, and that is, consider these two things: 1) What have you always been intrigued by, and 2) What have you been contributing to the small and big world around you, long before you even got your first paying job.

As humans, we are largely driven by our emotions. Yet in the working world, we are frequently “roboticized” and lose our sense of self. Why is that?

This is an incredibly interesting question, and so relevant for our world today. I believe it has a lot to do with the global conversation on gender-equality in the work place, which has just about reached boiling point. Historically, the world of work has predominantly been a man’s world, and if you combine that with the traditional view of emotions as being a “woman’s thing,” you end up with a setting in which emotions have little or no place- the expectation (and demand) is that you be rational, decisive and strictly professional. Thanks to our advances in neuroscientific research techniques we now know with certainty that both men and women have emotions (shocking, I know), but that the difference lies in how and by which region they are processed in the brain. Now, combine that with the mounting evidence that shows that having more women in the workplace increases the success and productivity of a company, and it becomes clear that emotions are in fact vital for success in any professional setting. Another (understandable) reason for emotion-aversion in the workplace comes from the fact that we still don’t fully understand our emotions, as they largely are rooted in the deeper and more primal parts of our brain. This is where emotional intelligence (EQ) plays the definitive role in shedding light on these largely unconscious processes. EQ is all about being smart with our emotions, which in practical terms means being able to identify and name our emotions, being able to identify their cause, and then being able to choose how we are going to respond versus react given that knowledge. This is the mechanism through which we can regain that sense of self, not only in our professional but personal lives as well.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

Resistance comes in many forms when your job is about trying to create change. In my work, most of the resistance comes in the form of doubt (a masked form of fear), doubt that a certain technique will be effective, doubt that a person has what it takes to succeed at creating change. The biggest resistance that I face definitely comes from my clients’ self-defeating beliefs, and so I tackle these by first making it very clear that they are under no obligation to change; however, if they would like to experiment and play and try out a few different tools from my tool-box, we can become curious about how these can impact their life and relationships. And since a little curiosity never hurt anyone, this approach side-steps resistance quite nicely.

What keeps you going?

My job is to support people, to give them hope, to give them a new perspective, to help them turn on a light in their dark places- that work can never be done.

How can people support the work you’re doing?
It is wonderful to see how the conversations on mental health are blossoming; a couple of days ago a FaceTime conversation between Lady Gaga and Prince William took over all media outlets, the topic of which was the importance of being vocal about mental health issues. This is really the first step: speaking up. Past that, I would encourage anyone who is struggling or knows someone who is, to feel empowered in seeking help for their issue, the same way they would if they were struggling with a tooth ache. Being open to our emotional pains and willing to hold them with care and compassion is the best way to push forward the work of improving mental health globally, and providing myself and people like me with platforms on which to raise awareness about these topics is a step in that direction.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

I will borrow the name of my Facebook page to answer this one- The BeACKO&N (BeACKO&N stands for Be Aware, Curious, Kind, Open and Notice, the qualities most associated with personal wellbeing).

Nayeem Hussain

Tell us about the work you do.

In 2013, I co-founded Keen Home, a tech company focused on creating products to help people live more comfortably, efficiently, and securely in their homes. Our goal is to have your home take care of you—not the other way around.

As CEO, I spend most of my time focused on three responsibilities: shepherding the firm’s vision and setting strategic goals, seeking out and hiring world-class talent, and making sure the company is well capitalized.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

The home has increasingly become a source of anxiety and stress to its inhabitants. We founded Keen Home to reestablish the home as a place of sanctuary.

Prior to founding Keen Home, we analyzed the “smart home” landscape and observed the glut of innovation occurring in just a few concentrated areas; namely, thermostats, lighting, and security applications.

With the advent of ubiquitous connectivity, affordable rapid prototyping technology, and favorable component pricing, we felt the time was right to launch a company focused on proactive products that addressed critical pain points related to home infrastructure.

I have always been naturally curious and have long been a tech aficionado. Fusing my love of tech with my fascination for innovation with the goal of helping millions of people live better lives in their homes has been an absolute joy and privilege.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

In addition to being blessed with financial security and a first-class education, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive network of family and friends. Starting a new venture like Keen Home meant long hours, extreme financial risk, and overcoming long odds on many fronts. Without the support of my wife, my parents, countless friends, professors, classmates at NYU Stern, and the NYC startup community I would not be where I am today.

Homes have been designed with a specific aesthetic and framework for decades. Why is that?

Like many U.S. industries, homebuilding has succumbed to the constraints and motivations dictated by large corporations. Unfortunately, the “profits are paramount” dynamic has resulted in weak innovation, low quality craftsmanship, and uninspired aesthetics. Fortunately, consumers are increasingly demanding change and forcing the incumbent corporates to cater to their needs or face disruption.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

With the proliferation of any disruptive technology, there will usually be resistance from the status quo who fear obsolescence or are threatened by change. We overcome this resistance by really embracing an open dialogue with all antagonistic counterparties. Once these parties realize that we are not necessarily at odds with their industry, but can actually be a valuable partner, resistance often turns into acceptance and sometimes even admiration.

What keeps you going?

I have always been a self-starter with an almost insatiable desire to succeed in any venture I am involved with. Of course, I’m also motivated to do right by my employees, investors, customers, partners, and other stakeholders.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Take a look at our website: www.keenhome.io and feel free to purchase or spread the word about our products if they resonate with you.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

You can call me the Vision of Entrepreneurship.

Logan Cohen

Tell us about the work you do.

I’m a co-founder and Co-CEO of KÜDZOO, an app that rewards students based on their academic achievements.  KÜDZOO serves as a resource for schools to increase student engagement and connects brands with Generation Z through a collaborative, educational lens.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

We are all aware of America’s falling world rankings in math, science and reading comprehension. I never felt suited to solve this, but I knew that I wanted to help so I turned to the ones doing the hard work and making the difference daily: the teachers and administrators.

After speaking with educators from different districts, grade levels and socioeconomic backgrounds there was a common issue, a lack of student engagement.

With students checking their phones an average of 150x/day, why not leverage the relationship that students have with their smartphones to engage them in the classroom?

Too often, smartphones are seen as distractions rather than tools to opportunity. This, combined with my co-founder, Trevor Wilkins’, idea to reward students for grades inspired us to start KÜDZOO. (& we are launching a web-based app for schools who do not allow smartphones)

As cliché as it sounds, I always knew I wanted to make a difference. I do not believe in coincidences and I was fortunate to grow up in a household where my parents instilled that if I work hard, I can achieve absolutely anything I set my mind to. Did I envision starting a mobile app? No. Did I know I wanted to work for something larger than myself, recognize a societal need and help to make a difference? Yes!

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

Every stage in life brings an opportunity to overcome a fear, from your first classroom presentation to your boardroom pitch. The fear of regret always trumps any initial fear I have. I encourage others to launch to learn. Perfectionism leads to procrastination.

Billions are invested in education every year, yet America continues to lag behind our peers across the world. The average classroom hasn’t changed much, in terms of classroom management and instructional style. Why is that?

To properly address this question, I will leave it up to the experts, but my two cents from traveling to and working with schools across the nation, leads me to reflect on the expectations we set on our teachers.

First of all, any discussion of learning should take into account the context in which that learning is taking place. Teachers often face overcrowded classrooms and still need to come out of pocket for supply. These and numerous other challenges need to be taken into account.

What can we focus on?

On the one hand, teachers need to be held accountable for their students’ learning.

On the other hand, if they are held accountable, they ought to be for more than standardized testing and quantitative scores.

What qualitative measures are we tracking? Who is identifying these metrics?

If we want to see a shift in classroom management and instructional style, we need to place more respect and priority on the teaching profession, hold teachers accountable by the ways they engage students, and allocate funds efficiently to serve the students directly, through blended learning initiatives to properly prepare them as a global citizen.

We often hear about the different “stakeholders” in education, but how often are all of the different stakeholders involved in creating the creating the learning environment. There needs to be a place to foster classroom innovation through a collaboration of all parties involved, the administrators, teachers and the students. Leading districts such as DCPS, have begun this process by included student surveys in their teacher evaluations.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

People still seem to confuse social impact with nonprofit. Too often, when I pitch KÜDZOO, some recommend that we become a non-profit or they’re surprised when I tell them we aren’t already.

In this new age of marketing and really, the world, It’s ok to be unapologetically for-profit and mission driven. KÜDZOO is free for students while we generate revenue from partnering schools and brands sponsors.

I overcome this learning curve in my pitch by describing this unique positioning of merging purpose and profit. Because soon, (hopefully) merging purpose and profit won’t be so unique.

What keeps you going?

The students. It’s easy to get caught up in start-up jargon while running an app. For example, we often focus on “user acquisition”, however, at KÜDZOO it’s engrained in our culture that users are students- you know, actual humans not just tabs on the hockey stick chart in a pitch deck.

The students have made KÜDZOO what it is today, from their honest feedback to their endearing support throughout our growth.

When we first began, we wanted to bring cool back into the classroom and an educational focus onto smartphones. Students have taken KÜDZOO to another level by giving their parents their gift cards for groceries, to taking their grandparents out to lunch. The best part is, these rewards weren’t given to them. They earned them through their achievements. So it’s an empowering win/win.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Students can download the free app, brand sponsors can connect with Generation Z while supporting their academic achievements and school administrators and educators can bring KÜDZOO to their school.

Last but not least, keep inspiring! Students do not need rescuing, they need access to opportunity. Be the role model.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

Logan (wolverine), clawing through the glass ceiling.

BRBRCK

Tell us about the work you do.

I’m a producer and MC out of Brooklyn, NY. My mission is to use my music to make people think more about the world we live in, and the stories they’re told, and why they’re told those stories. I feel like we’ve all been pre-loaded with a series of narratives that shrink our worldview and lead to a lot of the larger, systemic problems we face every day. People don’t like complicated answers, but most things that really matter aren’t simple. I also want to serve as a platform for other musicians looking to get their messages out there, whether that’s as a producer, cowriter, show booker, or marketing adviser. Hip-hop is community, and everything I do to help WE helps ME.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

I’ve been a performer since I was able to stand up, and I’ve been rapping since I was 11 or 12, so I’ve always known I wanted to do this. But when I started, I was emulating my heroes (Jay-Z, Biggie, and Eminem) and not really contributing much in terms of discourse. A lot changed for me when I went to the Middle East (Jordan, Israel, and Palestine to be specific) in 2010 as a sound designer touring with a modern dance company. The trip really opened my eyes to how much of what I “knew” was actually a narrative crafted to make me feel a certain way about people I’d never met. On the first day of the trip I started writing “Stones of Freedom,” to this day one of my favorite tracks, and I often think back to a specific line: “I’m gung-ho to un-know the story I didn’t know was being told and come back different.” I did come back different, and since then, my writing has had a lot more purpose.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

Writing and performing have been passions of mine for decades, so my major barrier was actually committing to putting the work in and making things happen. At the risk of sounding full of myself, I’ve always had a talent for grabbing a crowd’s attention; it comes naturally to me. This ended up being a gift and a curse, because for a long time, it made me complacent. I also got caught up in the “get discovered” narrative that so many artists do, and I really didn’t take my music seriously throughout my 20s. I was actually on the verge of “retiring” from hip-hop when I decided to make one last album and put everything I had into its creation. BACKSTAGE kinda saved my life in a lot of ways, and taught me that doing the work could be its own reward.

Hip-hop has undergone several evolutions over the years, but today’s mainstream hip-hop feels more disconnected from reality than ever. Why is that?

I think it’s because hip-hop is more profitable than ever. If you look at any genre of music, the most vital, relevant phase is typically in the early stages. When hip-hop was truly music for the marginalized, no one was telling MCs what they should be rapping about. The music was exploratory, and the most potent, relatable messages were the ones that cut through the noise. I don’t mean to bemoan the mainstream acceptance of hip-hop; it’s done so much to combat ethnic divides in the U.S. and around the world. But whenever art becomes profitable, its message suffers for it. But, I do want to point out that a lot of really great, really important hip-hop is being created today, whether it’s underground or right beneath the surface of the mainstream – Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Run the Jewels, to name a few.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

Outside of the hip-hop community, it’s astounding how many outdated preconceived notions about rap are still alive and well today. Whenever I tell someone I’m a rapper, I can see a thousand assumptions register in their head just by their facial expression. One of the things that really boggles my mind is how people will categorize something that is clearly rap as “not really rap,” solely on the basis that they enjoy listening to it. The one way I’ve found to overcome these assumptions is to get people to come see me perform live. Once you’ve been to a BRBRCK show, you “get it,” and the conversation going forward can be about the music.

What keeps you going?

Musically I’m very much like a shark. Sharks die if they stop swimming, so they have to keep going forward. My music keeps me young, keeps me excited, and engaged, and really helps every other aspect of my life. I keep going because I can’t not keep going.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Come out to a show (July 27 at Lovecraft in NYC is currently on the books, with more dates to come), “like” BRBRCK on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up to my mailing list on www.brbrck.com – it’s really the best way to help me get my message out. And please always feel free to let me know what you like (and what you don’t like) about my music; I do this for y’all after all.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

I honestly consider “BRBRCK” to be my alter-ego, but that’s kind of a cop out, so I’ll go with “Spitfire”.

Krista Purnell

Tell us about the work you do.

So, where do I begin? I’m multi passionate and have a number of different avenues of work, but I can easily sum it up by saying I’m a leader, coach, and educator. That applies across the board. I’ve spent over 14 years in education and non-profit work. It’s deeply important to me that whatever I’m doing is impacting those who need it the most or who may not have a voice. I see it as my responsibility to empower and to provide access to students, families, teachers, partners, and staff.

Those same attributes apply in my personal ventures as well. Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of transferrable skills that I’ve been able to use in my “5-9” and to support my other passions, which include consulting, coaching, and managing my own business.

In my coaching work, while we aren’t talking about academic progress, we are talking about personal progress and growth. I take the same skills of asking thoughtful questions, creating systems for organization, and empowering individuals to reach their highest levels of potential. It’s incredibly rewarding to see my clients intentionally living their most fulfilled and gratified lives.

On the surface, my small business as a brand ambassador for a skincare line may not seem like it “fits.” However, it definitely does! Through my work with my customers, I’m able to help women and men look and feel their most confident by helping them approach the world putting their best face forward. Additionally, I am a team leader and have mentored other women in starting their own flourishing businesses. I guess you can say I’m in the business of confidence building! It’s also a great vehicle for giving back. As I continue to grow, I hope to give more and more to the organizations I’m passionate about.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

So not at all what I would have envisioned! As a young kid, I dreamed of being a doctor. Mostly because I was always academically inclined and that was what I was told “smart kids” became. That, or a lawyer. This is why I have loved the work I’ve done in encouraging students to think big and broadly. Learn more about a host of careers. It’s why with my coaching clients I encourage them to define their own success and happiness. You never know where that open mindness might lead you.

My current path has been an evolution. I started my skincare business at a time where I was feeling unfulfilled at work. I wanted to earn extra income, but also wanted to be a part of something more. It checked both of those boxes for me and has helped me grow personally and professionally. I do think it’s been integral in helping me refine my skills for my coaching practice, which started primarily due to a layoff. About a year ago, I was laid off from my full time job. I decided not to rush back to full time work and take the time to really rest, explore, and discover what I wanted most. And while I do plan to go back to full time work, it was during this time where I was able to identify how I can best make an impact and leverage my skills. I’m excited to pursue these paths and make the most of the opportunities and connections to advance all the good work happening!

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

Hmmm. This is a good one! At some point, I realized that I would be madder at myself if I didn’t at least try. I went through the worst case scenarios in my mind and realized that none of them would break me. I have a great support system and knew that no matter what, I was still loved. I liken it jumping off the biplane. I sat there with a lot of fears for a while, but at some point realized if I didn’t just go, I’d regret it. So I closed my eyes and jumped! I think that is symbolic. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and just do it. Then open them and figure out the details once you get going!

In spite of enhancements in technology and increased access to knowledge, it feels like our society is still laden with stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Why is that?

This is huge! In some ways, technology has set us back. At the end of the day, what I love about humans and humanity is authentic relationships and conversations. Quality time. Engaging with other. Hearing each others’ stories. We are going at such a fast pace that we don’t stop to listen and really hear each other. There’s so much room for error and misunderstanding. All of that heightens anxiety levels. We also have lost our way with values and it seems to be on material things. Working hard to acquire more stuff vs. enjoying the people in our lives and the experiences of being together. And social media… as great as it can be for connecting, it also can easily cause anyone to focus on “the highlight reel” as compared to their day in and day out. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy and so how do we make space for compassion, empathy, progress, and personal success instead of comparison, perfectionism, and self-serving behavior.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

Self-resistance! The mind is powerful. I have to actively work to remind myself of what I have to offer and it’s value. I’m a work in progress so it gets easier and faster over time. In the recent days, I’ve found meditation to be helpful. Focusing on my intentions and mantras helps me center for each day. Beyond that, it’s apathy. Not everyone is interested in expanding beyond their comfort zones. It’s hard work. And can be painful and difficult, but worth it in the end.

What keeps you going?

The bigger picture. I firmly believe each of us has the power to change ourselves and change the world. One step at a time. One action at a time. Once conversation at a time. I won’t stop believing that and I want to do my part to ensure each person feels equipped to make a change. Also, knowing and working with other dedicated, committed, influential, and powerful leaders like you reminds me we are stronger together and we can make a difference.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

Engage with me online! I share a lot of content through my Monday Motivation videos on Facebook and on Instagram. I’m launching a website soon, too. Let’s keep the conversations going. This is how we connect and make authentic relationships and enhance our lives. If you’re interested in working with me 1:1 or attending an event or starting your own business, reach out and let’s talk.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

Oooh. I love this question. Just thinking of this in the moment so maybe Wonder Woman of Personal Development and Lifestyle Design. Something like that!

Sachin Malhan

Tell us about the work you do.

I work with the global nonprofit Ashoka that’s been slowly but surely building a really powerful global community of social innovators and change leaders inside key institutions. My work – as the Executive Director of one of Ashoka’s programs – is to build partnerships with companies and foundations that can power networks of changemakers working to transform their fields. I work with a bunch of talented people using knowledge, convening and collective impact strategies to create opportunities for greater impact than a single innovator could achieve.

What issue inspired you to pursue your current path? Is this what you envisioned to do when you were younger?

It was not a single issue but at some point it just made sense to direct my creative energies to something that would actually create real value in the world. I came to Ashoka through a set of chances but I think those chances materialized because (i) i saw the power of entrepreneurship to be a force for good (through my own work with high-schoolers) (ii) i saw the fact small groups of people could have big impact (iii) i got to interact with people thinking deeply and creatively about persistent social issues.

How did you get over your initial fears or barriers and take your first step?

I think the first step was into entrepreneurship – away from fear, repetition and social perceptions and towards creativity, discovery and self-awareness. I still had my fears but I had tasted the fun and power of the entrepreneurial path and could compare it to the more limited reality of a “job”. I’d say that a second ‘first step’ happened years later when I committed more deeply to inner development. That’s also when it started becoming clear that I could choose / live / do despite my fears and not as per them.

Issues like poor educational outcomes, climate change, and generational poverty have been discussed for decades – yet we seem to be fighting the same fights over and over again. Why is that?

I see two reasons – at different dimensions. One, we keep focusing on creating solutions rather than creating a culture of changemaking in society. If we could focus on creating empathetic changemakers then the likelihood of problems would reduce and solutions would be everywhere. Second, we keep focusing on the outside instead of recognizing where the real work needs to be done. Unless we recognize what the wise ones have been saying for millenia – that the real transformation will have to happen from the inside, one person at a time – we will keep playing out the cycles.

What is the most common form of resistance you face, and how do you overcome it?

The most common form of resistance I face comes from me. My own baggage – reactions, limited perceptions etc – keep rearing their ugly head and preventing me from seeing what needs to happen, what is really emerging. Yes, I can keep pointing a figure at the several co-conspirators who contribute / trigger these patterns but ultimately its me. I overcome it by going back to the mat day after day, working with myself, and improving my self-awareness.

What keeps you going?

A recognition that I am both the changemaker and the changed, the leader and the follower, the one who provides and the one who needs. Hence, a recognition that it has to start with me and if I can lead despite my challenges then whatever comes will be more lasting.

How can people support the work you’re doing?

By raising their hands to the growing movement around placing inner work and inner wellbeing at the centre of the ‘change sector’ so that we can truly ‘be the change’ as Gandhi said. If we all do that wherever we are I feel that the quality of our change will be different and maybe something different will emerge.

I’m called the Batman of Social Impact. What would be your superhero name?

The Luke Skywalker of Social Impact. The pre-Yoda Luke Skywalker. Ha ha.