Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and President of YouthBuild

Living in Milwaukee I've been seeing lots of boarded up homes in need of renovations and youth in need of jobs. So when I heard Dorothy Stoneman's story of founding Youth Build, it resonated. After graduating from Harvard, Dorothy Stoneman lived in Harlem for 20 years amidst abandoned buildings, homeless people and idle youths. She founded YouthBuild to engage youth in a program that transforms their lives while building homes for low-income people. She says this program combines the power of "love and opportunity" to get people to believe in themselves, to complete high school, and to learn the building trades. Since 1994, they have employed 76,000 people to build 17,000 housing units in America's poorest communities.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Building a Local Economy

We're hearing a lot these days about what the federal stimulus may or may not be doing to get the economy going. This month's focus is on building a local economy after the manufacturing jobs have left town. Instead of focusing on a single entrepreneur, I'm featuring a small town that is creating a new community vision to build a local and sustainable economy. Don't let the beginning of the video put you off with the academic sounding introduction. It's a cool story. Calling all entrepreneurs to lead the charge to rebuild their communities!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Steve Donziger, Founder and Partner at Donziger & Associates

With the release this month of the movie, Crude Impact, I was brought back full circle to the start of my legal career, when I worked as a paralegal for a D.C.-based plaintiff's law firm and played a minor role researching a case against Texaco for contaminating the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador with numerous leaking oil waste pits. This work was a motivator that led me to law school, but I had largely left the case outside my peripheral vision since the early 1990s. Steve Donziger did not.

As the founder of his law firm in New York, Donziger & Associates, he has doggedly pursued Texaco (now Chevron) in courts both in New York and in Ecuador for almost two decades. He is now assisting on the $27 Billion lawsuit against the company for massive oil contamination in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador. Thirty thousand people are suing over this legacy of toxic pollution that has damaged the ecosystem and so many human lives.

For a sneak preview of Crude Impact, check out the trailer.

For a more in-depth understanding of what's at stake, watch the 60 Minutes expose.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Luke Cole (In Memoriam), Founder and Director of Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

Although the term "environmental justice" is somewhat commonplace now, twenty years ago when Luke Cole started the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, he was a pioneering attorney developing the concept and the law. Luke died last month - far too soon, but his mark on the world will not soon fade. Luke fought for low income people and people of color to have a seat at the table and to actively participate in decisions impacting their environmental health and quality of life. He helped people stop toxic waste and tire burning incinerators, clean up dirty oil refineries, and beat back mega-dairies in the Central Valley of California. He trained numerous aspiring lawyers (myself included) to remember that the environmental justice lawyer's job is to ride shot gun, provide good strategy, and not get in the way of the movement.

Unfortunately, I could find only two video clips of Luke, and neither tell his story well enough to be satisfying. He is and will be missed, but his spirit lives on in all who knew him and continue to fight for justice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gidon Bromberg - Founder of EcoPeace Friends of the Earth Middle East

Although the Middle East seems to be a hornet's nest of conflicts, the work of Gidon Bromberg over the past 15 years has been to find common ground through "the commons" -- mainly water and other natural resources that don't know anything about human-made boundaries. Friends of the Earth Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists to work collaboratively to resolve environmental issues. In fact, Gidon sees issues of water scarcity as a vehicle for bringing people together to come up with solutions. Watch one of his stories and let it inspire you to promote peace too!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jesús León Santos - Center for Integral Campesino Development

As we enjoy Cinco de Mayo, I've got Mexico on my mind. The Oaxaca region of Mexico is one that is rich in culture, but has the highest migration of indigenous people to the U.S. every year in search of work. Deforested 500 years ago, this now arid and highly eroded landscape makes it very difficult to grow food and get out of poverty. Although Jesús León Santos had never seen forests growing in his community, he and others kept a 500 year-old dream alive and formed the Center for Integral Campesino Development to restore the area to its former vibrancy. They have planted millions of trees, restored once-diminished water supplies, and established thriving sustainable agriculture. This story is not just highlighting Jesús as an incredible social entrepreneur, but one that shows the power of the community working together. Si se puede!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Social Entrepreneurs - the common threads that connect us

So far this year I've featured people focused on anti-gang work, urban farming, and micro-finance. They are all social entrepreneurs, but what does this mean? When faced with mounting problems, social entrepreneurs see opportunities. They believe before they see. And they see the end result before they even get started on a project. Call it a leap of faith, instinct, or madness, but we need more people taking these steps to transform the deficits around us into assets for the community. Here's a video that provides a good overview of a variety of social entrepreneurs and their importance in our world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jessica and Matt Flannery, Co Founders and Directors of

We hear a lot about crises related to banking these days so it seems an apt antidote to learn about, a bank that uses technology to connect would be lenders of amounts as small as $25 to people all over the world who need loans to run and grow their businesses. I'm one of those lenders, and this month I saw my first loan was getting repaid; the system was working! These innovative systems don't "just happen" -- so I was delighted to find this interview with the co-founders of Kiva talking about their reasons for starting this innovative microfinance system.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Will Allen, Founder and Director of Growing Power

Usually people don't envision farming and inner city Milwaukee in the same blink of the eye, but Will Allen has merged the two images into a masterpiece; with Growing Power he is transforming growing and delivering healthy foods to underserved, urban populations that typical only have access to processed, expensive foods at their corner stores.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Father Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries

Homeboy Industries is bringing hope to some of L.A.'s toughest neighborhoods by providing ways for at-risk youth and former gang members to meaningfully contribute to their communities. Under the leadership of the inspiring Father Greg Boyle, and with the motto "Nothing Stops a Bullet like a Job," they guide more than 1,000 young people a month to a future with hope.

Link to Homeboy Industries