Friday, October 28, 2016

Echoing Green

Hello, my good people, and many salaams from the Berkshires as I continue my tour of the Eastern seaboard.  I'm currently in Lenox, Massachusetts enjoying a bit of R&R (and working my bum off, of course, who are we kidding?!) after the frenzy of preparing and submitting Toa Nafasi's application for an Echoing Green Fellowship earlier in the week.

Echoing Green is an nonprofit organization that provides funding for "social innovation."  In their own words: 

Echoing Green Fellows are the innovators, instigators, pioneers, and rebels that reject the status quo and drive positive social change all over the world.  While their work, their geographies, and even their approaches may be as varied as the problems they are working to solve, their common passion and commitment form the base of this robust, active community of leaders.  Our social entrepreneurship Fellows work on six continents, on issues such as: Economic Development; Education; Environmental Sustainability; Health; Justice and Human Rights; Hunger and Poverty Alleviation; and, Racial and Gender Equality.

Echoing Green will provide more than $4.6 million in unrestricted seed-stage funding and strategic foundational support this year to emerging leaders working to bring about positive social change.  Over the past three decades, our total investment is over $40 million to more than 700 world-class leaders.

Fellows include the founders of Teach For America, City Year, One Acre Fund, and SKS Microfinance, as well the First Lady of the United States, a mayor of Providence, RI, and the director of the largest environmental law center in the U.S. 

So, with the First Lady and Teach For America as Fellow role models, you can see how we at Toa Nafasi have our work cut out for us!

Don't want to divulge much more about our application as it's early days yet and there's much more work to be done, but here's a small portion from the Short Answer round regarding my "passion" for your delectation.

Be well, folks, and another blog post next week!


I came to development work late in my professional life.  Having spent ten years in book publishing, it seemed my career track was set.  But my time as a volunteer nursery school teacher in Tanzania brought me to a different world, one in which benefits I took for granted were not even thinkable.  I am not a Toa kid.  I have always been a quick learner and a fast reader.  I have always had opportunities, educational and otherwise, at my disposal.  When I saw Tanzanian children struggling with kindergarten lessons with no support from (and in some cases actually fearing!) their teachers, I felt very lucky.  And feeling lucky motivated me to give back.  Since then, I have spent nearly ten years in Tanzania.  I have strong personal as well as professional reasons for wanting to see the Project succeed.  I believe that given the opportunity, thousands of public primary schoolchildren can do better than they currently are, or even than what's expected of them.

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