By Nicholas Chan
I’m writing this from Washington
Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS), where our 12
inaugural Blue Engine Fellows are wrapping up their three-week training. The heat
is sweltering on the non-air conditioned fourth floor of this public school
building, but these folks are beyond intrepid.
everywhere in between (Kentucky, Missouri, South
Carolina, Ohio, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania (2), New
Jersey). They turned down opportunities at Teach For
America, law school, and the National Institute of Health to work for $1200
a month (before taxes) in the US’s most expensive city. Their
day starts at 7:30am when high school students roll into
WHEELS (where 90% of the students are Dominican and 90% of students are eligible
for free lunch), into the day, into afterschool programming, and into the night
as they prepare for their next 7:30am day. Nearly 200 applicants applied for
the Blue Engine Fellowship and after a lengthy, 3-part application process, these 12 Fellows
will pioneer Blue Engine’s first year.
Our 12 Fellows come from as far away as California (2,3), as nearby
Blue Engine’s mission is to harness
the power of national service to advance educational excellence and equity – to
help all students, regardless of background or income level, be not just eligible to go to college, but ready to graduate from college on time.
The Fellows are an integral part of this – as
Algebra teaching assistants for all 8th and 9th grade
students, they supplement the work of WHEELS teachers by helping smaller groups
of students master the material. In the future, Blue Engine will expand to
other subjects, grades, schools, and cities, but for now, the program centers
on Integrated Algebra classrooms at WHEELS. Blue Engine’s theory
of change is based on evidence that the strongest predictor of
college success is the academic rigor of one’s high school program. You read
that right – your high school program (especially Integrated Algebra, which
often determines whether students continue in higher math) is key to determining
your college future. Many of our
youth enter college woefully underprepared. After
struggling in remedial classes (where they receive no credit), many drop out,
several thousand dollars in debt. Blue Engine, with the help of our Fellows,
was founded to meet this challenge head on.
The last stanza of Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Little
Blue Engine” (where the organization gets its name) reads “if the
track is rough and the hill is tough, thinking you can just ain’t enough”. Some
interpret this line cynically, but Blue Engine believes it has a positive
message. Rather than merely telling students they can succeed in college, hard work
and preparation is required before they even set foot on a college campus.
School starts on September 8th. The Fellows have worked together for
only a little over 3 weeks. But they are clearly up to the challenge of
preparing the youth of WHEELS to succeed in Integrated Algebra and beyond. Follow
their journey through our website and our Facebook
To the friends, supporters, and customers of Cycles
We want to begin by expressing our
warmest thanks to the NYU Reynolds Program and Youth Venture for the grand
prize award in the “Be a Changemaker Challenge.” After ten months of hard work
and dedication and with the help of so many incredible mentors and supporters,
we have turned our idea for a bicycle-run delivery service from urban farmers
markets into a reality. In September 2009, after months of struggling to carry
our purchases home from the Union Square Greenmarket, we realized the demand
for a sustainable delivery service from the market. Our goal was to increase support for local
organic farmers and their environmentally sustainable practices. Today, we have
transformed Cycles Delivery into a fully licensed Limited Liability Company,
with everything from a custom-designed delivery tricycle to the proper
insurance, legal representation, and volunteer network to help us succeed.
We are writing to share a story
with you of the recent roadblock in Cycles’ development. Last month, when we
entered the Union Square Greenmarket to launch our service, we found that
another bicycle-run delivery service, “From Earth to Kitchen,” had just begun
operating. We were undeterred by this until we found out that they had known
about us and made a deliberate attempt to start two days before we did. Our
bicycle designer told us that From Earth to Kitchen had requested that he build
bikes for them before finishing ours. While we structured Cycles as a profitable
business, our main goal has always been to increase support for sustainable
farmers. To be treated as competitors by a group of people who claim to share
this goal was disheartening.
Despite this, we began offering
deliveries in Union Square for the month of June. However, it has become
increasingly difficult for us to continue.
Because the owner of From Earth to Kitchen has worked at a previously
existing stand for several years, he has significant influence in the market. Many
that they could not send us customers because they did not want to hurt their
business relationship with the owner of From Earth to Kitchen. We recognize
that it’s impossible for Cycles to support the farmers in the market if they
are afraid to send us customers.
Despite our roadblock, Cycles is
still pedaling through. We are not unaccustomed to challenges- we began with no
business experience, no money, and no connections, and we’ve made it this far
already. We’re not going to stop now. We have found a new farmers market to
work with and are very excited to begin running Cycles there. We’ve learned
from our past experiences and are holding off on publishing the name of the new
market until all of the details are worked out, but we will post updates on our
Facebook, Twitter, and website as soon as we can. Please check back soon for
more information and thank you so much for all of your support.
Ashley & Michelle
Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship (www.nyu.edu/reynolds) is pleased to
continue the 2009-10 “Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century”
Speaker Series with Slow Money President and Investor’s Circle Founder Woody
Tasch. As president of Slow Money, a 501 c 3 formed in 2008, Woody is working
to catalyze the flow of investment capital to small food enterprises and to
promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility to support sustainable
agriculture and the emergence of a restorative economy.
The event will take place on
November 5 at 5:30pm at the Rudin Family Forum on the 2nd floor of the
RSVP is required at: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB229L2SDHJJ8.
Now in its forth year, The Social
Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Speaker Series features a remarkable
selection of social entrepreneurs and related leaders who have launched
extraordinary programs, companies and movements addressing the most pressing
challenges of the 21st century.
Reflecting the NYU Reynolds belief that social entrepreneurship is a
meta-profession drawing on cross-disciplinary knowledge and practice, the
series presents prominent social entrepreneurs and leaders from across the
spectrum of public and professional sectors who will share their insights as
cutting-edge, far reaching change makers.
speakers this year include Honest Tea Founder and TeaEO Seth Goldman, Former
U.S. Ambassador and President and CEO of Population Services International Karl
Hofmann, and George Foundation Founder Dr. Abraham George. Additional speakers
to be scheduled throughout the year.
To learn more about the NYU Reynolds
Speaker Series, and to access our audio and video library of previous speakers,
click here or cut and
into your browser. The audio and video library is also available from the
podcast section of iTunes. Search NYU
To learn more about the NYU Reynolds
Program in Social Entrepreneurship, please visit us at http://www.nyu.edu/reynolds.
Trabian’s postÂ got me thinking about how change happens and why we do it. Social entreprenuership is neither a motivation, a means, nor an end.
Premise: Feeling the “tug”
The key to being a good mime (or an actor) is the understanding of the premise of our actions in everyday life. Yes, it’s the actor’s annoying question: “What’s my motivation?” Motivation and premise determine an actor’s credibility. In mime, the premise changes how you do something. In the SE world, the motivation for doing certain work will change how you do it.
A person who has mastered mime isolations (exercises) won’t be a perfect mime until they’ve gotten the premise right. A mime attempting to create the illusion of a tug of war, needs to feel the tug before moving; if not, the movement looks fake.Â
The premise is critical.Â As a changemaker, it’s the tug of oppression, disparity, and inequality that influences the movement. WIthout the tug, the integrity of the movement is affected.Â
Your premise also affects your wider audience. Montanaro says, “My ability to believe these things, these images, determines the clarity of my gestures and the integrity of my sketch. My belief ignites my audience’s belief, and they join me in my adventures.” Isn’t that what social movements are all about?
Doing: There is no blueprint
The inventors of mime work and those great illusions that we enjoy – the tug of war, the ladder climb, the wall – didn’t read a book to figure out how to create them. Instead, the inventors of this work studied real-life situations to understand the tangible forces causing the physical effects.Â
They understood the importance of understanding not only the wall, but its forces. In fact, the physical object–for example, the wall–isn’t what is most important at all in the mime illusion, but rather what that physical object does to you. Likewise, in the SE world, it’s not just about understanding systems, markets, institutions, but what those things do to people. Understanding the effects help us to better interact with the object.
Montanaro talks about the good that comes from not reading the instructions. And the ability to “trust” and “thrust” — feeling the outside force and “thrusting” against it. A just do it approach.
Character: Giving in to the work
In mime work, one has to create and thrust oneself into character. The character (like a cause or your work) has no life of its own – the actor breathes life into the character.Â
Montanaro points out: “…when you do not loan all of yourself to your character, you have to treat your character as a separate entity and speculate on his/her feelings, thoughts, and behavior. While you’re busy speculating on your character’s behavior, you can never move and speak spontaneously. But if you “give in” to your character, if you let the character “get to you,” then the correct thoughts, words, and actions will occur to you, as if by magic.”
If we keep ourselves distanced from the work, we risk losing the spontaneous and invaluable actions and thoughts that can occur to us when we delve in, despite the risk.
If Montanaro were asked about social change, I think he might say: Give in to the work and the risk, let it get to you, feel the tug, forget the instructions and use your experience as expertise.