Featured Fellows: System Change Makers

Lantern, low res

Photo by Huma Beg

At a recent workshop, we heard stories about the inspiring work that Fellows and close partners are doing around the world. Here are examples from Pakistan, India, and the United States that span democratizing national-level development, incubating urban food gardens and saving a watershed from mining impacts.

Huma Beg  is poised to launch her Ministry of Change platform, which seeks to bring citizen engagement to the challenges of development in Pakistan. The core idea is to connect Pakistanis, especially youth, in engaging with projects on the ground within their own country. Those with the capacity to do so can help those in need so that Pakistan does not have to depend on foreign aid. She envisions citizens participating in the development process alongside the government to help address the monumental scale of the challenges.

Huma has observed that development efforts are not well coordinated in her country and issues of transparency hinder monetary flows. Her platform uses a live geo-coded map of development projects, including ‘witness’ reports from the ground in order to enhance transparency in health, education, environment, disaster preparedness, livelihoods, etc. The social platform will serve as a place for people to learn, get engaged, and celebrate. Volunteers will follow-up on reported outcomes of projects by posting photos and text to enhance verification on the ground as well as spread the word on social media. They can also map important real-time data in the event of disasters such as floods, earthquakes or blasts, making responses more focused and efficient.

Finally, Huma envisions a national think tank for the development sector that would serve as an advisory group to the incoming political leadership. Workshop participants saw the potential in Huma’s project and rallied to support her efforts to raise funds and hire talented staff. Learn more.

Sudha Soni of India used this and past workshops to articulate her visions and create systems maps to identify leverage points for change. She sent us this unsolicited testimonial after our week with Joanna: “Thank you for the wonderful manner [in which] the workshop was conducted. It was perfect. I feel great after the workshop and am back to work in the two main missions that I am on right now. One is my original vision of urban food gardens, which has already begun, and the second concerns the continuing support facilities for elders in Kerala.” Sudha’s experience at the retreat helped reaffirm her commitment to giving back to our elders. As well, Sudha is now in touch with Indians who have completed the Biomimicry 3.8’s certificate program in an effort to expand awareness of biomimicry in India.

Close partner Cynthia Pryor has worked for over a decade with the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to protect the water and land from the impacts of a proposed sulfide mine. She has gone so far as to be unlawfully imprisoned for standing up to mine developers who wanted to operate bulldozers on state land. After a brief stay, fellow inmates were chanting “Power to the people!” when she was released. Cynthia works closely with local communities and Native American tribes for sustainable stewardship of the land and sacred sites. Learn more about the campaign she leads against the mine.

Read more about other Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows.

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