Creating an America we’re proud of
In this election season, as we consider how to cast our votes, we have heard daily about the challenges facing Baltimore and our country. From education to economic opportunity, we look to elected officials to solve these issues almost single-handedly over the next four or eight years. At the same time, we limit our role as citizens to voting and paying taxes, leaving the arduous work of reforming education or creating jobs to those we elect.
However, creating the city and country that we want to live in requires that we all play a greater role. One way to do that is through social entrepreneurship and innovation. In my work leading the Social Innovation Lab at the Johns Hopkins University, I help provide funding, mentorship and other critical guidance and resources to people who are launching and leading efforts to make real change here in Baltimore and beyond. These social entrepreneurs and innovators aren’t waiting for someone else to solve the problems we face; instead, they see a problem (often one they experience first-hand) and work to develop the solution.
Some may think of innovators and changemakers as only a small segment of the population. Some may think that making an impact comes only from health experts, trained technologists, mayors or the president. Of course, those people can help bring change on a larger scale, but every day I see change coming from “ordinary” people who take it upon themselves to solve problems where they are.
This past week, the Social Innovation Lab announced our new cohort of 10 ventures led by such people. These include a mother who experienced the loss of a young child and now works to prevent such tragedies; a woman who grew up in Baltimore, became an engineer at NASA, and now works to provide training and jobs in STEM fields to Baltimore residents with the lowest employment prospects; a teacher who experienced the burnout that befalls many in her profession and now works to boost teacher satisfaction and retention; and a team of students who witnessed the effect of untreated mental illness and created a technology platform designed for anonymous online group therapy in large organizations like police departments.
These people are not superheroes, wealthy or well-known, but they share a passion and desire to see our city and country change for the better. And they demonstrate that we all have a role to play in fixing what’s broken.
With all the challenges our communities face, inside and outside the city, we need everyone to see themselves as innovators and changemakers. From our new mayor and City Council members, who can make change through public policy, to engaged citizens around the city, we need people at all levels working to make a tangible impact in our communities.
If you’ve witnessed or experienced a problem and want to do something about it, step forward and help make our city and country better. Join the community at Impact Hub. Seek guidance from those who know the issues intimately. Apply for support from programs like Social Innovation Lab, Open Society Institute’s Community Fellowship, the Baltimore Social Innovation Journal, and West Baltimore On The Rise. We need you.