Support Francesca Hernandez (2006 Byron Fellow) and her Kickstarter Campaign for Whirlaway Farm!
Instead of going to graduate school, Francesca decided to pursue her vision of starting a farm where she could learn more about growing and creating food and where others can learn about it as well. She is fueled by the conviction that these activities allow us fun, resilience and connection to each other and ourselves.
This campaign represents the second phase in Francesca’s project. After receiving wonderful support from her immediate community for the past year, she is ready to create a fully realized homestead farm. Find out what this means and support her campaign here!
Alexandra Buck Toledo (2013 Byron Fellow) explores the differences between food security and food sovereignty on an exciting journey that takes her all the way to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. As she travels the shores of the lake, the southern highlands and the salt flats of Bolivia, and experiences the contrasts of seeing the vibrant quinoa production in communities where the young have fled to look for work elsewhere, she asks herself: Is this food sovereignty? How is it a manifestation of eco-justice? Read the article here, and join Alex in a journey of contrast, deep reflection and the possibility for all of us to contribute to food justice.
by Mariana Velez
I stared at my laptop on the floor. I had tripped on the power cord and sent my computer into the air and onto a neat slam against the floor. In the milliseconds that my most cherished device was still in midair, I was already experiencing flashes of desperation. But as gravity manifested its dire destiny, the array of feelings changed like the colors of a dying fish. The shivers of anxiety that I thought would launch me immediately into the tragic assessment of the damage, the weight of fear that would come with realizing that the various consulting projects and class presentations that I was working on could be irrevocably lost… simply, did not kick in. Instead, I stared at the computer on the floor in a contemplative state of shock, and felt my chest swell in a deep breath of liberation. All my work and so many hours of my life neatly confined into that extravagant assembly of intellect and material, suddenly unavailable, there was nothing that needed to be done.
Before I allowed myself too much freedom, reason kicked in and I rushed to pick up the computer from the floor. With a trembling hand I turned it on and was impressed to see that everything was working perfectly fine. However, the power jack and cord had absorbed the entire hit; they were completely broken and would need to be replaced. I now had a perfect excuse to disconnect from work and enjoy an entire week in Oaxaca.
I reflected upon the event and the feelings it had prompted. I thought of the Jungian concept of synchronicity, that mysterious, non-causal law that suggests that a significant external event corresponds in meaning to an internal state of being. Clearly, I needed a break. But this was far deeper than just being overwhelmed by work. Some intention inside me had unconsciously blocked me from my main source of distraction and had shown me that I was disconnected from the energy that wanted to flow through me; that my ability to receive was, somehow, broken.
This event occurred thirty minutes after a conversation with Gabriel Grant, Byron Fellowship co-founder and mentor. I had been offered various job opportunities, all of which required me to step out of my comfort zone even further than my current independent consulting. I would work with controversial people and untraditional sectors (from the “fervent environmental perspective” that is to say). The challenges and atmosphere of uncertainty loomed, so I decided to reach out to my most recent support network. And so, while I was trying to paint the basic pros and cons picture for Gabe, he wasted no time in asking me one question: What are you afraid of?
In the hour that we spoke I was not able to articulate an answer. I told Gabe that, although I was involved in interesting sustainability projects, I couldn’t really feel like they were amounting to significant change. Meanwhile, I was strenuously fighting against the currents. In between the light-spirited laughter that inevitably flows out of Gabe and that ends up defining the Byron Fellowship experience, he reminded me that: had the great change leaders of the world stopped their mission because of external resistance or because of a necessity to immediately (or ever!) see the fruits of their labor, there would have been no change. “Mariana, what are you afraid of?” he asked me again, but allowed me to dwell on my own for the answer.
Thirty minutes after that, I shocked my laptop into my own same state of inertia.
What was I afraid of? My body was heavy with the tragic, desperate, overwhelming burden that comes with the realization that fixing our environmental mess seems close to impossible. My heart was hidden, comfortably residing in the feeling that it was easier to craft my identity around “knowledge” and “sustainability credentials” than to really be what I wanted to be. And what do I want to be? I want to be inspiration. I want to be the source from which we can all learn to trust who we are and what we are here to create. I want to be the container of spaces from which apparently conflicting agendas and personalities can design a process that benefits themselves, people and environment. I want to be the sweet voice that announces that a flourishing future is possible, and the drumming steps that take you to the places where that future is being created: now.
And so it hit me. I was not afraid of going against the currents or of not being able to see tangible results. All the possibilities that were at my feet were offering me the opportunity to be what I wanted to be. That was what I was afraid of. I was afraid of the catharsis that my words and my ways caused every time I gave a class, of what seemed to be an innate tendency to “cross over to enemy lines” in my professional arena, of my thirst for disruptive and creative conversations with people that thought nothing like me. In short, I am afraid of my own power.
Now (with myself and my laptop restored), I am able to name my fears and my vision. By switching my focus from external events toward expressing my inner vulnerability, I can articulate and be responsible for what I truly want to be. My crisis of confidence, paradoxically, is me trembling in the presence of the possibility of boldly navigating my life and what that would make available for the world. This is the beauty in the storm.
I would like to offer this reflection to all of the Byron Fellows, mentors, and greater community. The Byron Fellowship consisted of a graceful space where we are lovingly and fiercely asked to free ourselves of the fears and the judgments that inhibit us from giving ourselves, others and Earth what we really want to give, and where we are given the tools, exercises, inspiration and support system to do it.
Thank you Byron… and a gift to all who influence my path.
Amelia Terrapin has been a Byron mentor since 2012. She uses the power of movement as a learning tool for understanding life systems and sustainability. In this blog post she shares the vision she crafted during the fellowship to guide her work as an artist and a science teacher and invites readers to craft their own vision through this simple, but powerful story format. She also thanks 2013 fellows for opening up to new ways of experiencing movement and embodying the creative attributes vital for sustainability leadership. Learn more about her work and how it is evolving in Mobius Moves.
A vision story crafted at Byron 2013:
by Amelia Terrapin
Once upon a time, all children in schools everywhere sat in desks.
Everyday, they would go to school to sit upon their hearts and minds, their gifts left undiscovered and unmoved.
One day, a bold and benevolent ninja sorceress came to visit the children. She gave their desks wings and watched them fly out the windows. She took off their shoes and socks and invited their bodies and minds and hearts to move together.
Because of that… each child discovered that they had unique and glorious superpowers that would move the world with its’ unfolding.
Because of that… each child went home to give wings to their mom and dad’s desks and watched them fly out the windows.
Because of that… everyone on the planet knew they were an important, creative part of the natural world.
Until finally, the word “work” disappeared, school was the funnest place to be and all life flourished on earth.
A letter to the 2013 Byron Fellows:
Your presence and generosity at Byron 2013 acted as a warm, soothing rain on a little Mobius seed about to sprout. You allowed me to get a glimpse of the full potential of my contribution to the world, which I always secretly suspected but had no evidence for.
From the first movement exercise we did, I could sense your complete lack of resistance. I swelled with an almost motherly pride and joy as you played and discovered your own meaning and metaphors. You saw things that I have never seen, did things that I have never done and delighted me with your creative leaps. Your willingness allowed the expression of 10 years of work to emerge in one glorious, effortless week.
This is what we can do for each other: validate and amplify each other’s gifts and turn them into something even more than we can individually imagine. Thanks to each one of you for creating and holding an open, resonant space for us all to step into. Here’s to each of us being that open, resonant space in our daily lives. Until we meet again… Love, Amelia.
by Laura Yates
This post was originally written for Gabriel Grant and Jason Jay’s website, www.transformingsustainability.com.
After being exposed to the Pitfalls & Pathways work at the 2013 Byron Fellowship, I had an opportunity to reflect on a conversation – an argument, altercation, disagreement – I had with one of my closest friends about climate change. We were less than a week away from graduating from Bentley University, on vacation celebrating the past four years, when the conversation moved to the topic of climate change. My friend said he didn’t believe in man-made climate change, and I snapped and reacted in a way I’m not proud of. As I learned about Pitfalls and Pathways, I began to understand how ineffective my way of being in that conversation was – I shut down my ability to relate to all of my friends and completely lost the opportunity to have a valuable conversation about climate change. As I understood more and more of what I lost through my way of being in that conversation, I also realized I had the power to change the way both my friend and I remember the conversation by opening it back up with a different way of being. So, I wrote him this letter.
I wanted to talk to you and apologize for the way I acted on vacation. When you said you didn’t believe in man-made climate change, I yelled at you about not believing in science and refused to listen to anything you had to say, and ended the conversation abruptly by saying ‘This is bullshit and I don’t want to talk about this with you at all.’ By reacting this way, I wasn’t being open-minded or a true friend – I was acting in an aggressive, dismissive manner that isn’t characteristic of the type of friend or person I want to be.
I want to acknowledge now – because I didn’t when we first had this conversation – that there is uncertainty in climate science. The uncertainty is something that scares me because it threatens the choices I’ve made in my life so far – I’ve chosen to study and work in the environmental sustainability field, which is largely based on the principle that man-made climate change is real. Instead of being authentic and acknowledging the uncertainty around climate change science, I purposefully diminished the value of what you were saying, asserting that I was right and you were wrong, without giving us the chance of having a constructive conversation.
The way I reacted hurt our relationship and made everyone around us feel uncomfortable and distanced at a time when we should have been relaxing and enjoying our last few days together. If I’d been speaking from a place of friendship and love, what I should have said is this: There is some uncertainty about climate change science, and I hope that the predictions about man-made climate change aren’t as bad as people say. However, I do think it’s important for us as humans to understand the impacts we have and take countermeasures in case we are causing these changes in the natural environment, which is why I’ve chosen to work and study in this field.
I hope you feel comfortable telling me and holding me accountable if I flip out like that again – whether it’s at you or any of our friends. I know it seems strange for me to bring this up almost a month after it happened, but that exchange was one of the last ones we had before graduation, and I didn’t want it to be a lasting memory. I want to let you know I really value our friendship and I sincerely apologize for acting in a way that didn’t show you how much your friendship means to me.
Once I finished writing this letter, I decided to call Nick and share it with him, in the hopes that my reopening the conversation in a more positive way might help us strengthen our friendship. Reading Nick this letter forced me to be vulnerable and open myself up to him, helping him feel more comfortable and willing to interact. After hearing me read the letter, Nick was quick to tell me he felt some guilt about the way he was being during our original conversation, and expressed an interest in learning more about climate change because it was something I was passionate about. He joked that we’re both pretty passionate people and it wasn’t surprising to him that we’d gotten in an argument in the first place. Hearing him say that made me realize how much more powerful and effective I could be if I approached every conversation with the same amount of passion and a more positive way of being.
Through the difficult and awkward process of writing this letter, I got clear on why the (un)certainty around climate change science is such a hot-button issue for me. It’s surprising and almost scary how many different layers I needed to pull back in order to get rid of the projections of blame on Nick for how the conversation went, and move the responsibility to myself.
Being authentic with myself and with my friend created a space where it was possible for our friendship to flourish, and for us to have conversations about the things we cared about without fear of initiating argument or damaging our friendship. Because I revisited this conversation, I now recognize the power and potential of approaching every conversation with authenticity, vulnerability and a positive way of being.
Congratulations to Joel Grant (2004 Byron Fellow) and his company, the Garden Tower Project, for raising over $88,000 on Kickstarter to launch the next generation of their Garden Towers!
Upon launching their Kickstarter Campaign, The Garden Tower Project saw $10,577 in pledges in just the first day, and successfully funded their goal of $28,000 with 25 days left to go.
Their latest product, the next generation Garden Tower, is a vertical container garden that generates its own organic fertilizer with kitchen scraps thrown into a central “vermicomposting” tube, resulting in quick high yields, wherever there is light. This “vermicomposting” technique, which is unique to the Garden Tower itself, enables rapid, healthy, and abundant growth of vegetables, flowers, and herbs with little maintenance and no external inputs such as electricity or special nutrient solutions.
The Bloomington, Indiana based start-up, co-founded by Joel Grant, Ramsay Harik, and Colin Cudmore, hopes to open up gardening possibilities–and thus increase food security–for urban gardeners, community food programs, people living in “food deserts”, and anyone who wishes to boost their own gardening output easily and affordably.
Congrats again to Joel and the Garden Tower team!
Congratulations to Amy O’Shea, 2012 Byron Fellow, for her role in advising and developing the City of Indianapolis’ groundbreaking new policy to phase out gasoline and diesel powered cars by 2025. O’Shea, a recent graduate of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs who interned in the city’s Office of Enterprise Development over the summer, helped the mayor make his decision, providing him with a dearth of research and case studies breaking down the costs and benefits of switching over the fleet.
Way to go, Amy! Keep up the good work!
Amelia Terrapin, Byron Mentor, founded Mobius Moves to transform the way we educate kids about science. She describes Mobius as “an approach to teaching where science becomes an endeavor of infinite possibility instead of a limited problem with a single correct response.” Mobius uniquely engages all learning modalities and inspires children otherwise left out of our traditional science curriculum. Students experience and recreate the interactions of molecules and forces, generating a much deeper and memorable understanding than can be achieved through book learning. The money raised on Kickstarter will be used to create the first video lessons increasing access to Mobius by allowing educators to stream the exercise instructions and content into their classroom. Amelia’s Mobius TEDx talk is available here.
Congratulations! Amelia. We are thankful for the opportunity to contribute.
Ben Mitchell, 2009 Byron Fellow and co-founder of the social enterprise start-up Baisikeli Ugunduzi, has recently launched a fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to support his company’s initial launch in Sub-Saharan Africa. Baisikeli Ugunduzi, which means ‘modern bicycle’ in Swahili, is launching their No Air, No Flat, No Problems campaign to grow investment in their revolutionary new product, the milele bicycle tube. The milele, or ‘forever’, tube is made of a durable foam that requires no air, will never become flat, and lasts at least five years.
The company, who won the prestigious New Venture Competition at Central Michigan University earlier this year, has been building its base of operations in the small town of Kitale, Kenya over the summer, and is now hoping to begin its outreach to the over 100 million Africans who depend on their bicycles to make a living every day.
- If the company raises $40,000, it will be able to supply thousands of customers in all of Trans-Nzoia county.
- With $70,000, it will bring tubes to the whole Rift Valley province.
- With $100,000, it will serve all of western Kenya. In addition, the start-up has a backer who will add $25,000 if the company reaches this level of support.
To donate, please visit Baisikeli Ugunduzi’s Indiegogo campaign in the above link or here.
Congrats, Ben, and keep up the great work!
By Karen Huang
Reflecting on the past two years, I’ve seen how my time at Byron in 2010 has reinforced my core personal values, and has guided the trajectory of my studies, travels, and projects. Byron was my first exposure to the work of purpose-driven organizations. What was particularly inspirational for me was the opportunity to join an existing trend in practicing those values I am committed to – namely, community, collaboration, sustainability, and participation in a higher calling.
After spending time with the mentors and participants at Byron I developed interests in urban design, community building, sustainability, and social enterprise that I hadn’t thought could be accessible to me. That summer I pursued courses in architecture and community ethics at my summer program at Cambridge University, and I remember Ian Davis giving me a splendid architectural tour of Oxford, which solidified my interest in architecture and space. That fall I pursued an independent project in architecture, sustainability, and urban revitalization in Berlin.
During my year living in Berlin and in different parts of Holland I also became interested in business model innovation and systems-level change, particularly with regard to the purpose-driven organizations I visited while in Europe. I interned with a social venture called Smart Cities Advisors for four months, where I helped to build a knowledge portal and platform connecting investors and social entrepreneurs working on sustainable urban development. In that May I received a $2500 scholarship to attend the Social Capital Markets conference in Amsterdam, which introduced me to the entire community of social enterprise and impact investing – a movement aligning profit with purpose, and directing market mechanisms toward social impact.
I’m committed to those values such as community, sustainability, and generosity that were emphasized at Byron, and applying those values within communities and organizations. Given my background in philosophy and ethics (during the following year I also completed a program in Values Studies at a college in Berlin), I developed an interest in the values that are driving organizations and businesses. Because I actively think about the dynamics that create community and engagement, I am interested in the business as a community, keeping in mind that it is a community with a specific objective. What is exciting to me are the emergence and remodeling of businesses as communities committed to more than just profit as a purpose. Following those interests, I also received a $1800 scholarship to Business Innovation Factory’s Annual Collaborative Innovation Summit, which was a forum for participants to discuss, design, and develop business-model and system-level innovation in education and entrepreneurship.
Upon meeting many inspirational leaders in business and in the social sector I decided to invite several to come speak at Yale. I partnered with Net Impact at the Yale School of Management to organize a PBS documentary film screening and panel on measuring to outcomes strategy, with speakers from management consulting and McKinsey’s Social Sector Office. We managed to raise $2000 in grants in order to support the event. Following that event I co-founded the undergraduate Net Impact chapter at Yale, helped in assembling the leadership team, and kicked off the club’s activities and preparations for the coming academic year.
When I got back to Yale in the fall my academic direction had shifted to reflect my new interdisciplinary interests and personal values. I took a class at the School of Management on design thinking for organizational and social change, and a class at the School of Architecture on urban design. Together with two M.Arch students we worked on an entrepreneurial business plan to develop a platform for efficient use of space in cities, connecting short-term tenants and vacant spaces to create impromptu co-working communities. We presented the plan at our graduate seminar called Architecture & Entrepreneurialism.
My spring semester senior project looked at purpose-driven organizations that presented positive alternatives of civic participation, economic development, education, and collaborative creativity. I was studying entrepreneurial spaces defining creativity as the serendipitous combination of previously disconnected ideas or disciplines. My approach itself was interdisciplinary: combining architectural theory, organizational structure, and sociology on entrepreneurship. A main part of my thesis – the concept of disruptive innovation – is a theme that I’ve been thinking about since Byron.
One big takeaway for me from Byron is that problem solving is not creating. Transformation isn’t about working with what is there, because the world isn’t simply a set of problems. What Byron presented for me was a way of looking at the world that did not revolve around problem-based thinking. That is why I am interested in entrepreneurship as a visionary endeavor, as the presentation of positive alternatives for people to step into. This new form of engagement, which can be termed disruptive innovation, is described by writer John Thackara in his book In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World:
Values and manifestos are an important guide to design decisions. But design defined only by limits and prohibitions will not flourish. Telling people to be good seldom works. … Why do most alternativists only talk about new responsibilities and almost never about new possibilities? … The creation of interesting social alternatives has to be as exciting and engaging as the buzz of new technology used to be. … An aesthetics of service and flow should inspire us, not just satisfy us.
Byron introduced me to a form of leadership that uses the language of what is possible, a model of enacting change that is not based on authority, argument, or protest. I’m interested in environments – architectural, urban, and organizational – that facilitate vision, creativity, and inspiration. Spaces, whether they are offices or cities, send a compelling message to the people who inhabit the space. I enjoy studying and researching the leadership and organizational structures that set up the right environments to influence behavior in a positive way.
For my next job, as a research associate at Harvard Business School, I’ll be working with two professors looking at the relationship between management and labor within organizations, and the leadership styles that inspire and motivate people. I’m interested in how those values I outlined earlier can work within organizations, and eventually what those organizations can do for society.
I’ve recently learned about the psychological concept of “flow” – that state of existence where a person is fully immersed in an activity with energizing focus, with less dependence on external rewards from the outside. I hope that going forward I will continue to be surrounded by the sorts of intrinsically motivated and purpose-driven leaders I had met at Byron. Indeed, what especially impressed and inspired me about the Byron Fellowship was meeting a great deal of ambitious and talented yet humble people. This is a model of leadership that embraces authenticity, creativity, courage, and imagination.
In a favorite essay of mine called “Solitude and Leadership,” William Dereciewicz writes about a crisis of leadership in America, where we have people who can keep the routine going, but what we don’t have are thinkers: “People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.” I am sincerely thankful that the Byron Fellowship has reminded me to have the courage to continue being a visionary and a thinker.