Generation E: Entrepreneurs for Social Action!

Resourceful, business-savvy, and devoted to justice: Meet some of today’s most creative entrepreneurs as they put their minds and money to work for justice.

NicolasFavioby Rebecca Baik, with research by Cat Knarr

Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez: The Recycled Orchestra
The children who live in Cateura are some of the poorest in Uruguay. Miles away from the prosperous capital, they and their families eke a living from the trash dump their town was built on. Hope came to Cateura, however, when musicians Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez came together to found the Recycled Orchestra, a group of local children who play music on instruments fashioned from trash. Their story is chronicled in the movie Landfill Harmonic, whose directors plan to spread the model of the Recycled Orchestra to poverty-stricken areas worldwide.

Veronika Scott: The Empowerment Plan
VeronikaAs part of a college project a couple of years ago, design student Veronika Scott found a unique way to tackle both the short- and long-term needs of Detroit’s homeless population. She designed a coat that, by night, can be used as a sleeping bag to ward off the chill of Michigan winters. But she also trains women who are homeless to sew the coats, helping them gain valuable skills and earn the money they need to move out of the shelter. Called the Empowerment Plan, Scott’s project currently employs five women who are in the process of transitioning out of homelessness.

Pete Leonard: I Have a Bean
Pete LeonardAt first glance, coffee and rehabilitation may have little to do with each other. Yet, for Pete Leonard the two are intricately linked. Six years ago, he founded a company that would not only create quality coffee but also empower former inmates to overcome one of the main obstacles that leads to recidivism—unemployment. I Have a Bean primarily employs local ex-convicts and works with other Illinois nonprofits to ensure that their employees receive the counseling and other services they need in order to get their lives back on track. Leonard’s dream is “that men and women will no longer be preemptively judged by the errors of their past but will be known instead by the present evidence of the content of their character.”

Angie Beatty and Shawn McKie: The J.U.I.C.E. Project
AngieLocated in a low-income neighborhood of St. Louis, Mo., The J.U.I.C.E. Project combats disease mortality by reinventing the corner store as a one-stop shop for nutritious yet affordable food, free exercise training and activities, media/health literacy education, and art programs. An acronym for Jumpstarting Urban Innovation with Critical Thinking and Exercise, the project empowers youth to make healthy lifestyle choices by helping them understand how food, physical activity, and behaviors (such as heavy screen use and alcohol/tobacco consumption) impact their physical and mental health.

Josh Garrels: NoiseTrade
Josh GarrelsIn a music industry that generates billions of dollars for recording labels and artists, Josh Garrels stands out from the crowd. He has made a habit of practicing “jubilee” by either giving his albums away for free or donating the proceeds to charity. Partnering with Noisetrade, Garrels makes his albums available for free download, committed to donating any tips he receives to a World Relief project located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He raised over $70,000 in donations in just two weeks.

Becca Stevens: Thistle Farms
BeccaFounded by Episcopal priest Becca Stevens, Thistle Farms is a social enterprise run by formerly trafficked and abused women who live in a healing community called Magdalene in Nashville, Tenn. The women create natural bath and body products and learn skills in manufacturing, packaging, marketing, sales, and administration so they can move back into the world with viable skills and earn a living wage. Learn more from our interview with Stevens.

Jeff Shinabarger: Plywood People
Jeff Shinabarger started collecting discarded billboards before he knew what they Jeff Shinaburgercould be used for. All he knew was that he wanted to find some way to empower and employ the growing refugee population in Atlanta, Ga. Eventually they designed a way to fashion the boards into bags that could be marketed as viable products, and Plywood People was born. Besides the employment side of their organization, they also collect unused or partially used gift cards to distribute to other nonprofits and give workshops and seminars to companies that want to create similar ventures.

Sam Goldman, Ned Tozun, and Xianyi Wu: d.light Solar
In 2004, while on Peace Corps service in Benin, Africa, Sam Goldman saw his Sam Goldmanyoung neighbor severely burned by kerosene from an overturned lamp. Prompted by that experience and the fact that 2.3 billion people in the world still do not have access to reliable electricity, Goldman took a class called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability at the Stanford Design School, where he met Ned Tozun and Xianyi Wu. Together they developed a prototype solar lantern and cofounded d.light, a company that designs and manufactures affordable solar-powered lamps. In countries where no reliable electrical grid is in place, these lamps are supplying families with a safe, environmentally friendly, long-term source of light.

Rebecca Baik is a former Sider Scholar and MDiv student at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University.

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1 Response

  1. Randy Blackford says:

    Love this list! One to add would be EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, OH.
    http://edwinsrestaurant.org/ It’s much more than employment, it’s skills in the food industry in a foodie city such as Cleveland. Brandon E. Chrostowski with his staff serve 4 star French cuisine, and the service is excellent.

    Their mission: EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is a unique approach at giving formerly-incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for a successful reentry. EDWINS goals is to enhance the community of Cleveland’s vulnerable neighborhoods by providing its future leaders. Our mission is to teach a skilled trade in the culinary arts, empower willing minds through passion for the hospitality industry and prepare students for a successful transition into the world of business professionals.

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