Why Voting isn't Enough | Yordanos Eyoel | TEDxBeaconStreet

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Do you feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the current state of politics? Are you unsure about what you can do to strengthen our democracy? In this talk, Yordanos Eyoel, an Ethiopian-American, offers practical solutions, based on her life experiences and research, on how we can use our day-to-day actions to unleash our civic power and transform our democracy and our country. Because despite our overemphasis on election cycles, our civic duty does not begin nor end at the polling station. Yordanos is a Partner at New Profit, a pioneering venture philanthropy organization that invests in breakthrough leaders and systems change initiatives to break down barriers to opportunity in America.

In her role, Yordanos leads the vision, strategy development, and management of early-stage investments. This entails developing a pipeline of high potential organizations, leading investment selection, and designing and facilitating cohort-based learning communities to build the capacity of portfolio organizations. The capacity-building model is anchored in three pillars: peer community that serves as a support and an accountability system; roadmap for building a high performing organization at various stages of development; and adaptive leadership skills to create strong teams and expand one’s network of champions. The early-stage portfolio currently has three cohorts: Proximity, Unlocked Futures, and Civic Lab.

Originally from Ethiopia, Yordanos is the co-founder and international spokesperson of the Sister March Network that mobilized more than 4 million people across all seven continents for the 2017 Women’s March. She has served as an Aspen Institute Women’s World Leaders Fellow to South Africa as well as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar to Venezuela. Yordanos’ previous experiences include working with the Ethiopian Embassy and the United States Congress.

Yordanos holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science, Honors, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Florida, where she was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. She also has an M.P.P. in Business and Government Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. Yordanos’ writing has been featured in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The 74 Million, Huffington Post, Blavity, and Bold. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

last year I decided to take a hot air
balloon safari tour imagine having
unencumbered access to witness the
beautiful rituals of the big five the
lion the leopard the rhinoceros the
Buffalo and the elephant as they
migrated from Masai Mara and Kenya to
the Serengeti in Tanzania
if this wasn’t tantalizing enough the
tour also takes place a sunrise
promising a fully immersive experience
that just awakens your soul there was
only one problem I’m afraid of heights
quickly began strategizing to overcome
this fear
I tried virtual reality simulation I
tried telling friends and family for an
accountability nothing worked
desperate at the last hour I turned to
my childhood hero for inspiration Simba
I watched The Lion King twice on my
flight to Kenya Boston to London and
London to Nairobi and I was slightly
more inspired but the fear still
persisted once I arrived in Kenya the
trek to the safari was more treacherous
than anything I anticipated our driver
got lost my friend and I spend the night
and tent listening to the horrifying
girls of crocodiles and hippos and then
finally we make it to our destination
and right before we take off
a white American tourist turns to me and
says how long have you been living in
Kenya my friend quickly intervenes this
is I live in Kenya she lives in Boston
now my friend is blond-haired blue-eyed
Texan and you already know what I look
like so the American tourists once again
turns to me and says how do you like
America
it was too raw and I was ill-equipped in
my fierce tongue state to respond my not
American to whom does America belong to
now I could think of 99 other people I
would rather pick to join me in this six
person wicker basket but here you are
finally guided by our pilot Alberto we
take off and our small delicate volatile
wicker basket to greet the Sun
overlooking Masai Mara and once our
flight begins all of my fear gives away
to a nuisance of peace and gratitude
that I get to be a part of this
beautiful journey why am i sharing this
with you because our democracy is like a
hot air balloon flight the journey to a
successful flight often includes
excitement possibility and adventure but
it also includes fear uncertainty and
danger and while having a competent
pilot is absolutely critical
it is also inevitable that we will be in
proximity with people who may not value
us who may not see us or who may not
agree with us in the face of
unpredictability one month away from
2020 most of our conversations about our
democracy are about the presidential
election our pilot what often is
neglected in these conversations is our
delicate wicker basket our civil society
that enamoured the French sociologist
Alexes de Tocqueville and has sustained
our democracy today our civil society is
in decline giving rise to a crisis of
trust most Americans have lost faith in
pillars of twentieth-century democracy
with only 41 percent expressing trust
and organized religion twenty percent in
the media and 23 percent an organized
labor
we are also less trusting of each other
by 2045
there will not be a single ethnic or
racial majority in America yet our most
diverse communities suffer from high
levels of distrust highlighting that we
are far from embracing the power and
potential of a truly diverse and an
inclusive country as an Ethiopian
American and daughter of a political
refugee this is deeply personal because
my family’s journey to America is not
too dissimilar from my journey to the
safari having witnessed the perils of
ethnocentrism and division in my home
country I am deeply aware of this
problem and the urgency to address this
crisis of trust so based on my
experience and extensive research over
the last two years I would like to
propose two solutions for addressing
this crisis of trust
one we need 21st century organizations
that harness today’s innovations to
create a new and vibrant civil society
to each of us needs to see our
day-to-day responsibilities as part of
our civic duty to a functioning
democracy we have a new wave of
organizations led by democracy
entrepreneurs you might be asking what
is a democracy entrepreneur democracy
entrepreneurs are innovators that are
building models to dismantle or repair
the broken systems in our democracy
let’s take Katie fee has an example
after the 2016 presidential election
then 26 year-old Katie posted on
Facebook who wants to join me an ending
partisan gerrymandering in Michigan that
little act of virtual courage gave rise
to the grassroots campaign voters now
politicians that will lies 14,000 people
from different backgrounds raised 16
million dollars collected four hundred
twenty five thousand signatures to
create a ballot initiative that one with
over 61% of the vote
ending partisan gerrymandering in
Michigan today Michigan is in the
process of creating a structure to give
power back to the people so they design
their own electoral districts
there are amazing democracy
entrepreneurs like Katy all over this
country but what they lack is an
ecosystem that can help them to deepen
their impacts and grow their work a my
organization you profit we are trying to
build this ecosystem for democracy
entrepreneurs through our newest
initiative civic lab we’re backing
several organizations led by democracy
entrepreneurs some are employing
innovative models of organizing whether
that is digital relational or cultural
like power and Pennsylvania and the
Alliance for youth organizing some are
recruiting and supporting a new
generation of public leaders like new
politics and the Millennial Action
project and some are shaping narrative
that counteracts misinformation and
promotes inclusivity like push black
that reaches over four million African
American subscribers and the pullers
fund that amplifies the stories of
American Muslims these democracy
entrepreneurs are weaving the basket of
our democracy but the integrity of it
depends on each and every one of us
which brings me to my second point that
despite our over emphasis on election
cycles our civic duty does not begin nor
end at the polling station this election
cycle might feel unsettling it might
feel anxiety provoking along the way we
may encounter people that try to
diminish us question our identity our
power or maybe even our allegiance but
whether we were born to fly or choose to
fly we have to be conscious of and
committed to our democracy we have to
see our everyday actions as part of our
civic responsibility what do I mean by
this one staying informed not only to
understand the issues that directly
impact us but especially those issues
that impact our most vulnerable
communities because our destinies are
inextricably linked I’m not talking
about reading the news although that is
important
talking about staying informed by
building relationships with those who
are different from us in our schools and
our neighborhoods and our workplaces if
you’re a CEO when was the last time you
had a meaningful conversation with a
junior staffer who’s a first generation
college graduate what do you know about
their family not from a mindset of pity
or charity because you want to celebrate
and understand their ingenuity and their
resilience to creating and belonging to
community as humans we are designed to
live in community yet we have traded our
ability to relate for virtual swipes and
likes nearly half of Americans forty six
percent say they sometimes or always
feel lonely 47% say they feel left out
of society we have to break the cycle by
actively choosing to create and belong
to community think about the last time
you opened your dorm room or your home
or your office for people to come
together and fellowship because when
people come together magic happens and
all of us have the power to uplift one
another by choosing to share our time
and our space and last but not least
investing in our democratic health not
only by financially supporting political
candidates but also democracy
entrepreneurs like Katy our civic
organizations are grossly under
capitalized and our over emphasis on
election cycles hinders our ability to
create an enduring infrastructure for a
healthy society and democracy for every
dollar that you give to a political
candidate you should invest twice as
much in democracy entrepreneurs that are
tirelessly weaving the basket of our
democracy I believe that if we do these
three things we can be on the path to
really unlocking our individual and
collective civic power to transform our
democracy and our country
our civic ancestors the abolitionists
that suffragists the civil rights
Warriors have shown as the democracy is
neither free nor is it passive whether
we embrace it or we fear it we are the
beneficiaries of their tenacity their
sacrifice and their bravery and now all
of us must do our part to rise and
gracefully fly our balloon to greet the
Sun thank you
[Applause]

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