The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Megan Phelps-Roper Talks to Good Morning America on Her New Memoir, Unfollow, Out Today

Could you leave your family and lifelong friends behind and start over? The hotly anticipated memoir of former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper is out October 8th—and Good Morning America featured her and her incredible story, Unfollow, today.

Changing her life from one of spreading shocking bigotry to one of compassion and acceptance wasn’t easy, but Phelps-Roper’s journey is as uplifting as it is rare. Deeply personal, yet with strong universal appeal, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, explores exactly how she was able to escape and build a better life. She opened up on Good Morning America about how she went from picket lines outside of military funerals, to using her voice to uplift understanding instead.


As a granddaughter of the Church’s founding father, Phelps-Roper was deeply embroiled within the virulent religious group from birth, and knew no other way of life.  By 2009, she was running the church’s Twitter account, playing a key role in spreading its signature brand of hateful rhetoric to the world stage. However, after interacting with genuinely empathetic individuals online, Phelps-Roper began to doubt the dogmatic assertions of her faith and its celebrations of human tragedy. In 2012, she and one of her sisters made the difficult decision to leave their family and home, renounce their teachings, and face permanent ostracization.


And even though the memoir is just hitting shelves now, it’s such an intersting story, compellingly told, that Unfollow  is already on track to becoming a major feature film: scripted by Nick Hornby and produced by Reese Witherspoon.

To book speaker Megan Phelps-Roper, contact her exclusive speakers bureau, The Lavin Agency.

Reducing Prejudice Requires Meaningful Conversation—but the Results Speak for Themselves, Says Dave Fleischer

Prejudice divides us, and to Lavin speaker Dave Fleischer, Director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership LAB, dismantling it is nothing less than a science. “Deep canvassing”—a method refined by Fleischer and his team—means knocking on doors to engage people in fact-based, personal conversations about subjects like gay marriage and transgender rights. The effect is tangible: real, data-verified change tracked in over 15,000 conversations.  

In his warm and optimistic keynotes, Fleischer teaches audiences the method he created for empirically reducing prejudice, including around trans rights, which recently came under further attack as the Trump administration proposed a new plan to “[define] gender as a biological, immutable condition.” In talks, he’ll explain why people welcome the opportunity to reflect on an issue, even if they’ve already “made up their mind” about it, and how 10 minutes of intentional conversation can generate authentic shifts in belief. Persuasion is not as simple as delivering a message, he says. You have to create a two-way dialogue, and Fleischer will show you how.


To book speaker Dave Fleischer, or another Lavin speaker on Social Changevisit our dedicated  topic. 

It’s Easy to Empathize with One Person. Stanford’s Jamil Zaki Helps Us Scale Up.

“For decades, social scientists have documented a troubling quirk in human empathy: People tend to care more about the suffering of individuals, and less about the pain of many people.” In the wake of what seems like an increase in natural disasters around the world, empathy expert Jamil Zaki explores humanity’s tendency to feel less as tragedies grow.  

The phenomenon is called compassion collapse: “dozens or hundreds of people, by definition, can lose more, fear more, and hurt more than any one of us; human concern should scale with the amount of pain in front of us. Instead it dries up,” Zaki writes in The Atlantic. Understanding compassion collapse is the first step in fighting it, which is part of what Zaki studies as director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. There, he asked people to use virtual reality to help understand the plight of a single homeless person. This not only increased concern for homeless people overall, but also support for affordable-housing policy, even a month after the VR simulation.    


Watch Zaki’s TEDx talk “Building Empathy: How to Hack Empathy and Get Others to Care More.”   


BUILDING EMPATHY: How to hack empathy and get others to care more | Jamil Zaki | TEDxMarin


To book Jamil Zaki, or another psychology speaker for your next speaking event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Lavin Speaker Vijay Gupta—a Violinist Who Helps the Homeless and Incarcerated—Named a 2018 MacArthur “Genius”

Violinist and educator Vijay Gupta has just been named by the MacArthur Foundation as one of their 2018 Fellows—a distinction known cheekily as the “Genius” Award. Recognizing Gupta’s remarkable work with Street Symphony, his musical engagement program that pairs professional musicians with Skid Row LA residents, Gupta was named for “providing musical enrichment and valuable human connection to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities.”

As a member of the MacArthur Class of 2018, the Foundation recognized Gupta’s unique model of outreach to marginalized individuals in places that offer other social services. “His strategy of generating musical projects through extended engagement and by forging interpersonal relationships has begun to inspire other performing groups in the Los Angeles area to be more socially conscious. Dedicated to bringing beauty, respite, and purpose to those all too often ignored by society, Gupta is demonstrating the capacity of music to validate our shared humanity and focusing needed attention on interrelated social issues that cluster at places such as Skid Row.” 


Receiving news of his fellowship, Gupta says “The MacArthur Fellowship is an incredibly humbling honor, affirming not only the work of Street Symphony, but the work of our partners and communities who continually remind us that the arts are a powerful force for community, belonging and humanity.  Through performance, dialogue and teaching artistry, Street Symphony illuminates the lives and stories of people impacted by homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County. Every person has a story that matters, and every person deserves access to a creative and expressive life. Music fosters community—not only to heal and inspire—but as a powerful force, forging the arc of social justice towards our common humanity.”


Watch the MacArthur Foundation’s video interview with Vijay Gupta below:


Violinist and Social Justice Advocate Vijay Gupta | 2018 MacArthur Fellow


To book speaker (and now MacArthur Fellow) Vijay Gupta for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency today. Be sure to check out our other MacArthur Fellows too, from journalists to artists and more. 

Reza Aslan: Fighting Islamophobia, Championing Diversity, and Now, in His New Book, Writing a Human History of God

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zealot and host of CNN’s Believer, Reza Aslan continues his investigation of our relationship to religion—historically, and in the 21st century—with his fascinating new book God: A Human History, out today. 

As discussed on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show, Aslan’s latest offers a history of how we understand the concept of God, and “the different ways religions have portrayed and humanized the idea of a higher power.” This is a unifying feature, rather than an aspect of religion that divides us. Aslan’s accessible, compelling scholarship runs parallel to his work as an informed voice against Islamophobia. In Aslan’s hands, religion becomes a way of understanding human commonality within the diversity of belief. 

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God: A Human History is out today from Penguin Random House. 

To speak to one of our knowledgable agents about booking Reza Aslan for your next speaking event, contact The Lavin Agency today. 

“It’s time to ditch the Old/Young binary”: Watch Ashton Applewhite’s Acclaimed TED Talk on Moving Past Ageism

“Ageism is the last acceptable prejudice,” says Ashton Applewhite, but it doesn’t have to be. In her just-released, standing ovation-nabbing TED Talk about the misconceptions that surround getting older, Applewhite offers clear ways we can change our minds—and actions—related to aging.

Author of This Chair Rocks (as well as several New York Times bestselling books), Applewhite’s funny, galvanizing talk addresses and swiftly dismantles the false vision we have of aging and and the elderly.  “We’re all worried about some aspect of getting older, and those fears are legitimate and real. But the experience of reaching old age can be better or worse depending on the culture in which it takes place,” she explains. So, how do we move past this, while still acknowledging the ageism that colors our language and perceptions? How do we change the culture that makes life less livable for the elderly? “It’s time to ditch the Old/Young binary,” says Applewhite, by which she means refusing to perpetuate the prejucices that obscure the truth about aging: that most of us get happier in old age; that only 4% of American elders end up in nursing homes, and that the number is decreasing. “Prejudices pit us against each other,” argues Applewhite. But when we practice ageism, we’re limiting our own comfort and self-acceptance, because all of us, every day of our lives, are getting older. We can’t stop that—but we can stop judging ourselves and others for it. 


Let's end ageism | Ashton Applewhite


To learn more about the Lavin Agency’s diverse slate of TED Fellows, visit our dedicated TED microsite here.

“Aging is a natural process that unites us all”: Ashton Applewhite, Anti-Ageism Activist

One of the freshest faces to the Lavin roster is the wonderful Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks, whose energy and dry wit infuses her writing, activism, and keynotes. Addressing ageism in the worklace and society at large, she presents new persectives on aging, pointing to alternative ways of viewing ourselves and the world we live in.

What if discrimination on the basis of age were as unacceptable as any other kind of prejudice? Ashton Applewhite is a leading voice in an emerging movement dedicated to dismantling ageism and making age a criterion for diversity. The author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and a TED2017 mainstage speaker, she reveals the untapped possibilities of late life—in our communities, at work, and in ourselves.


A World Without Ageism | Ashton Applewhite


Drawing on the writing in her books, articles, and blog, Applewhite debunks our culture’s most pervasive myths about getting older. And with her funny, straight-talking approach, she helps audiences realize the often-overlooked benefits of advanced age, championing the need for greater age-based diversity in the workplace and our institutions.


Applewhite’s first (non-pseudonymous) book was Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well. It was inspired by the puzzlement: why was our notion of women’s lives after divorce so different from the happy and energized reality? Ms. magazine called it “rocket fuel for launching new lives.” Prior to writing and speaking about questions of diverse social signigicance, Applewhite wrote under the name Blanche Knott, producing the humor collection Truly Tasteless Jokes, a best-selling paperback of 1982. As Blanche Knott, Applewhite made publishing history by occupying four of the fifteen spots on The New York Times bestseller list.


Insightful, inclusive, and subtly radical, Applewhite is a necessary voice in a society that prizes youth, illuminating the vital gifts that those beyond of the first blush can bring to any environment. 

To book keynote speaker Ashton Applewhite for your next event, contact the Lavin Agency today. 

“The travel ban ruling means my kids don’t belong”: Wajahat Ali in The Atlantic

“A crisis allows for an opportunity,” says writer and commentator Wajahat Ali in a new video essay for The Atlantic.

​The crisis in question: the Trump administration’s controversial Travel Ban—“or as we call it in my home, the Muslim Ban,” says Ali. Suspended in March of this year due to overwhelming legal and social resistance, a revised version of the ban was passed temporarily by the Supreme Court this week, days after the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Fitr. “The ruling,” begins Ali, means that America is a beacon of liberty for every community—except mine.”


The new travel ban goes into effect this evening, limiting six majority-Muslim countries—Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Libya and Somalia—from receiving U.S. visas for 90 days, with a few highly conditional exceptions. All U.S. refugee admissions from those six countries will be barred for the next 120 days.


As Ali calmly points out, the existence of this ban has the effect of making his children feel like outsiders in their own nation. In tune with his belief in “building a coalition of hope,” Ali argues for anything but complacency in light of this ruling. “Get off the sidelines and in the ring,” he says, calling upon his children (and anyone hungry for justice) to be Jedi warriors, marshalling all resources to create a “multicultural coalition of the willing.”

In his warm and thoughtful keynotes, Ali discusses what it feel like to be a Muslim today, questioning prejudice and stereotypes with his trademark wit (and lots of comic book references). Regularly appearing on CNN to discuss politics, Ali is a New York Times Contributing Op-Ed Writer, former lawyer, and playwright—representing a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, optimistic. He speaks on the multifaceted Muslim American experience, and an emergent generation poised for social change.  

The Travel Ban Ruling Means My Kids Don't Belong

To find out more about Wajahat Ali, contact the Lavin Agency today.

How a Stranger’s Compassion on Twitter Helped Megan Phelps-Roper Escape the Westboro Baptist Church

Can you track the precise moment change is cued? With Megan Phelps-Roper, former member of the famously inflammatory Westboro Baptist Church, it started with a man named David, whom she met while managing the Church’s Twitter account with her trademark blend of bible verses, pop culture references, and smilies. 

Initiated from infancy, by 2009, Megan Phelps-Roper was running the church’s Twitter account (as granddaughter of Fred Phelps, church founder, and daughter of Shirley Phelps-Roper, former church spokesperson, she played a central role in spreading its signature brand of hateful rhetoric to a global audience). In a recent visit to Lavin’s Toronto office, Phelps-Roper described interacting with calm, civil, and genuinely empathetic individuals online—including a Jerusalem-based blogger named David. Through dialogue, she began to question the dogmatic assertions of her faith and its celebrations of human tragedy. In 2012, she and her sister made the incredibly brave (and rare) decision to abandon their cloistered way of life, leave their family and home, and renounce the teachings of the church. 


Raised in a community that normalized an intolerant expression of faith, Phelps-Roper had little to counter the influence of her family’s beliefs. As she explained in her Lavin visit (and outlines movingly in her 2017 TED Talk), her doubts in Westboro’s convictions and practices came to a head thanks to the patient dialogues she had with strangers online, and then in person. Her choice to leave her home, family, and faith led her a to a truer and more just view of the people around her. It’s a message that speaks not just to religious faith, but to the alienation of partisanship, and the division it nurtures. “We must engage the other,” says Phelps-Roper—as she herself was, and now does in turn.


Featured in a major New Yorker profile, and working on an upcoming memoir, Phelps-Roper is a unique example of how empathy can overcome hate, and how tolerance can bridge ideology.


To find out more about Megan Phelps-Roper, contact the Lavin Agency today. 

Angie Thomas’s #1 NYT Bestseller The Hate U Give: A Novel Inspired by Black Lives Matter

Author of one of the first-ever Black Lives Matter novels for YA audiences, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give has been called “a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time” (The New York Times).

Angie Thomas’ phenomenal new novel evokes, with vivid empathy, a story that shows how black life has been violated, undermined, and under-represented throughout history, framed in the blistering present. The Hate U Give has already been optioned by Fox 2000, and is set to feature activist and beloved Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg as the young heroine of the book—aptly-named Starr.

Epic Author Facts: Angie Thomas | The Hate U Give

“The best—and most important—book you’ll read this year.”

— Entertainment Weekly

Called “stunning” by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), The Hate U Give explores the world of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter: a girl who walks a careful line between her upper-crust prep school and the poverty-stricken neighborhood where she grew up. But when she witnesses a police officer shooting her best friend Khalil—an unarmed youth—Starr is plunged into even more uncertainty. How can she speak her truth, navigate upheaval, and keep herself safe in an increasingly dangerous world? Starr’s choices, for herself and for her community, are hard—but “don’t look away from this searing battle for justice,” writes Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not). 


In talks, Thomas gives context and background to the culture, politics, and movement behind the book, tracing the development of her captivating debut. In so doing, she speaks to the heart of race, activism, and social change in America today. 


To find out more or to book Angie Thomas for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency today. 

Flint is Family: LaToya Ruby Frazier’s New Project Featured in Elle

Visual artist, TED Fellow, and MacArthur grant recipient LaToya Ruby Frazier has embarked on a new project, Flint is Family, which is the subject of a stellar five-part feature in Elle.com and a 10-page feature in Elle’s September issue. Much like 2014’s groundbreaking The Notion of Family, her new work chronicles three generations of women, but this time in Flint, Michigan, set against the backdrop of the recent water crisis.

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In Flint is Family, Frazier profiles Shea Cobb, her 9-year-old daughter Zion, and her mother Renée. As in Frazier’s own hometown of Braddock, PA, Flint is a rustbelt city whose economy was slowly dwindling with the decline of America’s auto industry. And in April 2014, when the town began temporarily drawing its water supply from the nearby Flint River, things became worse very quickly. The river’s corrosive water caused lead from old piping to leach into the water supply, eventually exposing between 6,000 and 12,000 children to drinking water with elevated lead levels. Flint’s water crisis is arguably America’s worst man-made environmental catastrophe in recent memory. 

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Frazier’s project includes a series of haunting black-and-white stills and a short film narrated by Shea Cobb herself. For all 36 photographs, the short film, an informative timeline of the events in Flint, read the full article via Elle


To book TED Fellow LaToya Ruby Frazier for a keynote on art as transformation, or on the value of collaboration for social change, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.


A Portrait of Injustice: Introducing New Speaker LaToya Ruby Frazier

For LaToya Ruby Frazier, photography shines a spotlight on injustice in contemporary America. Her photos, often set in stark yet stunning black-and-white, capture three generations of history in her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania—an industrial suburb and microcosm of the 20th-century rustbelt, nine miles downriver from Pittsburgh. In her art and stirring keynotes, Frazier reveals Braddock’s shining past and troubling present—one of poor living conditions, economic disparity, healthcare inequality, racism, and environmental contamination—delivering work that is both intensely personal and telling of larger national concerns.

In the 1920s, Braddock was a proud industrial hub of more than 20,000—home to both a state-of-the-art steel mill and a Carnegie library. But the once-booming steeltown soon crumbled under the weight of collapsing industry. Coupled with the following War on Drugs, its population quickly dwindled to a tenth of its size. Worse still was the treatment of its African American residents: redlining, a major hospital closure, and policies of aggressive displacement conspired to progressively lessen their standard of living. And soon, the effects of long-term industrial labour and environmental toxicity began to degrade the health of Braddock’s citizens as well.

In her award-winning debut The Notion of Family, Frazier’s photographs detail the decline of Braddock through the eyes of three women: her grandmother, her mother, and herself. With all the intimacy of a family album, but with a broader social focus, the book is a two-pronged exploration of self and society. Derelict buildings, empty lots, and long-abandoned storefronts paint a poignant picture—one of a town struggling just to stay above water—and shots of Frazier’s family reveal the emotional and physical toll of living in such a place. Highly acclaimed, The Notion of Family was the recipient of the International Center of Photography Infinity Award, and received glowing praise in The New York Times and The Paris Review.

Frazier, an assistant professor of photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is both a TED Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow in the Creative Arts. And last year, she received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for her work on The Notion of Family—cementing her prominent place in both social justice and the visual arts. Now, she speaks with conviction about art as social change—and as a means of transforming lives.

To book TED Fellow LaToya Ruby Frazier for a keynote on art as transformation, grassroots activism, and social change, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Lavin Gives: Street Symphony and The Canadian Journalism Foundation

In lieu of giving holiday gifts this year, The Lavin Agency is making donations to two organizations we believe in: The Canadian Journalism Foundation and Street Symphony. These organizations are making a real difference in our world, and have a special relationship to a number of our exclusive speakers.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation promotes excellence in journalism by celebrating outstanding journalistic achievement. The CJF has been dedicated to acting as a catalyst for open and honest dialogue—helping to improve relationships between and understanding of the media and the private and public organizations that are often the focus of media and public attention. A number of the journalists we represent—including John Stackhouse, Robyn Doolittle, and Mohamed Fahmy—have been honoured or featured by this organization.

Street Symphony, founded by Vijay Gupta, creates live, free, on-site musical experiences of the highest artistic quality for people experiencing incarceration and homelessness in Los Angeles County.

The Symphony ensembles perform at LA County jails and homeless shelters in downtown Los Angeles, as well as public events for the community-at-large. They aim to raise awareness for issues of mental health, incarceration, and homelessness. Vijay and the Symphony were recently featured in the The New Yorker’s “Notable Recordings and Performances of 2015” and in the Los Angeles Times.

From all of us in New York, Toronto, Boston, New Hampshire, and Hope, British Columbia, we wish you a joyful holiday season and all the absolute best for 2016.

To health and happiness!

— Your friends at The Lavin Agency

Watch Kimberley Motley Drop the Law in This New Documentary Trailer

Kimberley Motley—former Miss Wisconsin, Afghanistan’s only foreign litigator, and force for human rights—stars in a new documentary called, appropriately, Motley’s Law. The film gives us an insider’s glimpse into a world of persecution so few of us will ever experience, and into Motley’s own incredible battles: to fight corruption, stay connected with her family, and stay alive. And, judging from the trailer, it’s sure to be a fierce, loud, and intense experience. Motley’s Law premiers on October 20, 2015 at the Chicago International Film Festival.

A Blueprint for Change: Jessica Jackley’s First Book, Clay Water Brick, Publishes Today

“The heart of entrepreneurship is never about what we have,” says Jessica Jackley, co-founder of revolutionary microlending site KIVA. “It’s about what we do.” Jackley's first book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, is out today. It features lessons learned from successful businesses in the world’s poorest countries, motivating readers to more deeply appreciate the incredible entrepreneurial potential that exists in every human being on this planet—especially themselves.

Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a charming account of how 'to pursue opportunity and possibility where others see none',” while Ariana Huffington says it's “a blueprint for anyone who wants to make the world a better place and find fulfillment in the process, no matter how scarce their resources or how steep the challenge.”

In an excerpt from Clay Water Brick in Forbes, Jackley talks about her father's influence on her work. “Throughout my childhood, and even when I left for college, he would repeatedly remind me of the importance of reflecting on my purpose, and creating and sticking to corresponding goals that would help me stay on the course I wanted for my life. He urged me to use my own mission, and not the choices or expectations of others, as a beacon. What was important in life, he insisted, was not how I measured up to anyone else—it was how I measured up to the aspirations I had for myself.”

These aspirations were lofty, as Jackley set off for Africa in her twenties to finally meet the people she had long dreamed of helping. The insights of those she met changed her understanding. Today she believes that many of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in the world are not focused on high-tech ventures or making a lot of money; instead, they wake up every day and build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities, regardless of the things they lack or the obstacles they encounter.

In Clay Water Brick and in her talks, Jackley challenges us to embrace entrepreneurship as a powerful force for change in the world. She shares her own story of founding Kiva with little more than a laptop and a dream, and the stories and the lessons she has learned from those across the globe who are doing the most with the least.

To book Jessica Jackley as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

“Afghanistan Has a Chance to Decide Who it Really Is:” Kimberley Motley on a Landmark Case

Lavin Speaker Kimberley Motley, who represented the family of a woman brutally beaten to death in Afghanistan, has written a moving editorial in the Telegraph explaining the case’s enormous significance—both in that country and around the globe.

Motley represented the family of the victim, known only to the press as Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a crowd of 49 men, 19 of whom were police officers dispatched to the scene. The case sparked protests against the widespread brutality against women across Afghanistan. In an interview for Channel 4, Fatina Galiani, the founder of the Afghan Women’s council, said that “There are thousands of ways women's rights suffer [in Afghanistan] because the government is so weak and inadequate here and corruption is rife.”

In her editorial, which you can read here, Motley—who is a TED Fellow and currently the only foreign litigator practicing in Afghanistan—says:

“There can be little doubt that this case was a defining moment for Afghanistan, women’s rights, and a rigorous test of Afghanistan’s legal system… This represents much more than a community policing issue. It is a societal issue, a global issue, which goes to the core of how a disenfranchised country continues to silently support, through their inaction, the repeated degradation and demise of its women.”

But Motley ends her statements on a note of hope. “With this case and its subsequent convictions, Afghanistan has a chance to decide who it really is.”

Kimberley Motley speaks on the law and human rights around the globe. To book Kimberley Motley as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

First Look: Clay Water Brick, the New Book by KIVA Co-Founder Jessica Jackley

Social entrepreneur and speaker Jessica Jackley is releasing her first book this summer: Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, to be published by Random House in June 2015. Jackley is a Founder and former Chief Marketing Officer of KIVA, the world's first peer to peer microlending website. KIVA lets users lend as little as $25 to poor entrepreneurs around the world, providing affordable capital for them to start or expand microenterprises. Clay Water Brick draws inspiration from these small business owners to share stories and lessons we can all use to guide our own entrepreneurial journeys and find passion in our work.

More about the book:

Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least

In the tradition of Kabul Beauty School and Start Something That Matters comes an inspiring story of social entrepreneurship from the co-founder of Kiva, the first online microlending platform for the working poor. Featuring lessons learned from successful businesses in the world’s poorest countries, Jessica Jackley’s Clay Water Brick will motivate readers to more deeply appreciate the incredible entrepreneurial potential that exists in every human being on this planet—especially themselves.

In her talks, Jackley presents powerful and practical takeaways on business, social change, and the power of human capital to achieve your goals.To book Jessica Jackley as the keynote speaker for your event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Rule of Law: How Kimberley Motley Became Afghanistan’s First Foreign Litigator

New Lavin speaker Kimberley Motley is the first and only foreign litigator working in Afghanistan. She spends nine months of the year in that country, defending foreigners, embassies and ambassadors, and women and children in pro bono human rights cases. Her powerful TEDGlobal keynote, embedded above, was named one of the best TED talks of the year.

Motley's nickname is “911”: she is, quite literally, an emergency help line. “I first saw her at a party and asked a friend who she was,” wrote Tom Freston in a major Vanity Fair profile on Motley last year. “'Oh, that’s 911', the friend said. 'That’s what we call her. If you get arrested in Afghanistan, you just call 911 and she’ll get you out'.”

Much of her success is based on her simple yet forcible approach: In countries where much of the law is unwritten, where judges are unable to read or write, and where church and state are still deeply intertwined, the legal system is a complicated and murky one. But if we take the time to read and understand the law, we can often find the solutions we’re looking for. “To the male-dominated Afghan court and prison establishment, she must appear to be someone from outer space,” writes Freston. “She acknowledges this but declares that she gets respect. 'I get compliments from judges', [Motley] tells me. 'They say, ‘We’re so proud of you, here in our courts and fighting in our system'. She has proven to be a very effective and tenacious fighter.”

Her work on human rights cases has been a cornerstone of her practice in Afghanistan, where she often takes on seemingly hopeless cases involving women and children. “Once established with Western clients, Motley moved on to bigger game,” says Freston. “Her inner-city chops prepared her for her next step: taking on the cases of some of the earth’s most powerless inhabitants, Afghan women. Many NGOs have valiantly taken on their cause in the last decade, but no Western woman has actually gone on to litigate for them in the courtroom. Motley did. She would take on desperate cases, often making them high profile by means of clever publicity and social-media tactics. She works these cases pro bono and has not lost a single one.”

This work is the focus of her keynotes, and her ultimate message of why we should all pay attention to—and take full advantage of—the rule of law. “We can all be contributors to a global human rights economy,” says Motley. “We can create a culture of transparency and accountability to the laws, and make governments more accountable to us as we are to them.”

To book Kimberley Motley as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Lavin Agency Gives to Vijay Gupta’s Street Symphony & Jane Chen’s Embrace

In lieu of holiday gifts this year, The Lavin Agency is making donations to two organizations we believe in: Embrace Global and Street Symphony. Led by two exceptional Lavin speakers, these projects are making a real difference in our world.

Embrace Global, co-founded by Jane Chen, is dedicated to advancing maternal and child health by delivering innovative solutions to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Embrace are the creators of the Embrace Infant Warmer, a baby incubator that sells for a fraction of the traditional cost and is poised to save millions of lives. The organization partners with clinics, governments, and non-profits to provide warmers to babies in need, and also to education and provide hands-on training to mothers and healthcare workers. Jane and her work at Embrace were recently featured in Forbes.


Street Symphony, founded by Vijay Gupta, creates live, free, on-site musical experiences of the highest artistic quality for people experiencing incarceration and homelessness in Los Angeles County.

The Symphony ensembles perform at LA County jails and homeless shelters in downtown Los Angeles, as well as public events for the community-at-large, aimed to raise awareness for issues of mental health, incarceration, and homelessness. Vijay and the Symphony were recently featured in the Los Angeles Times.

From all of us in New York, Toronto, Boston, Rhode Island, and Hope, British Columbia, we wish you a joyful holiday season and all the absolute best for 2015.

To health and happiness!

– Your friends at Lavin

Driving Progress: Lavin Speakers Chosen for GOOD 100

The GOOD 100 is a compendium of people, ideas, and programs changing our planet for the better. We're so pleased to see Lavin speakers Negin Farsad and Cesar Harada on this year's list, alongside Randi Zuckerberg, Barbara Bush, environmental activist Ma Jun, and Moscow journalist Dmitry Aleshkovsky.

Negin Farsad is one of the few Iranian-American Muslim female comedians. GOOD calls her documentary The Muslims Are Coming! “a can’t-miss if you’ve ever given an ounce of thought to pluralism, diversity, and the role of religion in the contemporary world.”

Cesar Harada is the inventor of a groundbreaking, low-cost invention used to clean up oil spills. GOOD says: “Harada has faith that if we break it, we can also fix it…he created Protei, a shape-shifting, wind-powered sailing robot that can explore the oceans and clean up oil spills remotely.”

Incidentally, both Farsad and Harada are TED Fellows, and we're proud to say we represent a whole host of Fellows who are doing groundbreaking work in technology, design, social justice, science, and more.

To book Negin Farsad, Cesar Harada, or another TED Fellow for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

Watch the trailer for The Muslims Are Coming!:

Watch Cesar Harada's TED Talk:

Civil Rights Legend Minnijean Brown Trickey’s MLK Week Standing Ovation

At a recent Martin Luther King Jr. Week for Peace event, civil rights legend Minnijean Brown Trickey received a standing ovation after her keynote address. A member of the Little Rock Nine who helped desegregate public schools, she spoke about civil rights and Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, telling the audience: “Dr. King asked us to see our possibilities that we have for taking the first step, doing the important thing, making change.” She urged the audience to continue to seek change, saying, “we are certainly not post racists, post racial … I don't care how much privilege you have, but you are not free until we are all free.” She spoke about the path to change, telling students: “You climb a mountain by taking the first step,” and encouraging them to “go out there and do something.” The audience reacted on Twitter, sharing quotes from the event and their impressions of Brown Trickey. We've assembled a few for you to take a look at below:

As a living witness to history―and an active participant who helped shape it―Brown Trickey delivers a fascinating exploration of social change, diversity, and the battle against racism throughout the decades, from the beginnings of her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement to the present day. To book Minnijean Brown Trickey as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Social Change Speaker Jessica Jackley: We Need More Female Entrepreneurs

“We must increase the number of women entrepreneurs, of women CEOs, of women leaders in every field,” social change speaker Jessica Jackley tells The Wall Street Journal. In her Chelsea Clinton-approved article (the former First Daughter recommended it highly on her Facebook page this week), Jackley says that women in leadership roles are a huge asset. Unfortunately, there are few of them. “Only 35% startup business owners are women,” Jackley writes. “The percentages get smaller as the companies get bigger; only 10% of Inc. 500 companies are women-led.” These are disheartening statistics given that she argues companies with female leaders have a greater chance at success than those without.

As a Founder and former Chief Marketing Officer of KIVA and a current Venture Partner with the Collaborative Fund, Jackley has seen the benefits of female leadership in action. Not only does she say that return on equity is higher and exit success is more likely with female leadership, but creating diversity in the workplace is a valuable asset as well. “Diverse groups outperform homogeneous ones,” she explains, “as multiple perspectives force more careful processing of information, which ideally leads to better solutions to problems.”

With all these positives, what's preventing more women from climbing to the top of the career ladder? Jackley cites lack of role models or mentorship and difficulty accessing start-up capital as external barriers. She also says some women lack the confidence to pursue their own business venture, or, wish to attain a work-life balance that's difficult to achieve with the demands of a startup. “The hardest part is starting,” Jackley admits, “[but] once she’s begun, there’s no telling how far she can go.” It takes practice, she says, but practice—even when met with failure—is the best way to become a strong leader. In her work as a social entrepreneur, venture capital partner, and as educator, Jackley teaches women about how to begin their entrepreneurial journey. And, why it's important that they do.

In her keynotes and lectures, Jackley shares personal stories of both her successes and her failures. In doing so, she shows audiences what to expect when carrying out their dream, and, how to overcome any obstacles that will inevitably stand in their way. She presents powerful and practical takeaways on business, social change, and the power of human capital to achieve your goals. To book Jessica Jackley for your next corporate event, conference, or other speaking engagement, contact The Lavin Agency.

Anatomy Of A Dissenter: Eyal Press On Why People “Break Rank”

“Generally speaking with whistleblowers, they are not doing what comes naturally to them,” Eyal Press tells Uprising Radio. “They are doing exactly what, in a sense, violates everything that they grew up believing or thinking.” Press is the author of Beautiful Souls: The Courage and Conscience of Ordinary People. In the book, he chronicles the experiences of people who “broke rank;” they went against authority or convention in favor of standing up for what they deemed to be morally right. In this particular radio interview, they use the case of Edward Snowden as a jumping off point to discuss why people go against the grain. And, as Press says, how the people who do so are usually not the ones you would expect.

“When we think about these people we often think, in a sense, that they're rebellious types,” he continues. Turns out, however, that the opposite is true. “People who go into these organizations with a cynical view are more likely to conform, oddly enough, because they don't expect much,” Press argues. Most of the people he profiled in his book didn't get involved with the companies or organizations they worked for to stir up trouble. In fact, they often believe that the work they are doing is for the greater good. A soldier he profiled, for example, believed that the military tasks he was assigned to do were morally conscionable. But, when he found out that the fundamental ideals of his superiors were not in line with his own values, he was forced to object.

These people often take a moral stand even in the face of adversity or risk to their reputation or career. They believe so strongly in the “good” of the system that they react strongly to any fraud or wrongdoing. Using new research from both neuroscientists and moral psychologists, Press delves into the reasons some of us conform to authority—and some don't. Both his stage presentation and award-winning book explore the pervasiveness of the human condition. Press shows us how we respond to ethically taxing situations, and, what our response says about us as people.

How Parents Can Stop Cyberbullying: Emily Bazelon On Morning Joe

Emily Bazelon, speaker on bullying and author of Sticks and Stones, says that we're not necessarily experiencing a bullying epidemic or a sharp rise in the number of kids being bullied. What we are seeing, however, is a different kind of bullying. As she told the panel during a recent appearance on Morning Joe, the primary form of bullying in the past would generally be physical violence. Today, however, kids are being bullied not only in person, but online as well. The primary difference between physical bullying and cyberbullying, she explains, is that the latter can occur 24/7. Because of the ease of access to the internet and the popularity of smartphones, kids can feel as though they have no respite from their attackers.

It's important to note that combating the effects of cyberbullying requires a unified effort by both school administrators and parents. Since a lot of bullying carries on after the bell rings, Bazelon says parents have to help their kids as much as teachers do. “One thing that's important especially when kids are getting their first phones, and are first venturing into social media, is to go with them…[and] guide them through the process,” Bazelon suggests. Don't just throw them into it headfirst, she cautions. Rather, show them the ropes and monitor what's happening on the sites your kids are visiting.

Kids also need to learn the importance of intervening when they see bullying taking place. “Studies show that bullying takes place in front of an audience of kids almost all the time,” she says, “but kids only intervene 20 per cent of the time. And yet when they do, they're able to stop the bullying in half of those cases.” There's a real opportunity, she adds, to show kids how to stop bullying from happening. However, Bazelon also stresses that you don't want to be too overbearing and need to give your kids some space. Parents need to strike a balance between teaching and protecting their kids without stifling their ability to grow and become independent. In her popular book, Sticks and Stones, Bazelon digs deep into bullying. She approaches the subject from multiple angles and can customize her keynotes to many different audiences including kids, teachers, and parents of all ages.

Find Your Voice: Social Change Speaker Jessica Jackley On Entrepreneurship

Every day, social change speaker Jessica Jackley wakes up and asks herself, “now what?” As the co-founder of the nonprofit microloaning site Kiva, Jackley provided a platform for entrepreneurs all over the world to receive the financial assistance they needed to lift themselves out of poverty. It wasn't a seamless journey, however, and there were many bumps in the road. But she says it's important to start each day thinking about what you can do better—instead of dwelling on what might not have gone perfectly. That's why she tells budding entrepreneurs to put something out there, and start the wheels in motion.

That's what she has been doing since she left Kiva—finding her voice and trying to make a difference with every venture she takes on. Despite being a a difficult decision to move on from the organization she help build, Jackley says it was a positive move in the right direction. “So much of my life was built into this dream. I wanted to see if I could do something valuable a second time, maybe even a third or fourth,” she explains in an interview with the Stanford School of Business. “It was a sobering and beautiful realization to think there were other people who could care for and nurture the organization. The decision to leave also helped me to put work in its right place. It had become so much of my identity.”

Jackley's newest project is as a venture partner at Collaborative Fund. The firm invests in technology companies that enable collaborative consumption. It's fitting, then, that she calls the “proliferation of mobile technology” one of the greatest innovations of the past decade. And, also why she would support an organization geared toward expanding the role of technology to bring people together. “You can be in the middle of nowhere, but your cellphone works,” Jackley says. “I have met individuals who have never left their village but have a cellphone, and they use it to access money and information and connect to other people.” Jackley says that she is constantly looking for the next big thing. It's important to “find your voice,” in whatever you do, she adds. “This means expressing something about you and what you believe. It is the first step toward doing valuable action in the world.” In her enlightening and practical talks, Jackley draws on personal experiences to show audiences how to do just that. And, how to achieve their goals of making the world a better place.

Jessica Jackley On Successful Social Entrepreneurship [VIDEO]

What makes a social entrepreneur different than other entrepreneurs? That was the lead-in question asked of social change speaker Jessica Jackely at The Duke Colloquium: Intellectual Curiosity and the Professional Life event. The Co-Founder of Kiva recently visited the school to give a presentation and participate in a workshop. The event was geared toward helping students incorporate human values into the work they plan to do after graduation. For those interested in entering the world of social entrepreneurship, Jackley says the focus should be on creating value—just like in any other startup. However, the difference lies in who are you creating value for. You aren't creating something of value for people who will become paying customers to your enterprise, she says. You need to think about value creation more broadly, she explains, and go beyond appealing only to those who will directly pay for your services.

No matter what your mission is, however, Jackley stresses the importance of being specific about who you are trying to serve and what you want to accomplish. Saying you want to be an entrepreneur without knowing who you want to serve and how you're going to achieve that is a bit like saying you want to win a gold medal in the Olympics without knowing which sport you want to excel in, Jackley says. That's why it's key to be disciplined and specific. She also touched on how to juggle having a clear social vision coupled with the desire to make profit. “I don't think having a double bottom line means there has to be a conflict,” Jackley adds. “But I do think you have to prioritize those goals.” Doing good and achieving business success aren't necessarily two opposing ideals. However, you have to know when to focus on which part of the business. If you can, Jackley says you can become extremely profitable—as evidenced by other startups who have done so successfully.

In her presentations, Jackley shares the valuable business lessons she's learned from her time transforming Kiva into the successful micro-lending platform it is today. The connection that exists between two people is a poweful agent for social change, she believes. When you harness your abilities with someone else's—you can truly change the world. And, you can be successful no matter what your business model is or what cause you are committed to.

Why “Blindly Donating Money” Doesn’t Work: Jessica Jackley’s College Keynote

A lecture given by Doctor Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, turned social change speaker Jessica Jackley's career path completely on its head. As she told Doane College students in a new keynote speech, she was inspired to start Kiva.org after hearing him speak. “He told people that if they wanted to help, they needed to go and get to know these people,” Jackley said. “Just blindly donating money wasn’t what these people needed.” That's when Jackley decided that microloans were a beneficial way of helping those in need build sustainable futures for themselves. Emily Alfs, a freshman at the college, told the school paper that this point really resonated with her. “We always hear about donating to save a child’s life and it makes people feel guilty for what they have,” Alfs said. “With Kiva, you loan out the money and it’s repaid to you. It’s a new, interesting way for people to help underprivileged people.”

Madison Greif, also a freshman who saw Jackley speak, said the social entrepreneur's vision was inspiring, and that she learned a lot about the capacity to make social change in more effective ways than simply donating money. Jackley told the students that despite it not being her initial goal when she went into college, she has found tremendous fulfillment from her work at Kiva and other social ventures. While she has moved on from her role at Kiva (which she co-founded), Jackley is still an active part of the social entrepreneurial sector. Currently, she is a Barer Visiting Fellow at Drew University, and has also taught Global Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC and other campuses nationwide.

In her lectures, as well as her other presentations, Jackley explores the power of business to enact positive social changes. Her advice to the potential social entrepreneurs in this college keynote was to have a clearly defined mission statement, and to be honest, empathetic and collaborative. With applications ranging from new entrepreneurs, small non-profit organizations, to large-scale for-profit companies, Jackley provides powerful new business strategies than can help your bottom line—and others in the process.

One Million Micro-Borrowers: Jessica Jackley & KIVA Hit A New Milestone

Today marks a major milestone for social change speaker Jessica Jackley and her team at KIVA. The nonprofit microlending organization just announced that they've “reached over 1 million people in more than 65 countries through $400 million in microloans.” When she co-founded KIVA back in 2005, Jackley wanted to change the conversation about poverty. She wanted to create a system where people could build relationships with others around the world by lending them money to lift themselves out of poverty. The millions of dollars in loans (an astounding 98.9 per cent of which are repaid by the borrowers) that the organization has facilitated is a testament to the success of the microfinance model rather than the traditional charitable aid model.

The connection forged between loaner and borrower is what Jackley loves the most about KIVA's mission. When several people from all over the world are committing their own money to help an entrepreneur achieve success, it means much more to the borrower than simply receiving capital from the bank. As she says in this video about the way KIVA operates, knowing that people across the world are dedicated to helping you succeed is a tremendous motivator—and that's part of the reason why KIVA has done so well. In the future, the organization is also poised to hit the one million lender mark, with 900,000 already signed up (and contributing nearly $1.5 million a week, too).

As well as being the co-founder of this organization, Jackley also teaches the principles of socially responsible business practices at universities and colleges around the country. Currently, she is the Barer Visiting Fellow at Drew University, Her keynotes range from pressing issues from Web 2.0, to women's empowerment, economic development, and social entrepreneurship. Energetic and inspiring, Jackley shows audiences the power of business and human interaction to make positive social change around the world.

Money Isn’t The Only Form Of Currency: Jessica Jackley [VIDEO]

“I grew up with some angst and some stress about money,” social change speaker Jessica Jackley told the crowd at a recent CreativeMornings lecture. When she was growing up, Jackley says that she would become extremely disheartened every time she learned about someone living in extreme poverty—to the point where she admits to sometimes having felt guilty for her own wealth. In the talk, she shared the story of how she co-founded KIVA (a highly successful microlending website) and how her relationship with money has changed over the years.

After filling the attendees in on her role with KIVA, Jackley dove into the important role that money plays in all of our lives—and what our interactions with money say about who we are. She says talking about money can often be awkward and uncomfortable, and that the way we spend or save our money says a great deal. The entrepreneurs she has worked with through KIVA—some of the poorest individuals in the world—often seem to have a more comfortable relationship with money than many in the developed world. First of all, she says that these people see money simply as a means to an end. Since they have so little of it, they do not attach their identities to money. This means that they are able to have more open conversations about money as it is not a defining characteristic of who they are. They don't see money as the only form of currency to achieve their goals, and attach their worth to other areas of life.

Jackley believes that this attitude can be extremely beneficial for us to consider. “We have more than just money to spend,” she says in the talk, “and I think we should work for and ask for…more than just money to receive.” When you attach your worth to something beyond a money, and place value on life's other rewards, Jackley says you can drastically change the conversation and potentially, one day, change the world.

Leadership Conference: Jessica Jackley On Turning Your Passion Into A Job

Jessica Jackley recently gave a keynote at Texas Christian University's State of Leadership Conference—and attendees raved about her presentation. Dede Williams, director of the BNSF Next Generation Leadership program, said that “Jessica did an amazing job,” and TCU student Kyle Cochran said that Jackley's talk was “inspirational,” and made him think seriously about his own goals. At the event, Jackley shared her personal journey from a young student with a passion for eliciting social change, to the businesswoman who eventually turned that passion into a reality. She discussed her work with the groundbreaking peer to peer microlending site KIVA (she co-founded the venture) and the importance of making personal connections with the people you want to help in the world.

Her mix of personal and professional anecdotes really resonated with the audience. Williams said: “[Jackley] was able to utilize her personal feelings to find something she was passionate about in life and I think that's why all these students are here at TCU, because they're trying to find what they're going to spend their life's work on.” Cochran said that he was glad to hear about Jackley's success story and that her message about self-motivation really stuck with him. “[By hearing about] the value she has in impacting people,” he explains, “I'm able to understand my own motivations at the same time.”

Jackley not only inspires on the stage, but in the classroom as well. She's presently a Barer Visiting Fellow at Drew University, where she teaches students about social entrepreneurship. A savvy businesswoman, Jackley is also down-to-earth. She is able to relate to audiences on a personal level first—letting everything else fall into place after that.

Candy Chang Inspires GW University Students To Recreate ‘Before I Die’

Brian Doyle, a student at George Washington University in D.C., wanted to bring a “positive, community-building project to his campus.” When he saw Candy Chang speak at TED Global, he knew that her “Before I Die” installation was exactly what he was looking for. The project originated in New Orleans and uses simple materials (a black wall and sidewalk chalk) to help communities spread messages of hope and inspiration. The phrase “Before I Die…” is written on the wall, and participants complete the phrase with their own dreams. The simple—but powerful— concept has become wildly popular with diverse groups of people all around the world. So far, there are over 100 walls that have been started in over 30 countries.

As Doyle says, “I just want people to enjoy it, learn from it, see how different perspectives are diverse and how we all have different dreams and aspirations.” Even though the project is a temporary installation, it brings communities together and allows people to share a part of themselves that they may not have had the opportunity to otherwise. Chang, who attended the unveiling of this particular wall at the university, uses art to redefine public spaces. The Senior TED Fellow creates installations that allow residents to share information and feel more comfortable in their surroundings.

“[The wall] is about getting to know the people around us in new and enlightening ways, it’s about making our public better reflect what matters to us both as a community and individuals,” Chang says, “and it’s about seeing we are not alone as we struggle to lead fulfilling lives.” Public spaces have the power to remind us of what's important in life and snap us out of our routines, and Chang's work hopes to redefine the way we see our urban environments. In her projects and her touching keynotes, Chang reminds us that we are all in this together—and sometimes we need to take a break from our busy lives to remember that.

Angela Davis: Don’t Subordinate Your Aspirations To Political Agendas

As social change speaker Angela Davis says in her keynote address at the Peace Ball in Washington, President Obama's work is just beginning. With the long election campaign behind him, he is now embarking on his second term as President of the United States. While Davis says it's wonderful to support him, “that support should also be expressed in our determination to raise issues that have been largely ignored or not appropriately addressed by the administration.” Now that he has made it back into office, it is up to us to ensure that the government addresses the needs of the people. We have to speak up to ensure that our hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the country are not ignored.

What are some of those issues? “We should be addressing the state of our schools, the continuing crisis of overincarceration, over-punishment,” Davis told the audience. “We should be addressing the part played by private prison corporations in pushing for repressive legislation designed to incarcerate ever-increasing numbers of immigrants.” As of late, Davis has been lecturing internationally about the range of social problems associated with mass incarceration. Drawing on her own experience in the judicial system (she spent 18 months on trial and in prison for a crime she didn't commit), Davis advocates for freedom in its truest sense.

In her books Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete?, and in her speeches, she expresses concern over the tendency to devote more resources to the prison industrial complex than to education and social services. She is an internationally renowned human rights advocate and has given lectures on achieving social change to audiences across the globe. She challenges audiences to think critically about the world we live in and to come together to forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

Learning from a “Social-Good Rock Star”: KIVA’s Jessica Jackley is Now Teaching

Who do you hire when you are looking for the perfect candidate to teach a course on Entrepreneurial Design for Social Change? Well, a “social-good rock star,” of course. That's exactly what Drew University thinks of Jessica Jackley; and it's why she—and her husband Reza Aslan, a writer and religion scholar—was chosen as the “perfect role model” for teaching students how to make the world a better place.

“The social entrepreneurship world is nothing exclusive or far away,” she tells students in her class, “it’s a world students can opt into, at any time, by taking action.” Jackley's message really hits home because she practiced what she teaches and turned her own dreams of eliminating poverty into one of the fastest-growing peer-to-peer microloaning websites in the world. Not only that, but she co-founded Kiva.org when she was only in her 20s. She advises her students to go after their dreams as soon as they can. “Just get started,” she tells them. “Whether it’s something very small, or whether you have a grand vision for a huge endeavor, just start taking steps in that direction.” She also requires that each student identify a real-life problem and solution while in her class, to emphasize practical action over classroom dreaming.

Jackley is a Barer Visiting Fellow at Drew’s Center on Religion, Culture & Conflict (CRCC) at Drew University. In her class, she lectures on the potential for global transformation that exists in the digital age and how it has democratized social entrepreneurship. Aslan, a Wallerstein Distinguished Professor at the CRCC, joins her to share his insights on the subject as well.

Jessica Jackley: Helping People Achieve “Superhero Potential” With KIVA [VIDEO]

“Every woman in this room is powerful and every man in this room is powerful too,” Jessica Jackley says in a keynote at the One Young World Summit 2012, “[and] we have to be careful because sometimes that power goes unused.” This is especially true, she says, if you don't believe in yourself and don't believe in the potential of others. As the co-founder of the micro-loaning website KIVA explains, you can have the best ideas and tools at your disposal—but none of that matters in you don't believe that you have the potential to make a change. It's also important to remember, says Jackley, that everyone you meet has that potential too. For someone to embark on a world-changing mission, they have to have faith in themselves and the people around them.

She says that when she was introduced to a professor who spoke about the poor as people who had dreams and ambitions, rather than only associating those people with stories of sadness and hopelessness, she decided she wanted to try and help. After quitting her job and moving to Africa, Jackley saw first hand that there were many people living in poverty who had great potential but did not have the ability to access the money or tools needed to harness that potential. “I wanted to help everyone else have the access to the resources they need to tell their own story of greatness,” she says of her decision to start KIVA. Instead of simply donating money to these people, she decided to create a system where money was loaned to them in small increments to forge a bond between an entrepreneur and a lender who can help them to succeed. She wanted to do something different, and so far, that plan has worked. The New York Times Magazine named KIVA the best idea of 2006, and to date, the site has allowed for over $300 Million dollars in loans to go toward helping those in need lift themselves out of poverty. Jackley closes off her speech by saying that everyone has “superhero potential” and is capable of great things. If we all decide to believe in the potential that everyone on the planet has inside of themm, she says we can make the world a better place for us all.

The Pitfalls of Imprisonment: Angela Davis & Noam Chomsky’s New Lecture Series

“It is not a simple call to abolish prisons,” Angela Davis argues, in reference to her work, “but rather, it is also a call to create the conditions of life.” Davis, the legendary human rights activist and gifted public speaker, will join renowned linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky to discuss the prison industrial complex. Together, they challenge the belief that putting people behind bars keeps society safe. The two social leaders will speak on the same stage for the first time in Boston on December 8th. The event, Radical Futures And Prospects For Freedom, focuses on bringing awareness to issues of global inequality. Davis claims that providing people in need with adequate access to food, shelter, and income makes a community safe and secure. When people are unable to obtain these basic necessities, they will do whatever it takes to get them—which sometimes leads to criminal activity. Given the fact that incarceration only perpetuates a cycle of poverty, Davis suggests analyzing the social, political, and economic factors at play in areas with high levels of crime. Arresting people from these areas is a band-aid solution to a wider institutional problem that needs to be addressed and corrected. 

After spending a year-and-a-half in the prison system herself, Davis has become an advocate for fighting the inequalities present in the judicial system. Her books, Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete?, question the way the current penal system operates. She is currently working on a third book, titled Prisons and American History. In her powerful lectures, Davis explores a world without bars. She provides eye-opening research and compelling evidence to support her theory that the justice system is failing, and explores what we need to do to ensure that we are living in a free, safe, and just society.

Jessica Jackley: Opportunity—Not Handouts—Ends The Cycle Of Poverty

Jessica Jackley, who recently spoke at the University of Saint Thomas Symposium of Social Entrepreneurship, says that one of the secrets to KIVA.org's success is that it provides people with opportunities—not handouts. As she explained at the seminar, her life dramatically changed when she began to see the poor as people with a wide skill set and much to give, rather than as helpless victims. Although they had talents and were willing to work, they were often hindered by the cycle of poverty and the inability to access financing. Rather than providing these people with charity, she decided instead to give them interest-free loans to help them turn their lives around. KIVA.org—which Jackley co-founded—is a microlending website that allows lenders from across the globe to provide those in need with small, interest free loans to help them save their business, or, to get them started.

As well as giving the attendees a history of her non-profit—which is expected to have provided over $1 Billion in loans by the end of this year—she also gave some practical advice for those wishing to embark on a similar path. The first tip was to know your mission. She explains that you need to have a plan and stick to it, no matter how difficult that can be at times. Second, she explained that making a difference often starts by learning to listen to the people you are trying to help so you can provide them with what they need, not just what you think they need. Finally, she explained that working with others and sharing your story is essential to making positive change. Don't try to go it alone, she advises, and don't be impartial to the suggestions of those around you. Rather, Jackley suggests that you find people who are passionate about the same mission as you and employ them to get involved.

Similar to Jackley's other talks, she provides the audience with a mix of personal success stories and practical advice. She uses KIVA's success and initial hardships as a case study to provide inspiration to those who want to become a social entrepreneur themselves, or feel that they want to make a difference in the world but aren't quite sure how. She also speaks to the power of social media to change the world, and explains how new media can revolutionize communities and lead to positive widespread global change.

Angela Davis Asks: What It Really Means To Be “Free” In America? [VIDEO]

“One out of every 100 adults is behind bars [in the United States]” Angela Davis cites in a recent keynote address. Even more shocking? “25 per cent of the world's incarcerated population lives in jails and prisons in The United States of America.” The human rights activist questioned why it is that the United States has the highest incarcerated population in the world in her speech about race, the justice system, and the consequences of mass incarceration at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Having spent 18 months of her life either on trial or in jail, Davis has become a prominent speaker combating oppression at every level of society—with a primary focus on inequality in the justice system.

In her books, Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete?, she presents extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. She questions how “free” the population really is if, “one of the ways [by] which we can determine we are free is by realizing that we're not in prison.” This is especially true for members of visible minorities, particularly native Americans, who she says are imprisoned in vastly larger volumes than any other group of people in the country. As a teacher and a world renowned social activist, Davis speaks with passion and experience. In her popular speeches, she breaks down the “prison industrial complex” and asks audiences to seriously consider what life would be like if there were no prisons—and everyone was truly free.

Atlantic Meets Pacific: Social Change Speakers Discuss Technology

Social change speakers Jessica Jackley and Ben Rattray were joined by a panel of top thinkers who spoke at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific event. It focused on globalization and the disruptive technologies that are making a huge impact on society—and how the next big technological advancements will change the world. This is the second event of its kind, hosted by The Atlantic Magazine. Jackley, the co-founder of the revolutionary micro-lending website Kiva, and Rattray, CEO of Change.org, shared their personal accomplishments in their speeches. The success of both speakers' innovative businesses have proven that scientific advancement can not only come from the private sector, but can also make a positive impact on society—a major focus of the event. 

Both Rattray and Jackley spoke to the power of technology and scientific innovation as a tool for connecting people from across the world. Moderated by Lavin speaker and The Atlantic's National Correspondent James Fallows, each speech focused on the power that new technological innovations hold, and how the increasing inter-connectivity of our world has allowed us to share ideas of hope on a global scale. The two speakers are respected social entrepreneurs who have harnessed the power of technology to achieve global change. By sharing their success stories, they not only inspired the audience to forge their own path, but started a discussion on how to seize opportunities and capitalize on the incredible potential of today's technology.

KIVA Expands to India. The Microloan Site Co-Founded by Jessica Jackley Keeps Growing

KIVA, the peer-to-peer microlending site co-founded by business speaker Jessica Jackley, has recently extended its reach to help alleviate poverty in India.

A $25 dollar loan can provide individuals living below the poverty line (which defines 68 per cent of India's population) with the capital to start—or grow—their business, and create a sustainable income. The company has partnered with three socially driven nonprofits—People's Forum, Mahashakti Foundation and WSDS-Inititiative— to service those with no other access to credit.

Jackley's entrepreneurial vision attributed to the exponential growth of the social benefit website, which, to date, has provided $1 Billion worth of loans since its inception in 2005. As shown on the moving data visualization map on their YouTube channel, they have successfully made over 4 million connections between borrowers and lenders to date.

Starting from a seed planted while using her first laptop (documented in a recent Best Buy commercial), Jackley has since attained the skills and business-savvy to speak to both Fortune 100 companies and college businesses classes alike. Her onstage energy—and her deep well of entrepreneurial smarts—comes across in her conference speeches that motivate attendees to harness their own potential, and that of others, and to enact positive social change around the world.