With goofy sunglasses and other props in hand, participants in last Sunday’s “Clutchella Collaborative Summit on Social Innovation” leapt out of their seats, ready to take selfies outside as part of the #WeAreAble challenge set by Chris Harbur, one of the conference’s two keynote speakers.
“Clutchella,” which was organized by the Clutch Collaborative, comprised two keynote speakers and three workshops, all of which focused on how students could create social change at Andover and in their respective communities.
The featured keynote speakers were Harbur, who is in charge of VIP Engagement at DoSomething.org, and Alyssa Wright, Director of Programming at Raising Change, a philanthropic advising and fundraising group based in Northampton, Mass.
With 3.6 million users, DoSomething.org provides a popular online platform for young people interested in social change, as Harbur reminded the audience on Sunday. “There are resources [for] you guys anywhere you are and on anything you’re interested in, and I want to give you those tools to execute and do these things,” said Harbur.
In his presentation, Harbur encouraged students to get involved with causes of their choice by having them participate in the #WeAreAble campaign. Attendees uploaded images of themselves holding written signs describing their best talents, an exercise meant to reduce the stigma associated with physical and mental disability by calling attention to people’s skills, regardless of ability.
After Harbur’s talk, Wright described transitioning from a career in the theater industry to one in philanthropy, having discovered her passion during a trip to Serbia as part of the production cast for a movie about the Bosnian War.
Wright said during her presentation on Raising Change,“I will never forget the day when I got off the bus at Kragujevac… I was [treated] for ten minutes like Angelina Jolie… but after about ten feet people were spitting on me. To go from that [extreme] in such a short amount of time… really made me sensitive to who I was going be as an American doing international work.”
In addition to the keynote speakers, “Clutchella” featured three workshops, which were led by Rashid Gadansali ’03, Senior Associate of the Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, Rohit Acharya ’04, Chief Data Scientist at First Access, Lawrence Bloom, Chairman of the Advisory Board of BeEnergy, and Randell Dauda and Patience Landford, Founder and Co-Founder of the Kporma O rganization for Liberian Girls’ Education, respectively.
Gadansali and Acharya held the workshops “Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund: Investing in Changemakers” and “First Access Markets Alternative Microlending Methods,” in which they spoke with students about social innovation and shared their experiences working together after graduating from Andover.
The two met when Gadansali’s company, Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund, an organization that funds early-stage, impact-focused companies, invested in Archarya’s company, First Access, which uses clients’ mobile and financial data to the credit risk of microloans.
Gadansali during an interview with The Phillipian said, “I was really excited to find out about the Clutch Collaborative because, had it existed when I was here, I would have been very excited to participate in such [events]… it really does instill in you the value of Non Sibi.”
Acharya said, “[I hope students leave with] an exposure to industry and [the realization] that it is not only just wanting to do something. It is also about actually doing it.”
Bloom dedicated his workshop, “Mindfulness and Environmentalism,” to discussing anxiety. After sharing his own journey to living a mindful and stress-free life, he invited participants to share their own anxieties and offered possible methods of resolution.
He said, “I think that many of the students here come from the sort of background where there’s a great expectation around achievement. Some of it may be spoken and some of it be unspoken but I thought it’d be a great idea to come and discuss what are their sources of anxiety, how it arises and to be honest and open about this.”
The “Kporma Liberian Girls Education Initiative” workshop, led by Dauda and Landford, focused on the increase of education access for girls in Liberia. After realizing the unfortunate situation of girls living in rural Liberia, the founders of Kporma began collecting clothing, shoes and feminine products. The program soon expanded to focus on education, taking note of their lack of access to school supplies and their parents’s inability to afford tuition, according to the Clutch Collaborative’s blog.
The annual Clutch Collaborative conference focuses on helping Andover students find ways to promote social change, which Rani Iyer ’15, Co-Chair of the Clutch Collaborative, defined as creating a difference that is impactful and visible within the community.
Alex Westfall ’15, Co-Chair of the Clutch Collaborative, said, “We really tried to get a variety of different kinds of organizations… just to show that social change can be in so many different things and that it is not just limited to one, single definition.”
Iyer added, “We called it ‘Clutchella’ also because we wanted people to get excited about social entrepreneurship the same way that we get excited about music festivals.”
This year, the Clutch Collaborative will also be sending out packets to all the conference attendees, summarizing the main points of each presentation and workshop in hopes of propelling a change on campus.
Serena Ren ’18, who attended the event, said, “The workshops really opened my eyes to the different types of social innovation and how businesses work. I really like the concept of ‘Clutchella,’ where it introduces us to how we can possibly make a difference in the world.”