Welcome, 2015 Center for Global Policy Solutions Greenhouse!

A warm welcome to our 2015 CGPS Public Voices Thought Leaders – we are thrilled to have you in the brain trust! This year’s cohort includes researchers and advocates from around the nation working on racial and economic equity. Our fabulous team, Deborah Douglas and Michele Weldon, led the 1.5 day launch.

We’re excited to spend the next three months with this amazing group. Onward!

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Write to Change the World, NYC – May 3, 2015

Today’s unnamedNew York City Write to Change the World seminar brought together experts from a wide range of fields and organizations. The group included faculty and staff from Princeton, University of Wisconsin Superior, and NYU, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and the co-chair of Out of the Binders. The OpEd Project was recently the Keynote speaker at Out of the Binder’s BinderCon, a symposium which aims to empower women and gender non‑conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers.

The OpEd Project’s newest Mentor-Editor, Adaora Udoji, also joined today’s program. As new OpEd Project alums, all participants will have access to The OpEd Project’s national network of high-level mentor editors, which includes over 100 media thought leaders at the highest levels, across all platforms—from editors to bloggers, from Genius grant winners to weekly columnists  to war correspondents and Pulitzer Prize winners. Mentor-Editors are an excellent tool — they nearly double alums’ odds of success.


Write to Change the World: DC – April 11, 2015

What do we know? Why does it matter? How can we have more impact? What does it take to be influential on a large scale?

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These are just some of the core questions we explored at the dynamic, day-long Write to Change the World seminar in DC on April 11. Attending the program were impressive experts from a range of different fields and organizations, including Third Way, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the American Constitution Society. We also had two Aspen Institute Fellows from Africa join us; Dr. SAS Kargbo is a senior official with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Abraham Leno is the DRCongo Director, American Refugee Committee.

Want to join us next time? We’ll be in DC again on July 11.

We run Write to Change the World seminars in 10 major U.S. cities on a rotating basis. Visit our website to find other upcoming cities and dates.

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So what was ‘Write to Change the World’ like, Michelle?

Michelle Bata attended our Write to Change the World seminar in NYC in March. The seminar challenged her to think more carefully and expansively about her knowledge and experience, and why it matters:


I spend my days teaching college students how to think of themselves as experts on their own lives, so Saturday’s session was a real gut check for me to think about how I model that for the students with whom I work.

As the inaugural director of Clark University’s Center for Liberal Education and Effective Practice, my job is to prepare students to lead meaningful lives through personal and professional development.

In particular, Saturday’s session made me think about some of the female students I’ve encountered, and the degrees to which they’ve expressed shame, a lack of confidence, or even hesitation about their backgrounds and experiences.  The workshop made me reflect on the ways in which they have held themselves back, self-selected out of opportunities, and committed various acts of self-sabotage all because they couldn’t recognize the value of their own experience, and dare I say the value of their own voice.

And how can I expect that from them if I don’t practice what I preach?

So what I’m taking away from day is that I have an obligation to hone my professional development, share my expertise, and support others as they work towards similar goals.  And, I have an obligation to do so because of my experience, my privilege, and my position as a model to others.

But what I’m really taking away is the inspiration that comes from learning that I can do this.  And that is the most valuable aspect of this seminar of all.

Want to join us next time? We have a Write to Change the World seminar coming up in NYC on May 3. Visit out website for more details.

We are also hosting a writing group for NYC alums on the third Wednesday of every month. For more details, please contact Ruby at intern@theopedproject.org. 

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Last night’s NYC alum writing group.

Advice from a journalist: How to jump into the conversation

KalinDeb“The goal is to transform data into information and information into insight.” — Carly Fiorina

Still wondering how to get news hooks to work for you? Well, Dr. Kali Gross, a 2015 University of Texas at Austin Public Voices Fellow, offers some insight into using the news as a way to step into the public conversation with relevance and insight.

In her latest piece about Cookie Lyon, the just-released-from-prison mother and ex-wife played by the fierce Taraji Henson on the hit TV show “Empire,” Kali uses timing and temperature (of the public conversation) to make a consistently killer argument about mass incarceration and black women. Here are her “secrets.”

  • She moved fast: Kali wrote this in 24 hours, while people were still talking about the season finale of “Empire.”
  • She finds new points of entry to a recurrent theme: the intersection of black women, violence and mass incarceration of black bodies. “Empire” is just one point of many.
  • She feels valued and at her chosen outlet of choice: The Huffington Post. She’s making the most of this by building a brand identity there by leveraging the heck out of her theme and posting there regularly.
  • Her larger theme — mass incarceration — now has a place in the public imagination thanks to the foundation of other thought-leaders, namely Michelle Alexander of “New Jim Crow” fame, so Kali’s building that out in a big way.

Kali stays true to her thematic foundation, but she also engages the elasticity of time, giving audiences what they crave (more Cookie) — and more by taking something highly entertaining, much talked about and considered fluff to some, spinning it till it’s a matter a life and death. Because it is.

Now, that’s how you enter a public conversation.

Kali Nicole Gross is a Public Voices Fellow and an associate professor and associate chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at The University of Texas at Austin. Deborah Douglas is an OpEd Project senior facilitator with the Public Voices Fellowship there.