Celebrate changemakers and young changemakers-to-be! Kindred spirits will gather to share ideas, collaborate, and be inspired at the Young Changemakers Expo on Dec. 7, from 3-5 p.m at the Boston Children's Museum. Co-hosted by Ashoka, City Awake Boston, and FableVision, the afternoon will empower young changemakers to share their stories, and prompt them to dream up their mission.

We recently chatted with Fernande Raine, Senior Changeleader, Northeast Director of Ashoka and the brainpower behind this event. She shared what’s inspired her to unite young changemakers from the Boston area. 

Fernande Raine of Ashoka.

Fernande Raine of Ashoka.

Tell us a little bit about your role at Ashoka and the work the organization does.
Ashoka is a unique organization—it’s part talent scout, investing great social entrepreneurs, part think tank, looking for patterns in the innovations we find around the world, and part movement, working towards a world in which everyone is a changemaker. We believe that in the rapidly changing world we are in, new rules apply. It’s not about hierarchy and silos, it’s about many leaders and fluid adaptation. We have not only the opportunity but the obligation to ensure that everyone has the skills they need to participate and succeed. Social entrepreneurs are still part of our work as great role models for empowering others, but we also work with schools, universities, entrepreneurs, and multinational corporations to help them lead in this new game. 

As for my role, like most Ashoka people, I have had several roles, since we all are hired to be entrepreneurs within the organization. I’ve launched two country programs and designed the organization’s global People Team. I am now working on a global strategy for how to help cities develop as ecosystems for changemaking. 

How did Ashoka’s path happen to cross with FableVision’s?
I was being given a tour of Citizen Schools, a wonderful organization housed in the same building, and my guide pointed out FableVision’s offices. The creative energy was radiating out of the door into the hallway, and I felt an immediate desire to plug into the source. I went home and wrote them an email asking for a chance to meet Paul and Peter H. Reynolds, FableVision’s co-founders. We immediately felt a deep kindred spirit connection, and we have been looking for an excuse to collaborate on something concrete ever since. 

What is a changemaker?
I think of a changemaker as an individual driven to help solve the world's most pressing problems, either locally, or on a large scale. Changemakers create or join teams and enable others to join in. They have empathy for the needs of others, and translate that into an idea that they execute effectively. They feel, practice, and develop their power to make the world better.

Were you a changemaker as a child? Do you have a memory that stands out from when you did a positive action to evoke change?
I was an enthusiastic, but unsuccessful changemaker as a child. My father was always very encouraging of our efforts to take on causes you care about, but beyond carrying out fake wars in the playground, I didn’t find much to fight for. When I was in seventh grade, I moved from New York City to Duesseldorf, Germany. I spent a large portion of my middle and high school years trying to recreate things I had loved and missed about my old school, like a drama club, chamber music society, and year book. The drama club failed, and the chamber music group was terrible, but the year book happened, and I came out of high school with a sense that if you have an idea, you can make anything happen. Otherwise, I channeled my changemaking energy into being a serial class-president and advocating for students. What I also took with me was a really deep understanding of history. I have always had amazing history teachers who opened my eyes to the power of humans to create both progress and misery, and helped me see my obligation to society to care, think, and act as a force of good for all mankind.

What prompted you to want to organize the first Young Changemakers Expo?
We had been dreaming up a festival of young changemakers since last fall, but without the resources or concrete vision to follow through. Then, a few weeks back, a group of young entrepreneurs—including Katie Schulz and Justin Kang—approached me about their City Awake festival project and asked whether Ashoka would be able to host an event. My first question was: how are you showcasing kids as changemakers? And this idea was born. The vision was clear from the first moment: in the Boston Children’s Museum, with FableVision. Paul immediately jumped on board and gave his unconditional support, bringing along the Children’s Museum as well.

How does Ashoka work with City Awake? Any other events on the horizon?
Ashoka is a partner of the festival, and a particularly enthusiastic cheerleader of the founding team. We fully embrace the mission and vision of the festival, and are thrilled at its genesis and ambition. We are hosting a fabulous event with five of our most amazing fellows (leading social entrepreneurs) on Dec. 6 at District Hall at 6 p.m., in which we will engage them in a conversation about how to think big. This isn’t about celebrating them as heroes, it’s about hearing about the role of empathy in their work, how they empower others, and how they think about systems change. 

What youth-led projects should people expect to see at the Changemakers Expo? 
We are still collecting presenters, but there will be everything from a fifth grader mobilizing volunteers across the city, to a youth group spreading environmental awareness, with everything in between.

How can people participate?
Everyone can participate in the movement to build a world of empathy and changemaking. If you’re a parent, you should value those skills as much as you value math and science, because they will be key to your kid’s success in the future. If you’re a young person, be brave, care, and come up with ideas for how to make things better. 

In terms of this event, anyone can come and learn from the kids who are showcasing their work: how they got started, what drives them, and what we can do to support them. Young people who have a project going on can showcase it (please send us your application before December 1!) and are encouraged to use the ideation space in the expo to work on formulating their own passion and ideas. Contact me if you have any questions!