"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."- Buckminster Fuller
Last year, we asked people what they would do if they had a year, without interference, to work on their big idea. The new Nathan Cummings Fellowship would offer people time, space, and staff support.
Last week, out of hundreds of impressive applicants, we chose three.
Andrew Slack, Saqib Bhatti, and Margot Brandenburg are the inaugural class of Nathan Cummings Fellows. They are an inspiring trio.
Each of them begins with a simple question. Andrew wonders why the devoted fans of fictional characters like Harry Potter, don't more often direct their extraordinary energy towards solving some of the world’s most stubborn challenges. Saqib wonders why banks, recently bailed out by taxpayers, are making huge profits at the expense of broke cities and states. Margot wonders why we don’t tap the power of the markets and the good will of well-meaning employers to impact low wage workers and advance our values.
Simple questions, but not simple propositions. Their responses could achieve what all of us in the social change sector are seeking: a shift in the balance of power. Banks that serve the public. Millions of fans in a frenzy about peace on earth. market interests aligned with social and environmental interests.
This is exactly what we were hoping for when creating the fellowship. A chance to take a calculated risk in pursuit of incalculable rewards.
Steve Jobs once famously said that “if anyone is going to make our products obsolete, I want it to be us.” If the Nathan Cummings Fellows are successful, their victories may come at a cost to the existing social change infrastructure. Millions of new activists from diverse backgrounds; private sector actors harnessing markets; partnering with rather than protesting banks. We are hoping they will shake things up, which is why these innovators will be living with us, working with us, and challenging us for the next twelve months.
I look forward to the opportunity to introduce you to all three of them in person.
P.S. Click here to download the press release we are sending out later today