Jena Rodriguez, a business and success strategist and the Founder of Brave Masters – a company committed to accelerating visibility, catapulting profits, and unleashing the entrepreneur’s full potential – shares to us what it means to be a Brave Master. As she dives into how you can step into your power and believe in yourself, she also points out the bravest thing you can do and how you can be more successful by taking that leap and overcoming your fears.
The Changemaker Project aims to train students on how to become exemplary and impactful leaders for the global community. Educator, artist, and entrepreneur AnnaLise Hoopes share more about the program as she talks about her interest in education for social change. Learn more about their education project and understand their cause and future plans as well as discover how you can get involved in today’s episode.
We have Jena Rodriguez and AnnaLise Hoopes here. Jena is a business and success strategist. She’s the Founder of Brave Masters. AnnaLise is the Founder of The Changemaker Project. The two of them have some unique companies that they’re working on. I’m looking forward to this discussion.
Listen to the podcast here:
Uncovering Bravery Through Brave Masters with Jena Rodriguez
I am here with Jena Rodriguez. She is a business and success strategist and Founder of Brave Masters. She teaches, coaches, consults and has a shirt that says, “I’m a Brave Master,” in her picture, which was fascinating to me. I want to know more about what that means. Welcome to the show, Jena.
I want to know what it means to be a Brave Master. Before we get to that, in case people aren’t familiar with you, give a background of what’s your story.
Thank you so much for having me on the show. My winding road story certainly started in a somewhat turbulent childhood sprinkled with domestic violence. I start out heavy with that. There’s a reason that I should bring that up because that’s why bravery started to show up for me. From that, I started college at sixteen. I jumped into education and things that I could control. I had dual major, Accounting and Fashion Design. How do you do that? I don’t know. I found myself in Corporate America for about eight or nine years as a controller but I always had this inclination to do something on my own. I was always a leader. I was always moving up in management because I always had my ideas and I always wanted to create for myself and others.
In 2006, I took the leap of faith into entrepreneurship and bought a storefront, which I thought was brilliant because it brought together my passion. I was also a makeup artist at one time and I could do the accounting, branding and marketing. I had a two-year-old, so I wasn’t sleeping. I bought the storefront so it had already existed, but one year later, I found myself two months behind on my rent and not able to pay my employees. I was bleeding cash. There were nine stores in the square that I was in that had closed and moved out. I was like, “What am I going to do here?” I found myself $700,000 in debt, almost $1 million between all of the inventory, the leases and the loans. I was at another crossroad in my life and it was bittersweet. It was like, “What did I do?” I risked everything. I jumped into this and believed in myself, all of that but the numbers aren’t lining up.
What was your product again?
It was a women’s boutique. It was storefront, brick and mortar. The bottom line is I had to decide what to do and there were very limited choices because I was capped out with the capital and the financial side. I had to close the store and that came with a cost. That was bankruptcy. At eight years old, I remember my mother had to file bankruptcy at the time of the divorce. As an eight-year-old, I’m making it wrong. I’m making it worse. It’s my worst fear ever like the world’s going to end. It was quite ironic when I look back at it. I do know that sometimes those fears that don’t make sense end up coming true if you don’t uncover what those fears are. All to say, that led me to what’s next. When I woke up the next day, I knew one thing. I did not want to work for someone else.
I had to figure out what can I do to continue to work for myself. My husband was a musician, but he was also running a part–time. He was running a web and graphic design company. That was like, “I can do this. I can help you sell. I can help you market. I can do some design work.” We partnered for five years. We quadrupled that business, so that was good, and made a living together doing that. I found myself at another crossroad in 2012 where I was like, “I want more. I want to do it differently. I want to coach, strategize, motivate and inspire people and work with people differently, more of an agency model.” I shifted gears again and we’ve rebranded. I fired my husband, which means I said, “I’m going to take over the business. I’m here. You don’t want to do websites anymore and you want to go back to music full–time. Go do that.” It was a hard time. Not to make it light, it was a very hard time for us because our identities were tied to it. This is what we wake up and do together.
We had a big transition, but it was all worth it and we’re still standing, especially in the marriage and here we are. Six, seven years later, I’m doing more coaching and strategizing. Brave Masters is where I landed. Two years ago, I rebranded to Brave Masters. What I saw is that I am having a bigger conversation. I’m here to help people step into their greatest potential. What brave for me is facing the fears, having the resilience, removing the resistance and stepping into your power and the belief in yourself. What I recognize was my whole life, the thread that you can weave between everything I’ve been through, everything I’ve chosen was brave. It started back at the beginning of my story at fourteen when I was done being a part of the domestic violence in the household with my mother’s boyfriend. I was like, “I’m moving out.” One of the biggest brave moments that I have is being able to look at your mother in the face at fourteen.
I have a fourteen-year-old daughter. I can’t imagine my daughter coming to me and going, “I’m out,” but it was the right thing to do. What I also learned was that when you’re brave, when you step into the hard things and when you make those tough decisions, you go after what you want for yourself and what’s best for you, it has a ripple effect. The best thing that came out of that, I wouldn’t have seen it before I made the decision to move out at fourteen, but my mother left the man permanently after five years and she got her brave on. It changed the trajectory of our lives with that one act of bravery. When I look back at my life, I saw that I am a brave master. Being a master doesn’t mean I’m done and I figured it all out. It means that I’m committed to being brave and putting my self–interest in front of worrying about what everybody else is going to think, and that’s not an easy thing to do. You care, you’re concerned, you have things that you want to care about, make sure that are okay and all those things. When I look at entrepreneurs especially, leaders and thought leaders, I believe they are brave masters. I don’t think this is an easy way. I think this is the brave way and here we are.
When you tell that story, there are many things that come to my mind. First of all, you have to be brave to buy a storefront. Did you have a great action plan, a business plan that you thought was going to make you a ton of money? How much did that put you in debt right off the bat? How did you pay for it? All these questions are coming up because most people are afraid of losing their money. They’re afraid of what would happen if it didn’t work out. Did you have those thoughts then?
I did. I had the what-ifs and all of that. It was a $200,000 small business loan that was going to allow me to buy the storefront from the previous owner. It was built out. It had inventory to start with. It had assets, so therefore you buy that. Otherwise, if you started out on your own, you’d still be investing $200,000 if you started from scratch. I did my due diligence, or at least I thought I did. I went through the process of working through the financials and I did. I had a dream of multiple locations and like, “This could be amazing. I could create a brand that people would love to take apart in and create it.”
What do you think happened?
A couple of things. One, this was 2007 moving into 2008. When I started seeing the stores drop like flies, including anchor stores, meaning the big boxes like The Sharper Image and some of those names, I was like, “What is happening?” That was an issue. That was one of them. The other thing is you don’t know what you don’t know and there were things I did not know I didn’t know, even the asset purchase. If I had looked it back at that, I would not have paid $200,000. I would have paid $100,000. It still may have ended in the same result. It was still an extreme amount of money that I was trying to figure out how to pay. Capitalization is important. I was very dependent only on me. There wasn’t a savings plan. There wasn’t family to call on for a loan. It was me, my credit, my husband and that’s it. It’s a bootstrap. I didn’t know how to necessarily make more capital happen. I maxed everything out that I could possibly think of, from lines of credit to loans to credit cards and all of the above. That’s what accumulated.
How do you and your husband sleep knowing that’s going on? Was it freaking him out too? My husband would have freaked out over that.The bravest thing you can do is face yourself and deal with what you've got to deal with. Click To Tweet
He freaked out a little bit. In our dynamic, I am the money person because I’m the accountant. I count the dollars. He probably wasn’t as aware as I was other than I’d come home stressed every day going, “What do I do?” The truth of the matter is he was always supportive. He’ll say, “We’ll figure it out.” He wasn’t happy about the situation that this is what’s occurring but at some point, you end up in front of a bankruptcy attorney and going, “What are my options?” I didn’t go, “I’m going to do this.” I went and asked questions and I think that’s important for people to get. Find out information before you make the final decision. I was at a point where I have a whole lot of options because it was such an extreme amount. I walked in and told the attorney, “My child, my family, my car and my house, that’s all I want. That’s all that matters right now, my sanity. My sleep deprivation, you get rid of that too.”
She said, “One, do you want to keep the store going?” I said, “No, not really. I’m exhausted and I’m done.” She said, “Then there’s only one option if you want to protect yourself and protect those things that you listed that are important. You qualify.” I think that’s the other thing. I don’t know if people know that but there is a qualification process for bankruptcy. You don’t just go and sign up. I don’t know how strict it is, but I qualified and she said, “You’ll have to file a personal bankruptcy to get out from under this and walk away, go continue life and go take care of your child and what matters to you most.” I said, “Okay. I think that’s it. I need out of this.” Mentally and emotionally, I was very spent.
It’s tough to go to the next thing because that follows you.
It can follow you if you don’t have the right mindset if you don’t have the bravery and resilience.
How hard was it to get credit again?
It’s interesting. It’s a process. We were cash basis for many years which benefited us. I think it’s a good thing. I think the key to all of this is how do you look at it? How do you perceive it? Do you let the knockout knock you out of the career, the game? A boxer doesn’t get knocked out once and quit, though they can. I had such an awareness mentally of how this is going to play out based on how I look at it. I’ve been on a very transformational personal development path since I was a teenager trying to figure out how am I going to turn my life around based on where I came from. That’s what served me.
I think what’s saved me ultimately is being able to look at it and go, “This is happening not to me, but for me. What do I need to learn so that I can pick the pieces up and keep moving?” I’ve always been a fixer. I’ve always been pretty decisive. I keep moving, I don’t stop, but I had to reassess. The first priority was, how am I going to pay the mortgage? In my story, recall that I used to be a comptroller and my last corporate job was at a public accounting firm. One of the bravest things I did was suck in my pride and call my old boss and say, “I don’t want to be hired. I’m looking for contract work. You know my work. You know what I’m capable of. Do you have any clients that you would let me interview for or help you out with that are a contract basis so that I can get some cashflow?” He said, “Funny you should ask. I have two and you would be perfect for it.” Lesson number one, ask. Don’t burn bridges. I never have. You never know where you’re going to need them again.
Now, you help people find success in their life. You take what you’ve learned and you work as a coach and a consultant. You help coaches and consultants as well?
Yes. I’m moving into a space where I’ve gone through a massive transition. This move across country occurred and what I’ve found is I want to help people master their brave, master their resilience and master their life along with their business. Because I was so focused on business for quite a long time, I sacrificed my health and my relationship suffered for sure. Over this last year, I’ve realized that it’s important to have harmony and synergy inside of your life and business so that you’re not tipping the scale in only one direction. Having a successful business isn’t worth it if you’ve lost your health and your relationships. That comes from awareness. That comes from discipline. It comes from being committed to having it all work and I believe it can. Even myself, transparently I gained 90 pounds and I was like, “What is happening?” I struggled with it for fourteen years. I’m down 60 now. That’s very real and raw for me to share because one of the hardest things to admit to myself first was that I could figure this business thing out. I can figure out things, but why can’t I figure out this thing called my health and my self-care?
You’re accomplished in a particular area of your life but you’re not in something else and it’s like, “Why? What’s going on here?” You want to know that you can accomplish anything. There had to be a lot of emotional healing and spiritual healing, connecting to my higher self and being able to do that. Something I started in practice was meditating and getting quiet because I do believe that a lot of the decisions I’ve made over the last years, many of them have led me in the right direction. I think we’re always in the right direction because it’s there to teach us something. There were a lot of ego-driven decisions versus higher self decisions. I’m not saying that I didn’t listen to my gut, to my core feelings, values and things like that, but the message I want people to get is if you want to master life and business, we have to take inventory of our emotional, mental, spiritual, physical environment and our physical world. That can look like a business, a career and even your home environment. It’s something that I’ve wanted to create more synergy around not only for myself but for the people that I’ve worked with.
I don’t want them building a business for the sake of business and sacrificing everything else. I had to learn that the hard way. Clearly, I had to walk through the fire. I think that too is part of being a brave master. I always say that the bravest thing you can do is face yourself. It’s to look inside, deal with what you’ve got to deal with and be willing to look at the hard stuff and heal the hard stuff. That’s a lifetime process, but the moment you start that work and you’re willing to look inward, your outer world can change for the better. The results that you start to get, I do believe we create our reality and that was honestly the biggest shift. That bankruptcy, I was never a victim of it. I was clear that this was happening for me. I’m clear that the decisions I made brought me to that moment. It’s more about what are you going to do with it than, “This happened to me,” the victim. What’s gotten me on the other side of it is being able to have the right perspective.
We talk about the perception of failure and of, “Are you a victim? Is it a learning experience?” I think in organizations, they start to look at it more as a learning experience than they used to in the ‘80s. I remember if you failed, that was a big problem at the time. I like that your perception is your reality in many ways. You look at it as not the end of the world, but that you learn this major thing. I imagine if I ask you, would you go back and change it, would you?
The answer is no because it’s why I’m here where I am.
I expect that. Most people will say no when you ask that question. You think that the biggest thing that everyone needs to make that quantum leap is to have self-reflection. What’s the major thing that you want people to get out of all this?
I think it’s a matter of that self-reflection, facing yourself. I work with so many leaders and they have a multimillion-dollar business, but they’re stuck because they’re in their own way. If we’re not willing to take ownership of where we are, why we’re there and what are we going to do about it, then nothing on the outside matters. Meaning it’s something external versus that internal work that I think makes the biggest difference. When I started at a new level, I’ve always been pretty self-reflective. However, I started to take it to another level and owning my true north as I call it, owning what my gut is saying and following it with faith. I have a hashtag called #GutAndFaith. I have a new shirt, “I am a brave master and I got faith.” When I started doing that very intently, then the truth of things started to show up. What was right for me for the sake of my growth and my expansion showed up because I could hear it.
I think we operate so much through ego because it’s there to protect us. It’s there to mitigate risk and all of that, which we’re never going to get rid of. I believe that being self-aware and living consciously is the key to being a brave master and being fulfilled and purpose–driven and all those things that we say we want. Until you’re willing to do the work that it takes to have that, it’s a practice. I have people in my life that read the books, know what I am saying, they speak the same language but they’re not in practice and their lives reflect it. It’s hard for me to watch because clearly, I’m not perfect and I’m not done. I haven’t figured it all out but it’s painful to watch because it’s like, “We talk the language, but you’re not practicing it.”
I also have to be forgiving of that and be graceful about it because it’s their journey to follow. It’s not our individual responsibility to try to change someone else’s life. The key is being willing to live consciously no matter how painful it might be because when you live consciously, you actually have to live in a space of integrity and a place of understanding self before you respond and not blaming everyone for what you have in your life and your existence. It’s a tough direction. I’ve come through being a victim. I blamed everybody, my dad, my mom, the boyfriend that she had. Now it’s, “Thank you.”
You take all these things and what you make of them. I know all the work you’re doing is going to be interesting to a lot of people that want to get to a point where you have managed to get, to learn a lesson and you make it, so they don’t have to have to reinvent the wheel. I think a lot of people want to know how they can learn more from you. Is there a website or information you’d like to share?
Number one, you can always go to BraveMasters.com. I’m on all of the social media platforms. I would love to connect with people. Probably the most active, engaging, place they can come is to my Brave Entrepreneur Facebook group, which is BraveMasters.com/bravefb. It will direct them to the group. DM me, private message me if you want. I have business strategy and life strategy. I’m in the process of developing a book, which is a lot about the resilience and unpacking the resistance so that you can actually step into the fullest brave that you are.
Thanks, Jena. This has been so much fun having you.
I appreciate it.
The Changemaker Project: Social Change Through Students with AnnaLise Hoopes
I am here with AnnaLise Hoopes who is an educator, an artist and an entrepreneur. She has a BA in Philosophy from Notre Dame. She has an EdM from Harvard and a teaching credential. She has been an elementary school teacher, nonprofit director and sustainable foods startup founder. She sold that in 2017 and launched The Changemaker Project because she believes in the power of young people to change the world. I’m excited to have you here, AnnaLise, welcome.
Thank you, Diane. I’m excited to be here.
I was saying you’re the first AnnaLise other than that TV show, which made the name popular. It’s a very unique name. Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Northern Wisconsin but I moved to California years ago.
You’ve got quite a pedigree, Notre Dame, Harvard. You find good schools. What was that like going to Harvard? I’m always curious what that experience was like.
Going to Harvard was a great experience. I studied Education and their Education Department to me was aligned with what I wanted to be studying. There are a lot of professors there who care about education for social change, which is my passion. I had a great experience there. I did a one–year Master’s program.
When you talk about your interest in education for social change, what exactly do you mean by that for those who aren’t familiar?
It’s all about how can we educate the next generation to be equipped to solve the problems of our time. Thinking about here in 2019, there’s no shortage of problems in the world. We have everything from climate change, global poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, you name it, isms. It’s thinking about how we can reach young people to help them understand what are the problems in the world and equip them to have the tools, the skills and the resources to create change in the world and be innovators themselves.We are born with a lot of natural curiosity that is unfortunately lost as we go through the schooling system. Click To Tweet
As you talk about innovation, my research is in the area of curiosity. I would like to see that developed more because no matter who I reach, where I research or who I interview, everything like drive, innovation, creativity keeps coming back to developing curiosity. A lot of people have said that creativity and curiosity have been educated out of us in the system. Do you agree with that? I’m curious with your insight on that.
I certainly think we are born with a lot of natural curiosity that is unfortunately lost as we go through the schooling system. A great example of this is my nephew. He’s three years old and he has this fascination with dinosaurs. He’s obsessed with every different kind of dinosaur. All he wants me to do and all he ever said is, “Auntie, will you read the dinosaur encyclopedia to me?” He wants to learn and he knows the name of every dinosaur you can imagine. He knows much more than I do. I feel like he could have a PhD in Paleontology at this point and he’s only three and a half. To see that natural curiosity, that thirst for knowledge and thirst for learning, I wish that all kids could have that as they go through school, if we could somehow figure out a way to retain that, that natural curiosity that kids are born with.
In the studies I saw up until about age five, they keep it strong and then it starts to decline quite strongly after that. In your Changemaker Project, what age group are you dealing with? To change the world, you believe in the power of this group. What age are you starting to work with people?
We work primarily with high school students. Our program and our challenge are open to students age 13 to 24.
I work on a board of advisors for Leader Kid, which is K12 working with developing emotional intelligence and a lot of soft skills. Are you focusing on soft skills? What things are you focusing on? How does the program work? Let’s start with that.
To give you an overview of the program, we educate students about a variety of social and environmental injustices. This ranges from problems related to the environment, climate change, habitat destruction, plastic pollution and things like that to issues focused on people, social injustices and also on animals and the animal exploitation that occurs in various industries and so forth. We educate them about these different issues through an online course that they can sign up for. Students can participate from anywhere in the world. That’s part of the benefit of the online course. They learn about these issues and for every topic that we present, we also present a featured Changemaker, someone who’s out there making change on the particular issue that we’re talking about. It’s not all gloom and doom. Here are all the terrible issues happening and here are young people who are solving them to give them role models and help them to see themselves as future leaders and innovators.
They go through that portion of the course. They learn about all these topics and they work in a small team. They decide on one topic that they want to focus on. Maybe it’s plastic pollution in the ocean, for example. They take that forward and then we take them through Stanford’s design thinking process. This is an innovative way of creatively solving a problem. It’s all based on empathy. In terms of soft skills, I would say empathy is the biggest skill that we empathize. We believe that in order to effectively solve a problem and help someone, you have to understand what life is like in their shoes. You have to get into their shoes. You have to understand what their needs are, how they feel on a day–to–day basis, what their challenges are.
Once you can understand that through empathy interviews, for example, you can start to generate solutions. You can start to figure out, “Here’s the exact problem that we want to try to figure out how to solve,” and then we take them through the cycle of iteration, prototyping, testing their design and going through this iterative loop of going back to empathy as a continuous thread that runs through it to try to create a solution to a problem that innovatively makes a difference.
I had watched Scott Harrison’s videos. He created the Charity: Water. I don’t know if you follow them and all. It’s fascinating to see how people fall into some of these life-changing ways of doing things for the world. Are you looking to create people like Scott who goes out and does that thing or in general, with people in their day in and day out lives?
Yes, certainly. Our students are already making a huge impact in their communities. Once they create their projects, they get to pitch for funding. We have a big global pitch event. That’s where we bring them in front of folks, investors and philanthropists who have the funds and want to invest in young people. They get to come up on stage, pitch their idea, get funded, then take it forward. We already have students who are making a huge impact in their own communities. My hope is that will continue. To me, if we can nurture this sense of leadership and confidence in students to see themselves as changemakers at such a young age, I believe that, what will they do after that? To me, it’s a springboard for a lifetime committed to social change and being a leader on that front.
Is this a nonprofit or for-profit?
It’s a nonprofit.
Do the schools pay for this? How does this work?
Typically, schools pay a small fee. We try to keep it at a low cost. It’s about $20 per student to participate. We essentially run on individual donations. I’ve been running a program for a year and a half. I’m a full–time volunteer. I have two other jobs that keep me busy and help me pay my bills. We are definitely in the process of trying to fundraise so that I can get a salary and be able to do this full–time.
Do you foresee this as being a major thing that continues on and not just your part-time thing?
You’re already in nineteen countries.
In the last few years, we’ve reached over 500 students in nineteen countries.
How do you reach them? How did you go about doing that?
It’s been through a combination of using grassroots word of mouth through my own network, getting in touch with teachers or friends who know teachers. I used to be an educator so I have somewhat of a network there and also reaching out to hundreds of schools around the world. We reach out to international schools primarily because their default language is English in the curriculum. We work with a lot of international schools and networks of international schools, that’s how we’ve been able to have such a broad reach geographically.
One of my books on curiosity is a required reading at Africa University and in different places like that. I could see that they could benefit from that at the university level. Are you working with university students too? You said you started with high school age. How high up does it go? Does it go into undergrad or grad?
We started the first year with high school students and we did a small pilot at UC, Berkeley. We had to change upon because we’re based here in Berkeley. We partnered with the Education Department here and they hosted an event for us where students could get together like a hackathon for social justice. That went well and we’d like to expand that to other universities as well in the future.
I could see that it would be a good location for this. This is fascinating. Do you have a board and everything all put together?
We have a board of directors.
I’m curious about what some of the projects that you’re proud of that the students have created.
Students can create anything that they dream up, whether it’s an art project, computer science projects and service projects in their community or an invention. To give you a sampling, we had some students in India who were teaching vocational skills to local high school students who came from a very low-income background or a low-income school so that when they graduate from high school, they can have real jobs skills that can earn them a living. Another example is some students in San Francisco are designing a necklace that you can dip into your drink to find out if it has a date rape drug in it. That’s more of the biology, chemistry and engineering side of things. We had another group here in Berkeley that designed a website to showcase and explore the opioid epidemic in America. They created this beautiful interactive map where you can see the impact of this affliction and how it affects families. They did interviews. They have this beautiful website with resources. Nothing like this existed before for the opiate epidemic. It was innovative and I think it will make a real impact in terms of policy changes and things like that.
What do you think is the hardest part of creating this? You’ve had a startup before. What’s different about The Changemaker Project?
I think the biggest learning curve for me is the fundraising piece. That’s what’s been the greatest challenge because as one person on my own, I have a couple of part-time interns. We’re partnering with Columbia University to have a student in their Social Work Department work with us part–time but by large, I’m on my own. I have to focus my energy on running the program, developing the curriculum, recruiting the school partnerships, designing the website and all of these things that you have to do to keep it running. The fundraising piece has been a challenge. Finding the time to sit down and apply for grants, find individual donors and do all of that marketing that goes along with it, that’s been something that’s been a challenge for me.
I mentioned the Charity: Water story. The reason this is coming up again is there’s a story about how he did all that. He used his background too. He worked in clubs to get night clubs stocked with people. That what his background was. I think a lot of people have a background where you have connections in certain ways. You had connections and education and it often helps to have board members who are good at sales and marketing in your board of advisors and that type of thing. I’ve been seeing more of startups getting going with all that. I know that in California, they have the latest law of having more women on boards. Does that impact what you are doing in terms of what you’re looking for in your board memberships?
Yeah, definitely. We have a small board. It’s myself and two folks. We have a woman and a man, and my two other board members, a woman of color. My goal as we expand the board is to have as much diversity as possible both in terms of gender, race, income level and diversity of ideas, backgrounds. That’s important to me as we expand. Our board is pretty small, but that’s something to think about for the future.It's important to have harmony and synergy inside of your life and business so that you're not tipping the scale in only one direction. Click To Tweet
I think Joe Lurie is out of Berkeley and he was on my show. I know that in that area, you get some innovative ideas of what people are creating. I’m curious about what is your overall vision is for The Changemaker Project in five years. Do you have a bigger scope of where you’d like to go eventually?
Yeah, definitely. I think my central vision is for the students to walk away from our program and are able to see a problem in the world and say, “I can solve that. I have the skills to be a changemaker.” They go ahead and do it. They feel that confidence and that encouragement to be able to go out into the world and solve problems. In terms of practical thinking about the logistics of our program going forward, one thing that I would like to see is a global pitch event on every continent. Our pitch event is here in the bay area and we have students video conference from Africa, Europe and Asia. I’d like to have in-person events in each of those places where students can actually pitch to their local funders, participate in the events in their own site and to be able to build out those international programs.
The reason Joe Lurie’s name came to my mind is that he was with the International House at California, Berkeley. Have you had a chance to work with them at all? It seems the connections they might have there would be helpful to you.
That’s a great idea. That’s down the street from my house. I definitely should reach out to him. Thank you.
He’s fascinating. He writes about perception, which I read and I was fascinated in what he did and the whole connectivity of what he learned from his international travels and how to meet people in the way that they’d like to be reached and understand the different cultural differences. This book’s quite good. You might enjoy that. I always like to share what ties in from other people in other shows into what people are doing because what you’re doing is fascinating. I get many people who deal with different social issues. Sometimes some of them are controversial like climate change. Do you feel like you’re picking on topics that you might get beat up a little bit from certain sides because there’s not a total agreement on some of this? Have you run into any of that?
Not so far. We haven’t run into that but I think what I encourage students to do is have disagreements, have arguments. We have an online forum. Part of our curriculum to students when they learn about a topic is there’s always a discussion question. There’s a whole forum that goes beneath each question where students are answering the questions and having debates and arguments. What I see is valuable in our program is that students from different continents, different countries and cultures are interacting on this forum and debating these issues. I think it’s valuable for the students to be able to see a different perspective from a different place in a different context. To be able to understand and learn from that is helpful for them and there’s no right or wrong answer. We present different resources to them. They learn about them, share their opinion and they might disagree with the other students in the forum and that’s okay. Everybody has their own ideas and their own opinions on the world and that’s a good thing.
I’ve taught a lot of Ethics courses and they’re fun because you get to play devil’s advocate. No matter what the students wrote, I would go the opposite direction to see what they would respond because it helps them develop their sense of empathy and it helps them see outside of their own reality. Our perception is so much influenced. It’s important to look at failure, to look at blame, forgiveness and all the things that people deal with that we only look at it from our own little corner. I like not only that you’re opening up the creative qualities, but also the critical thinking skills. Is that a big focus, critical thinking?
Yeah, definitely. We want students to be able to look at a problem from every angle, see what might be an obstacle and see what might be a different perspective that they haven’t thought about before. When you’re solving a problem, critical thinking is important to be able to look at it from different angles and evaluate what are some possible solutions to this, what might be the consequences and think through it in an intentional way.
Are you seeing different levels of people’s abilities based on their location? Is it pretty much the same age-wise across the board? Does vocation make a big difference in their ability to think critically and in an open–minded way?
I would say it’s too early to make any generalizations. I think students all vary in the ways that they approached problems but I see that they’re learning from each other. I think the pushback helps having a student disagree with you and say, “What about this or that?” It pushes their thinking and makes them think about things differently. I think that’s been helpful.
How much of these are virtual interactions? Is there much in person?
Every school has a team advisor. That’s usually a teacher at the school or a staff member at the school who supports the team having in-person sessions in the classroom. The program can be run either as an after school club, as a voluntary thing or it can be done actually in the curriculum. We have teachers of all backgrounds from Computer Science to History to Language Arts to Visual Arts. Anyone who teaches project–based learning can implement our curriculum directly into their classroom instruction because it dovetails well with project–based learning and helps students. What we’ve found is teachers appreciate our curriculum because it pushes the student’s thinking further and it makes their projects take on a whole new level of sophistication. They’re solving a real-world problem that matters that they can get fired up about. It can be done in different ways and definitely there’s a lot of support at the school site and also support from us on the virtual side through the online course. We also do meetings, face–to–face through Google Meet where they can all meet each other and talk about the issues that they’re passionate about.
I had Dr. Jeff Bordes on my show with Dr. Maja Zelihic. You might be interested in Jeff’s company, Astria Learning. He creates a lot of the curriculum for universities around the globe. I could see that that would be something that he might be interested in and people like him who creates this content for international education. There are a few people I should have you look into.
You’re welcome. I think all of them might offer you a lot of insight on where to take this. I know you have #BeTheChange and that you’re doing some amazing things out there. Is there a site or information you want to share so that people can have more information?
Folks can check out our website. It’s called TheChangemakerProject.org. I think if you google The Changemaker Project, it will come up. There you can learn about how to get involved either as a teacher, pointing us to a teacher that you might know or a student or if you wanted to sign as a monthly donor and us to do the great work that we’re doing.
What you’re doing is amazing and I am glad you were able to share it. I hope everybody takes some time to check out your site. Thank you, AnnaLise.
Thank you so much for having me, Diane. I appreciate it.
I like to thank both Jena and on AnnaLise for being my guests. We get many great guests on this show. You can find out more about my work with curiosity and everything on that site. I hope you do that. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
- Brave Masters
- The Changemaker Project
- Charity: Water
- Joe Lurie – previous episode
- Dr. Jeff Bordes – previous episode
- Dr. Maja Zelihic – previous episode
- Astria Learning
About Jena Rodriguez
Jena Rodriguez, a Business and Success Strategist and founder of Brave Masters, Inc is committed to helping entrepreneurs worldwide speak up and scale their passion-focused businesses, overcome their fears, and unpack their natural gifts to live out their greatest potential. She teaches coaches and consultants on how to capitalize on their “natural” abilities and package and price their greatest strengths so that they can create a money-making, world-changing business.
About AnnaLise Hoopes
AnnaLise Hoopes is an educator, artist, and entrepreneur. She holds a BA in philosophy and art from the University of Notre Dame, an EdM from Harvard University, and a CA teaching credential. She has been an elementary school teacher, a nonprofit director, and a sustainable foods startup founder. In 2017 she sold her startup and launched The Changemaker Project because she believes in the power of young people to change the world. Over the past 1.5 years, The Changemaker Project has served over 500 students in 19 countries, helping youth to design innovative solutions to social injustices, and truly #bethechange they wish to see in the world.
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