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Solvers

Solvers features interviews with people who are dealing with big, global problems that are entrenched, complex, messy, and always urgent. But none of that stops them. They’ve rolled up their sleeves and gotten straight to work. How do they remain resilient in the face of immensely complex problems that have spanned generations? How do they keep going when the issues they work on are bigger than their own lifetimes? Hosted by Courtney E. Martin and Nguhi Mwaura, and brought to you by the Skoll Foundation in partnership with Aspen Ideas.

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Halla Tómasdóttir: Can Capitalism Save the Planet?

Capitalism has arguably accelerated many of the world’s problems, from climate change to economic exclusion. What role can—and should—it play in accelerating solutions? Halla Tómasdóttir of The B Team offers up a new spin on capitalism: one driven not only by short-term profit, but also by the wellbeing of people and the planet. She’s working within the profit-driven system, from the top down, on what she calls “radical collaboration” between the private sector, civil society, and governments.Halla helped to found a university, launched her own investment firm, ran for president of her home country of Iceland, and is no stranger to the silo effect between sectors. Now, as CEO of the B Team, which she describes as “a group of courageous business and civil society leaders working together to transform business for a better world,” she’s rallying companies across disciplines to collaborate on solutions to the globe’s most pressing problems. She speaks with Nguhi—a self-described skeptic of capitalism—about the potential for change in a system largely responsible for the things that need changing.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/06/23/solvers-episode-10-halla-tomasdottir-can-capitalism-save-the-planet/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

38mins

24 Jun 2021

Rank #1

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Garrett Bucks: The Role of White People in Anti-Racist Work

Garrett Bucks founded The Barnraisers Project, an organization that “equips people who’ve never thought of themselves as organizers with the tools to move their social networks from denial and defensiveness to action.” Like any meaningful anti-racism work, it requires participants—in this case white people—to sustain discomfort and be willing to stare down stark truths that are easier to turn away from. But he believes personal turmoil is necessary in order to achieve meaningful change.The way Garrett sees it, America was founded with two gaping holes in its heart -- cavities created by the acts of enslaving Black people and taking land from Indigenous communities. Many generations later, Garrett believes it’s critical for white people to address the problems their ancestors created, and that white people continue to sustain. Courtney talks with Garrett about how it’s possible to find joy in the work required to become the person—and the country—we say we want to be.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/06/17/solvers-episode-nine-garrett-bucks-the-role-of-white-people-in-anti-racist-work/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

47mins

17 Jun 2021

Rank #2

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Colette Pichon Battle: Lessons from the Bayou on Climate Change and Community Power

Step foot into Louisiana's bayous and you’ll smell the strong scent of azaleas even before you smell the cooking. Amidst the sweet fragrance of flowers and mouth-watering cuisine, an odious history of racial division sits in the foreground of these communities on the frontlines of climate change. For lawyer and activist Colette Pichon Battle, growing up in this cocktail of complexity and beauty has greatly informed her work to dismantle structural racism exacerbated by climate change. As founder and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Colette supports and activates local communities affected by climate change through regional, multi-racial alliances using everything from legal services to sacred pilgrimages down the Mississippi River. She’s harnessing the power of community, spirituality, and indigenous knowledge to tackle the issues threatening our very humanity—racial injustice, climate change, and economic exclusion. Colette joins Nguhi for a spiritual, yet grounded, conversation on what we can learn from not only the land, but those who have lived on it longest.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/06/10/solvers-episode-eight-colette-pichon-battle/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

37mins

10 Jun 2021

Rank #3

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Priti Krishtel: A ‘Patent Detective’ Investigates Access to Medicine

Getting the right medicine at the right time can mean the difference between life or death. Yet until COVID-19, there hasn’t been widespread recognition of the importance of creating easy and equitable access to life-saving medications. That’s where Priti Krishtel comes in. While the pandemic has arguably accelerated a movement around global access to medicines, she’s spent the last 20 years working to uncover how the patent system prevents life-saving drugs from getting into the hands of people who need them most. Priti is a health justice lawyer and co-founder of Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), a nonprofit working to address structural inequities in how medicines are developed and distributed. She investigates the outdated patent system and uses law to challenge big pharma, corporations, and a general economic structure driven by profit. Her earlier career experience working on the HIV/AIDS crisis in India gives her a deep sense of purpose in tackling an issue that, for many, has newfound importance in the Coronavirus Era. Courtney talks with Priti about how she’s working to sustain the access to medicine movement so that when the next pandemic hits, fewer people die.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/06/02/a-patent-detective-investigates-access-to-medicine/ On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

41mins

3 Jun 2021

Rank #4

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Yordanos Eyoel: In Democracy We Trust?

Yordanos Eyoel emigrated to the United States at age 13, in the aftermath of the Ethiopian Civil War—a war that started long before she was born. Yordanos saw firsthand the direct impact of an unstable government on her family's life, after her mother, a journalist, had to seek political asylum in America. Although she went from privilege to poverty seemingly overnight, the stability of the American political system outweighed the material luxuries her family left behind in their war-ravaged homeland.  As founder of The Civic Lab Initiative at New Profit, a venture philanthropy organization that invests in “democracy entrepreneurs” and systems change, Yordanos is committed to solving the crisis of trust in America. She speaks with Nguhi about her belief that democracy is malleable and requires constant and robust innovation. And when it comes to repairing trust—and ensuring the fixes are inclusive—coming at it from the position of an outsider is her secret weapon. For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/05/26/solvers-episode-six-yordanos-eyoel-in-democracy-we-trust/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

37mins

27 May 2021

Rank #5

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Harish Hande: The Ultimate Solver? A Street Vendor

What can we learn about resilience from street vendors? Just about everything, says Harish Hande of SELCO, an organization that delivers decentralized solar energy to the poor in India. Tackling both poverty and the energy crisis at once, Harish’s pioneering work relies on the belief that every individual offers their own expertise, and you don’t need a PhD to solve the world’s toughest problems. Harish says our obsession with pedigree causes us to overlook the expertise of individuals on the ground, especially when it comes to poverty alleviation and social innovation. He’s using sustainable energy to uplift street vendors in India who are already equipped with solutions to the problems threatening their livelihoods — they just need additional resources to spring into action. Drawing on his experience growing up under the caste system in a steel state in India, he shares with Courtney what it’s like to unlearn “untouchability.” They talk about SELCO’s mission-based hiring model — he rolls his eyes at the idea of hiring based on degrees and résumés — and the ways in which his work carries into his personal life as a father.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/05/19/solvers-episode-five-harish-hande-the-ultimate-solver-a-street-vendor/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

28mins

20 May 2021

Rank #6

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Christian Happi: The Decolonizing Power of African-led Scientific Innovation

Based in Nigeria, Dr. Christian Happi is a molecular biologist whose day job is combating infectious diseases. Alongside his life-saving scientific work, he’s on a mission to embolden young African scientists to take the narrative of Africa into their own hands. For far too long, says Happi, the West has failed to credit Africans for innovation and scientific breakthroughs—a legacy of the power dynamics of colonialism and anti-Black racism.  Happi leads the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases. The Center has become a platform where Africans can do high quality science and be recognized as leaders in the field, on a global scale. His team was among the first to map genomes for both Ebola and Covid-19. Shared with scientists around the world, the genomic sequencing accelerated widespread testing and tracing of both diseases. Happi speaks with Nguhi about scientific innovation, the narrative shift of decolonization, and global lessons for the next pandemic. His message: Think how much Africa could contribute to the world, if given the opportunity.For show notes and transcripts go to https://skoll.org/2021/05/12/episode-four-dr-christian-happi-the-decolonizing-power-of-african-led-scientific-innovation/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

44mins

13 May 2021

Rank #7

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Esther Armah: Why the Racial Justice Reckoning Requires Emotional Justice

Too often we rely on technical models to address racism—implicit bias training, examining data and statistics, crafting institutional statements. But the very systems that uphold racial inequity Esther Armah says, are actually propped up by emotion, not logic. Changing the brutal realities of systemic racism requires embarking on a mission of “emotional justice.” For some, an “intimate reckoning” in our closest relationships is necessary, she says. Armah believes that we must confront, in both the personal and public spheres, the way race and racism are felt in the body.As founder and executive director of the Armah Institute of Emotional Justice, her visionary framework upends performative Diversity Equity and Inclusion trainings that often presume whiteness is the norm. Instead, her method harnesses the emotional power of theatre, art, and storytelling to center the experiences of the most marginalized members of a community. Esther speaks with Courtney about how unpacking emotionality is messy and uncomfortable, but crucial for substantive change.For show notes and transcripts, go to https://skoll.org/2021/05/05/solvers-episode-three-esther-armah-why-the-racial-justice-reckoning-requires-emotional-justice/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod  Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

44mins

6 May 2021

Rank #8

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Alessandra Orofino: Democracy—There’s No App for That

If there’s one thing Alessandra Orofino won’t accept, it’s the status quo. She believes democracies can’t be healthy and thrive unless citizens roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of upholding democratic values. To that end, she co-founded Nossas, a Brazil-based activist organization that embraces fresh and unconventional ways to help people participate in the political life of their communities. Nossas took shape in 2011 when the discovery of off-shore oil ushered money into Rio de Janeiro and the city prepared to host the World Cup and Olympics. “I was concerned that a lot of these massive projects didn’t have citizens at the center of them,” she says. A decade later, her organization’s focus has turned to the state of democracy in Brazil, which has begun to unravel under President Jair Bolsonaro. In order for everyone—across the globe—to enjoy democratic freedoms, she says the problem of inequality must be solved. “We can’t have equal representation if we don’t have more equality in the other areas of our lives.” Alessandra talks with Nguhi about learning from failures (including an app that was DOA) and what drives people to take action (spoiler alert: YouTube). It turns out that democracy protectors in formerly colonized nations have a lot to teach former colonizer nations about the fragility of democracy.For show notes and transcripts, go to https://skoll.org/2021/04/28/solvers-episode-two-alessandra-orofino-democracy-theres-no-app-for-that/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspod Send us an email: solvers@skoll.org

38mins

29 Apr 2021

Rank #9

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Rodney Foxworth: Community—The Driving Force Behind Economic Inclusion

Rodney Foxworth says the racial “wealth gap” is a misnomer because it implies something that’s achievable to close. “Wealth chasm” is more on the nose since we’re talking about disparities created by centuries of oppression. Growing up in Baltimore, Rodney witnessed firsthand what many Black and brown communities face in America—systemic racism, over policing, economic dislocation. Now, as CEO of Common Future, he draws on that lived experience to create a network of organizations across the country that builds relationships and economic power in historically exploited communities.  In the wake of the pandemic and the death of George Floyd, Common Future redistributed 10 percent of its operating budget—in one week—into a rapid COVID response fund. Meanwhile larger, deep-pocketed foundations struggled to spring into action. What can wealthy, predominantly white organizations learn from Common Future’s community-based approach? Rodney talks with Courtney about the “duty to community” that guides everything from his moral compass to his work building an inclusive economy.For show notes and transcripts, go to https://skoll.org/2021/04/21/solvers-episode-one-rodney-foxworth-community-the-driving-force-behind-economic-inclusion/On social media: @skollfoundation #solverspodSend us an email: solvers@skoll.org

37mins

22 Apr 2021

Rank #10