An Accidental Social Entrepreneur
Open Hearts Big Dreams started as a Gala in 2011. We had returned from our first trip back to Ethiopia and visiting our library in Bahir Dar. I wanted to make a more impactful contribution to Ethiopia through creating a sustainable source of funding for important library and educational efforts. I had only attended these types of fundraising events in the past. But I knew from my NGO board service, these events were a terrific way to share progress and bring in predictable funding each year.
Each act of support ripples out in beautiful ways and sometimes the ripples concentrate... Minneapolis is a city I have visited only a couple times in my life. It has a rich history starting with the Sioux tribe and is now home to a diverse population including a large number from East Africa. But recently, Minneapolis kept popping up for me. First, we received news Minneapolis public libraries were carrying some of our #ReadySetGo books and even better, people were checking them out.
As I prepare to launch my own consulting and public speaking business, I've been thinking a lot about what I would like to do to help leaders and organizations accomplish.
I have done a lot of reflecting over the years on what ways of giving back are most impactful and motivating for me. I believe since I have had a measure of success thanks to the support of many, I have an obligation to pay it forward.
We live in a fully-connected world if we pay attention (and I am not talking about the latest in AI).
I recently spoke at the Women In Tech Regatta in Seattle. It is a wonderful event focused on supporting women in technical career through panels on a variety of topics as well as providing an effective way to network. I love their hashtag #relationshipsarethetruecurrency.
Our visit was incredible. We did cool things like climb the Simien Mountains and met great people like the ones I am going to tell you about.
In recent reflection, I realized a key theme through out my life is navigating huge differences between myself and those around me.
A key goal of Open Hearts Big Dreams literacy efforts is to get our Ready Set Go books into the hands of all of the 4MM first graders in Ethiopia to practice their reading as well as any other individuals just learning to read. We believe having these books to practice and develop an early love of reading can help boost the literacy rates in Ethiopia.
I am really excited to be heading back to Ethiopia with Leyla in March. We will meet up with Jane Kurtz and Stephanie Schlatter in Addis Ababa
I am constantly reminded that the world is connected and smaller than we think when we approach as a citizen of the globe. I caught up recently with dear friend and Advisory Board member Metti Mulugeta over a delicious Ethiopian lunch at Ibix Restaurant.
Recently, I got the chance to speak at a number of diverse events. These included the Society of Women Engineers Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Thompson Reuters Conference in Seattle, the Women in Tech Regatta in Amsterdam and the Women in Clean Tech and Sustainability Talks in Sunnyvale. I also shared my thoughts at our Adventures in Literacy Gala as I have each year. And this week, I also spoke to MBA students at NYU’s Stern School in New York City.
My visit to DC earlier this month combined two passions – empowering people who want to increase diversity and inclusion and empowering kids in Ethiopia – my daughter’s birth-country. I spoke at a Women in Influence, Power and Law conference on the former which took me back to my suit wearing, court appearing days. But my message to the attendees were routed in my research and experimentation in more recent years as I struggled to make sense of the research that shows diversity and inclusion lead to better results on all levels and yet, many still remain underrepresented decades after efforts to increase began.
OHBD is focused on increasing innovative and game-changing efforts. We believe in the power of collaboration across organizations and the power of storytelling to share innovative approaches. Our main project remains Ready Set Go books to increase literacy where we are essentially a publisher.
We started Open Hearts Big Dreams to “Empower Kids to Transform Their Future.” Our focus is on Ethiopia, K-12, and education however, we wanted to be different from many NGOs and run like a business. This is what we do and how we do it! We design to scale and include measures of success. We look for game changers to close important gaps like the lack of enough early reader books. We collaborate with organizations who build local capacity like Ethiopia Reads, Project Ethiopia, WEEMA, Lebawi, Seeds of Africa and MMRTI. We share stories of impact to show what is possible and to inspire involvement and collaboration.