2020 PFIG Recipient Zoe Ogilvie

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

This summer, I am remotely working for Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs -- individuals with innovative and practical ideas for solving social problems. More specifically, I will be working with Ashoka’s LeadYoung initiative. LeadYoung is a “storytelling initiative that shines a light on changemakers who have led change from an early age. These stories help everyone see the new reality — that everything is changing, and this requires redefining what growing up means.” Through storytelling, we are activating young changemakers, inspiring others to lead, and changing the culture of our communities to believe in the power of young people. 

I am roughly a third of the way through my internship and I have already learned so much about Ashoka’s mission and have put my creativity to use. Ashoka is trying to inspire a new generation of changemakers, anyone who takes action to address a problem or create an opportunity, activate others, and work towards solutions for the good of all, through this storytelling initiative. However, many of the stories that have been written are articles and use academic language, essentially not something that a kid would want to read. I created a new system of storytelling to address this issue, through the creation of cartoons and storybooks. I hope that making these pieces more kid friendly will result in a larger audience and maybe even lead to a tangible product that can be used in other initiatives at Ashoka that involve youth. 

Ashoka has a foothold in over ninety countries around the world, but not all of the countries have the same initiatives. So I am working with my supervisor to create global connections that will lead to future partnerships with the LeadYoung storytelling initiative in the future. Additionally, Ashoka offers ninety minute workshops to young parents about the importance of changemaking and inspiring children. However, very little research has been conducted regarding the impact. I have prior experience with researching and grant writing at UVA and have offered to create an impact evaluation survey for the workshop.

Journal Entry #2

At the University of Virginia, I am majoring in Youth and Social Innovation, while also obtaining my Masters in Early Education from the Curry School of Education. At this moment in time, I do want to work for and with kids, but not necessarily in an educational setting. Additionally, I want to work for the betterment of all people, not just our nation. This internship with Ashoka allows me to do just that. I get to interact with youth from all over the world. I am able to help inspire them, and come up with creative ways to tell their stories in the hopes that it will motivate others.

The past month I have successfully completed three stories of young changemakers in India through short stories, cartoons, and children’s books. My colleagues and mentors have reacted very positively to the idea of pieces that are geared towards younger children and have even encouraged me to think of ways I can turn this form of storytelling into a series that could tie into our partner organizations, including PBS Kids and First Book. Currently I am working on stories of young changemakers in Africa that are aiding their community through education and reusable mask production due to COVID-19. Additionally, I am producing a story on a Spanish changemaker and his company, Kuvu, an initiative to reduce loneliness, increase income and improve the quality of life of older people.

Even though I am working remotely, I have been able to experience a welcoming group of people and a well-structured work environment. Since Ashoka works with over 90 countries, employees usually have an integrated work environment, with roughly 30% of their meetings taking place online. I would have loved to get a sense of Ashoka’s office environment and explore Washington D.C., but I don’t see working remotely as a hindrance. Rather, working online has resulted in me meeting more people in Ashoka’s global network. If I was in the office this summer I would have spent a lot of time working and meeting the Ashoka Global team, but working remotely has opened me up to so many different country offices. I have met virtually with people from China all the way to Chile.

Journal Entry #3

My experience working with Ashoka virtually was very influential in my career development and my time management skills. I am so used to making lists to map out my week during my academic experience at UVA. Everything is so structured in college, you have a syllabus mapped out for the whole semester and that is what you stick to. However, that is not really an option when working directly with people. There were always last minute tasks and follow up emails that had to be composed. At first I found this system challenging, but I eventually was able to balance the traditional work load with the spontaneous comings of emails and tiny tasks.

This experience has helped me better solidify the possibilities for me after graduation. Which is a nice comfort, considering we all are living in a world that is full of uncertainties. I could definitely see myself working for an organization like Ashoka and I am ecstatic to say I will be staying on the team this fall. Through previous connections, I have been able to form two academic partnerships  bringing on students from the University of Virginia and The Blue Ridge Virtual Governor's School (BRVGS)  for capstones. I will serve as their supervisor, guiding them through the process of working with Ashoka.

What I am most excited about is the opportunity to work with so many different students. From 4th year Youth and Social Innovation majors at UVA to BRVGS which serves seven counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I will be working with seniors from many different backgrounds. With this comes new questions and challenges, for example one of the highschool students does not have internet access at home and is only going to school twice a week due to Covid. How do I assure she is given the same opportunities and is still receiving a meaningful experience?  It is a question Ashoka often asks when dealing with equity, but has yet to tackle. I am so grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see where this opportunity will lead me in the coming years.