Founder and Director, Breaker
Breaker's mission is to drive social innovation and alternative learning by mobilizing interdisciplinary teams of young creative collaborators to help solve the world's most pressing problems. We connect our teams of 18-24 year olds with global thought leaders and industry experts to answer major challenges like, for example, literacy and urban agriculture. We facilitate a creative problem-solving design process and teach the entrepreneurial skills necessary to transform ideas into businesses. Each unique Breaker project is a twelve-week collaboration between the talented Breaker team, the visionaries who pose their challenge, and the industry experts who support their process. We work with multiple partner organizations across New York City to ideate, build, and test real solutions with real market value. Participants leave Breaker with new perspectives and abilities. Products result from Breaker ready to be stress-tested and developed.
Future of the Book Challenge
06/01/2011 – 08/31/2011
For Breaker's Future of the Book project, techno-bibliophilic visionaries, Charlie Melcher of Melcher Media and Tom Uglow of Google Creative Lab, inspired the team to imagine how emerging technologies are changing our notions of the book and of reading, and challenged them to design products that would improve adolescent literacy. The results are MoBo: a service for receiving, sharing and engaging with stories via text message, and Unbound: an online user-generated video resource. Both are in development, testing prototypes, and seeking seed funding.
Project Website »
Urban Agribusiness Challenge
01/17/2012 – 04/20/2012
Community gardens, local organic farming, rooftop farms – all are a more prevalent part of our lives as we become more conscious of the food industry’s impact on our health, the economy, and the environment. So far, these gardens and farms have been wonderful sources for connecting people to food and to each other, but their impact remains small-scale and local, benefiting those who can afford to pay a premium for fresh food. In this light, we challenged the Breaker team to create a product or service that envisions a new role for urban agriculture, within a broader ecosystem of food and agricultural consumption. Like other wise ones before us, we are starting locally and thinking globally. This project is led by visionaries Majora Carter, Founder of Sustainable South Bronx, and Danielle Gould of Food+Tech Connect.
Project Website »
I began my career as a high school English teacher in the New York City public school system. After starting an after school program that fused art, literacy, and activism, I learned that the real impact of my teaching was not in the state mandated curriculum, but in the project work occurring in the after school hours - attracting kids’ voluntary participation, igniting curiosities, and engaging the communities in which they lived. We created collaborative works of art that found audiences at museums like The Whitney Museum of American Art. The program became the subject of my doctoral dissertation and project-based learning the focal point of the courses I taught in the pre-service teaching program at Teachers College, Columbia University where I also served as a Coordinator of the MA program. I later began consulting for an affiliated organization called the Student Press Initiative – a project-based, audience-driven model – until I left Columbia in 2008 to work with the Asia Society’s International Studies School Network as a Leadership Coach and EdTech Innovations Facilitator promoting use of new media technologies in teaching and learning. My three-year tenure as a TED Senior Fellow introduced me to design thinking and social enterprise – among other things. And my latest initiative, Breaker, applies both to project-based learning to create a hybrid model. Breaker drives alternative learning and social innovation by mobilizing interdisciplinary teams of young creative collaborators to design product solutions to global challenges. There are legions of underestimated young people with new insights into old problems who need only to be asked, in specific ways, for their contributions. And when those individuals see the impact of their creative capital on the marketplace, you have a new breed of social entrepreneur changing the world.
Roadside rice and dal at Tanglang La Pass, Ladakh.
A funny story about me:
Our usually placid indoor cat turned predator when we moved to a new apartment and he realized he’d been granted access to the outside world. He appeared at the dinner table with the lifeless body of a small bird and proudly dropped it on my husband's foot. My young daughters yowled in pity and insisted on a prompt and proper burial. But it was a cold October night and the ground was surely too hard for digging with spoons. The trash chute, we decided, would have to do. Lydia adorned the deceased with a few lettuce leaves and the procession made its way down the corridor. The squeaky chute hinge offered a final lament as the bird slid soundlessly into the darkness.