For the first eighteen years of my life, my Jewish identity was completely intertwined with service work. From weekly visits to the Collingswood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center with my Hebrew School class, to rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina with my Jewish sleepaway camp, to social action projects with my NFTY youth group, volunteerism was embedded in my practice of Judaism.
And yet, surprisingly, I left Israel with a deeper commitment to being more Muslim. While our tour guide Michael Bauer was sharing his perspectives on Israeli culture, he mentioned that most Jews were non-secular. In fact, many Jews celebrated Passover and observed Shabbat more so because of their cultural significance and not their religious significance.
Nearly all of the REALITY trip participants at the gathering had a leadership role, which deepened the community experience. Some led seminars on storytelling, performed, emceed, facilitated panel discussions. One alum even led partner yoga and a dance break. My assignment was in line with my curiosities post-trip—I was the panel moderator for the breakout session on minority experiences in Israel.
This fall, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation released the Data Playbook, an interactive resource to help professionals across the purpose-driven sector measure, evaluate and share the impact of their work.
Erin Zaikis’s work demonstrates the same truism: big ideas for social change start modestly. Now 27, the Massachusetts native is the brains behind Sundara, a three-year old non-profit organization that hires unemployed and underemployed women in India, Uganda and Myanmar to recycle hotel soap using a zero-waste process, and makes them hygiene ambassadors in communities that suffer from high rates of death from diarrhea, pneumonia and other hygiene-related maladies.
Make a two-page plan of what you’re going to do and why you’re doing it. Have your elevator pitch ready and recruit people you admire and respect to poke holes in it—to tell you all the ways this might not work. Absorb their critiques.