Every year, Chicago Ideas brings together a group of social entrepreneurs who are working to solve seemingly impossible global challenges. From improving literacy to providing clean water sources to developing countries, the people featured are game changers. This year at Chicago Ideas Week, four Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellows, all under the age of 35, sat down to discuss their work, and how they’ve managed to spark positive change in the world through organizations that are also financially sustainable.
Eric Liu is the U.S. Executive Director of Bayes Impact, a nonprofit that uses big data to create a profound social impact. The ideas is simple: By improving public access to health, employment and policing data, Liu and his organization has managed to directly impact people across the country by providing access to necessary resources. At just 25, Liu has has managed to become a major player in the data science community while doing work that helps make the country a more accessible place for everyone.
Tanyella Evans is the Co-Founder and CEO of Library For All, a nonprofit with the goal of making quality educational resources available to children in developing countries. The organization has engineered a cloud-based library platform that contains high quality content sourced from local and international libraries alike. Unlike many online databases, Library For All is built for low-bandwidth environments so that any child with any kind of internet connection can have access to educational materials. Evans and Co-Founder Rebecca McDonald founded the organization in 2012 after seeing how difficult it was for children in Haiti to acquire a good education. Since then, they’ve rapidly expanded their reach to three continents, and are aiming to reach 5 million users by 2017.
Fagan Harris is the CEO and President of Baltimore Corps, which invests in youth in the city to overcome the challenges that they—and the city overall—faces. Like many major American cities, Baltimore has faced a great deal of socioeconomic challenges in recent decades. Harris is a self-described “Baltimore evangelist” whose goal is to reanimate the city by investing in talented people and supporting foundational change.
Minhaj Chowdhury is the Co-Founder and CEO of Drinkwell, a social enterprise that aims to eradicate the arsenic and fluoride water crisis that affects more than 200 million people in Bangladesh and India. The organization is not only revolutionizing the global water industry, but it’s also making the distribution of clean drinking water more energy efficient by a factor of 17. This not only creates healthier communities and countries across the world, but also more profitable ones.