Change & Innovation, Justice

Smart city innovator builds equity

United States

Austin, Texas is a city that boasts of booming technology and innovation start-ups, with a growing skyline to match. The transition in the city has been rapid and quite remarkable.  However, with the growth has come a painful 37% cost of living increase between 2010 and 2015. As a result, access and equity have become two of the city’s greatest challenges.

At the center of these issues is Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16). Collier connects and engages people from public, private and non-profit sectors to build community and share information about the potential for innovation and technology to make a positive impact – namely through the development of smart cities.

Just what is a smart city? A smart city is a municipality that uses information and connected technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and resident welfare. According to Collier, smart cities would experience some of these positive outcomes if they properly invested in “smart” infrastructure: street lights that could dim based on pedestrian traffic or illuminate during an emergency; residents who could access real-time weather forecasts block-by-block that would help them prepare for urban flooding; and emergency responders who could be alerted to a potential hostile situation well before any citizen would have to place a 911 call. This requires enhanced mobile broadband and WiFi capabilities, a platform to connect the Internet of Things (IoT) and a cohesive smart city strategy.

To encourage this smart city conversation, Collier works across three distinct platforms – Digi.City, Smart Cities Connect, and the Impact Hub global network. She created Digi.City as a direct outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship. The fellowship application itself encouraged her to focus on one particular area where she hoped to make a difference, and she realized that smart cities were at the intersection of everything that she was already committed to—public policy, technology, entrepreneurship, social impact, workforce and economic development.

Being one of the early U.S.-based communication platforms focused on smart cities, Digi.City serves as a space for elected leaders, city officials, community advocates and industry innovators to learn best practices from one another and share resources. Not only is Digi.City a digital platform, but it has hosted dozens of small events from coast to coast providing thought leadership on how different cities can address common challenges such as equity, access to resources, transportation and sustainability by leveraging technology to find and implement solutions.

Another concrete outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship was working with the Impact Hub Austin team to support the creation of a Workforce Development Accelerator, designed to address the widening gap in the local economy between the “haves” and the “not haves, yet”, a phrase that Collier uses to describe the hope for growth and opportunity in her region. The Accelerator brings together nine diverse teams to focus on how innovation can address access to middle-skill jobs, particularly for disadvantaged populations. This program was inspired by her collaboration with Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16) through a concept they designed for the EF iLabs, which took place during the EF Future of Work Global Conference in Spain.

Collier’s connection to the EF global family is one that deeply inspires her: “We are in an era of great upheaval and rapid change. In the face of transition and 24-7 news cycles, it is easy to get lost and believe that our world is growing darker. EF’s mission to gather, encourage and lift leaders around the world who are making positive and important progress to create peace, prosperity and equality is more needed than ever. We are inspired by each other and can also share the more quiet work that is happening in our own areas. Seeing and celebrating these efforts is now all of our collective responsibility.”


Photo above: (Back row) Stacey Chang (USA ’15), Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Jack Bienko (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Anu Passi-Rauste (Finland ’14), Chris Laing (USA/Zhi-Xing ’15). (Front row) Romana Lee-Akiyama (EF staff), Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16).
Justice, Peace

Building racial and economic equity in the U.S.

United States

Rhonda Broussard (USA ’14) is founder and chief executive officer of Beloved Community, a leading consulting firm on diversity, equity and inclusion. At the time of her fellowship, she led an association of language-immersion charter schools in St. Louis. She traveled to New Zealand and Finland in 2014, and her aspirations were to see how two countries known for their equitable education systems could inspire her to do more for her community back home in the United States. But before she left, Mike Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, outside of St. Louis.

Brown’s untimely death sparked an entire movement to address excessive use of force by police in communities of color across the U.S., and got Broussard thinking differently about equity. She realized that schools alone cannot fix the racial and economic divide in U.S. communities that were driving the violence and pain felt in St. Louis and many other U.S. cities.  She sought a full, comprehensive approach to dismantle systemic racism and injustice.

She connects her experience as a person of color in the United States with the indigenous Maori community in New Zealand and its effort to counter oppression by taking back control of and celebrating its culture. After her fellowship, she moved to New Orleans, her hometown, a city that is experiencing a rich language and heritage movement. She is linking this movement with the development of her own work on community well-being through diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.

Today, Broussard strives to live in a world with “real shared humanity without war,” a peaceful solution built on the attainment of racial and economic equity. She consults with cities, schools, companies and legislators to embrace racial and economic equity in a deep, long-term way. Broussard even works with Eisenhower Fellow Susan Patrick (USA ’16) on education reform across the U.S., lending her deep expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion to their work together to transform U.S. systems of K-12 education, both using their fellowship journeys to New Zealand as a point of reference and inspiration.

Rhonda Broussard

Justice, Peace

Bringing humanitarian relief to the heart of the village

Sri Lanka

Chevaan Daniel (Sri Lanka ’17) oversees News 1st, Sri Lanka’s largest independent news network of TV and radio stations. It is a subsidiary of the Capital Maharaja Organization, which includes renewable energy, national security and infrastructure businesses. While on fellowship, he studied effective ways to address humanitarian crises and natural disasters.

With his media colleagues, he began to expose what poverty has looked like throughout Sri Lanka because it had not been reported before by major media in the country. His group partnered with local universities to present comprehensive data and statistics on poverty levels, providing it as a resource to the government and the United Nations. But unfortunately, neither the country nor the United Nations took action. This was when they decided to take matters into their own hands with Project Gammadda (Heart of the Village), an initiative that Daniel created to address poverty and suffering in Sri Lanka. One such project, out of Project Gammadda’s 2,000 micro-projects, was completed recently in Matara, rural southern Sri Lanka. The project brings clean drinking water to the 100 students of the Aparekka Kanishta Primary School, which had operated for 80 years without access to clean water. EF president George de Lama spoke at the project’s inauguration in February.

Click here to learn more about the project at the Aparekka Kanishta Primary School.

Listen to Daniel tell his story here.


Using journalism to strengthen democracy


Yuli Ismartono (Indonesia ’97), Uni Lubis (Indonesia ’11), and Natalia Soebagjo (Indonesia ‘90)

Three Eisenhower Fellows, all women, all from Indonesia, are using their fellowship experiences across decades to collaborate and enact change in Southeast Asia.

Yuli Ismartono, a prominent journalist and media trailblazer, uses communications to build democracy in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. During her Eisenhower Fellowship in 1997, her publication was banned by the government. She had to re-establish a path for herself, switching careers from print to television. In her work post-fellowship, she introduced “taboo” topics such as domestic violence and LGBTQ issues, for which she received criticism from religious conservatives.

For the last decade, since creating AsiaViews, she and Eisenhower Fellows Natalia Soebagjo (Indonesia ’90) and Mari Pangestu (Indonesia ’90) have forged a path of unifying the countries of Southeast Asia through their English-based website. Her ultimate goal: to bring together the community of ASEAN people to share their strengths.

Soebagjo has found that her life shifted since her fellowship. Soebagjo had professionally worked in finance and the securities market,  but when she went back to Indonesia in 1990 to begin community development and rebuilding work, she realized that communities were left without resources due to corruption. This motivated her to join Transparency International, where she currently serves on the Board, along with three other Eisenhower Fellows. This is her way to take an active stand against corruption in both her home country and across the globe. She was motivated to join AsiaViews to raise the voices of Southeast Asian expert journalists. Often, she observed, commentators from the West wrote about Southeast Asia, but were not actually experts. She wanted to shift this dynamic.

Uni Lubis has spent 27 years in journalism using different media platforms, and now has a strong focus on digital media and is a keen observer of how millennials interact with it. She seeks to understand what millennials have in common around the world.

Listen here to Yuli Ismartono’s story. To learn about Uni Lubis and Natalia Soebagjo, listen here.

Featured from left to right: Natalia Sobegjo, Uni Lubis, Mari Pangestu, and Yuli Ismartono.

Change & Innovation, Justice

Offering health and hope to immigrant communities

United States

“If there hadn’t been doctors in Tampa Bay who donated their time when I was young, my life would probably have been very different. Because of that I find my current work fulfilling and ironic”. – Jorge Riopedre (USA ’15)


Jorge Riopedre admits that his life would likely have taken a far different course had it not been for doctors who cared for him when he was a child. “I was born with pretty significant health problems,” he said, and complicating matters was the fact that he was the son of two Cuban immigrants who didn’t speak English.

Riopedre is the president of Casa de Salud, a healthcare center for the foreign born community of metropolitan St. Louis. Casa de Salud offers clinical care, mental health counseling, psychiatry, and a wide range of patient advocacy services for a flat fee of $25. As well, the organization collaborates with over 60 local and regional partners to create healthcare access for marginalized populations, and offers on-site classes on health related topics. Regardless of wealth, insurance, or legal status, Casa de Salud hopes to provide health care for immigrants and refugees from all nationalities.

Since taking over as president in 2011, Riopedre has guided the nonprofit into its current position as health care provider for over 4,000 people annually, delivering over 10,000 patient services in the St. Louis community. As just one example, he told a story about a woman who had endometrial cancer. Casa de Salud completed all the paperwork, found a hospital that would do surgery for free, and four days later she had the surgery. Riopedre finds the work incredibly meaningful, and shares credit for the results with his team of talented individuals.