Spotlight on Kendra & PJ Hyett, Honorary Hosts of Spark’s Holiday Bash

Spark loves Millennials who are committed to philanthropy and actively making our world a more equitable place for all. Holiday Bash Honorary Hosts and Spark Members, Kendra & PJ Hyett epitomize our ideals. Kendra’s journey is one that encompasses all types of social impact, from volunteer to major philanthropist. Her husband PJ, Co-Founder of GitHub, is a role model philanthropist and ally for women and minority groups in the tech community. As an inspiration to us and the next generation of philanthropists, we wanted to learn more. We sat down with Kendra & PJ to learn more about their journey, passions, and Harry Potter floo powder.

What has led you on this journey of philanthropy and social impact? 

Both of our families have always been very dedicated to volunteering and giving back, so we were both instilled with the desire to give back how we could to our communities and the world around us. Once Kendra had the opportunity in her career path to shift to nonprofit work focused on grantwriting and grantmaking, we had the opportunity to apply that new knowledge of the nonprofit landscape plus new skills to more strategically plan our giving and desired social impact each year.

What causes are you most passionate about and why?

Women & girls empowerment, leadership training & access to quality education both locally and globally; access to quality healthcare; global human rights advocacy; tech training for underserved youth; entrepreneurship training; and animal adoption.

These causes are the near to our hearts due to either opportunities afforded to us, or issues we are passionate about and understand need development to provide steps towards deserved equality for underserved people (and animals who need homes like our own two dear rescue dogs).

What are next steps for you and PJ’s philanthropy? 

Expand our giving around leadership and tech training, economic empowerment, and access to reproductive healthcare in this crucial time for women, girls, and minority groups.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

We recently had our first child, so life has, and will be, changing a lot! In reflection of that, we want the world to continue to grow into a more compassionate, equal, and beautiful place for our baby girl and more kids to come. We plan to stay closely tuned to the needs of our community and the nonprofits in it doing such important work, and focus our giving and volunteering where we see the strongest needs, and the strongest potential for meaningful and lasting impact.

What advice do you have for other millennials interested in making social impact? 

Find organizations like SparkSF, GiveWell, or giving circles that resonate with your areas of interest to help guide your philanthropy and social impact choices. Making informed, strategic decisions takes more time and research, but it’s well worth it to focus your impact and get to feel connected with it.

What do you both love about Spark? 
We both love the amazing learning and leadership opportunities Spark provides to young professionals. The membership fee and opportunities fit so well into the busy lives of young professionals who care about being involved in making the world around them a better place, as well as improving their own skills, and meeting like-minded people in a city full of transplants.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?

PJ – Teleportation

Kendra – Harry Potter floo powder… so basically, also teleportation.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?

PJ – Sense of humor

Kendra – Compassion

Who are your heroes in real life?

PJ – My parents

Kendra – My parents, Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai

SPARK NEWS DIGEST: SPECIAL ECONOMIC SECURITY EDITION

REGISTER, READ UP, & VOTE!  

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Millennials are now the largest living generation in U.S. history and have the power to shift policies. There are many issues to consider when casting your ballot this fall. First, remember your vote matters. Speak up and REGISTER TO VOTE!

Then, read up on the issues. Paid family leave, equal pay, fairness in the work place, and the economy overall are key issues on the ballot affecting women and families across the country.

In our SparkSF chapter alone, there are two State ballot measures that will directly impact women and families:

SB 654 (New Parent Leave Act)

AB 1584 (Restores the annual “Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment”)


As we prepare to cast our ballots, this edition of Spark’s news digest features discussions on economic inequality, including witty and poignant commentary from John Oliver.

Read up below and don’t forget to register before it’s too late (10/24 in California & 10/14 in New York).

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FIGHT FOR $15
Recent research found that the average woman makes 83% of a man’s hourly wages. Read about the Economic Policy Institute’s 12-point plan to fight for gender equality in pay. Learn more HERE

JOHN OLIVER’S TAKE ON PAID FAMILY LEAVE
In a Mother’s Day throwback, watch as comedian John Oliver calls out the US and Papua New Guinea as the only countries that don’t offer paid family leave. Watch HERE

LEADERSHIP & FAIRNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
In addition to unequal pay and sexual harassment at work, another problem that women are facing is being overlooked for promotions. A survey suggested that this could be a reason why women are more likely than men to want to leave their jobs within the next five years. What action can be taken to change the workplace culture? Find out HERE

MILLENNIAL ENGAGEMENT & POLITICS
Millennials’ #1 concern this election year is the economy (jobs, minimum wage, paid leave). Author Mike Hais, called the millennials “the most female-driven generation in American history.” FULL ARTICLE on how millennials can change America.

THE CANDIDATES AND ECONOMIC SECURITY
As the race to the White House continues, the candidates have spoken passionately about economic security: taxes, minimum wage, paid family leave & equal pay, TPP, and infrastructure expansion. Find out more where the candidates stand on these issues HERE

 

 

Spark News Digest: Millennials, Politics, & The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad

Obama on the State of Women, The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad, A Historic Defense Bill and Millennial Voices in Politics. This is your Spark News Digest.

By Spark Fellow: Stefanie Lee

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GENDER EQUALITY: #UnitedStateofWomen. Today, we will change tomorrow

The first ever United State of Women Summit was a huge celebration of the progress that women have made and the collective focus towards the future, together to achieve true gender equality. “It’s really encouraging to hear young women find their voice and be able to advocate for themselves knowing that they’re not alone.” – Valerie Jarrett. During the summit, POTUS highlighted authors of our history, women who shaped their destiny, VP Joe Biden spoke about his proud accomplishment, writing the Violence Against Women Act and Michelle Obama & Opera Winfrey shared the progress they’ve seen women achieve and encouragement to young women to take action so that that progress continues for generations to come.

WATCH THE VIDEOS:
POTUS
VICE PRESIDENT – JOE BIDEN
FLOTUS & OPERA WINFREY

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WOMEN’S HEALTH: The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Pad

Staggering statistics in India show millions of women still don’t use sanitary napkins out of ignorance and poverty. Nearly 70% of Indian women use old rags, increasing the risk of reproductive diseases. And, it is not just Indian women who believe that periods are a taboo subject, but most Indian men find buying sanitary napkins more embarrassing than buying condoms. Despite these taboos, there are a handful of men who are committed to fighting these stereotypes and working to improve the menstrual hygiene in India. “I became the man who wore a sanitary pad” – Arunachalam Muruganantham. Kudos to these men for standing up for girls. Find out why these men are norm shifting

READ THE STORY

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GENDER EQUALITY – Women Required to Register for the Draft

The Senate made history on June 14th by passing a $602 billion defense bill that crucially includes an amendment requiring women to register for the draft. “Whether in this debate or through the courts. It just seems that now that you have women allowed to serve in any position in the military, there is no logical basis to say women should not be drafted.” – Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University’s School of International Service. This article shares perspectives from both military representatives and politicians on the bill and the future of women in the military.

READ THE STORY

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POLITICS: Millennials & Women During An Election Year

This year, the Millennial Impact Report is focusing on how millennials’ behaviors may change during an election year. Some of the noteworthy trends listed in the report were: millennials are most interested in education, healthcare and the economy, they only somewhat believe that they are activists, and most millennials believe people like them can have an impact in the U.S. “It is likely that during an election year, causes and organizations that are politically aligned or part of a candidate’s agenda could see an increase in participation from this generation.” There’s a natural opportunity for companies to build momentum towards the November elections by promoting corporate volunteering to continue to engage Millennial employees. In addition to the impact that millennials are having from a political perspective, women are also making strides in changing the countries’ political landscape, from their stance on women’s rights and consideration of public opinion.

READ THE STORIES
Huffington Post – Millennial Report
Women in Politics

 

Making Changes: Block by Block

New Grantee: The BLK ProjeK

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Although the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx is one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, many of its neighbors are without access to quality, healthy food. The median annual income in the South Bronx is $19,113, and good groceries are sparse.

The BLK ProjeK was born out of the frustrations of one such inhabitant: Tanya Fields. Tanya was a poor, single mother who moved to the South Bronx and found her asthmatic child struggling with the pollution generated by the hundreds of thousands of semis that deliver food to Hunts Point every year.

The struggles of her son led Tanya to think increasingly more about environmental justice. She began drawing connections between the unhealthy urban environments in which poor people lived, and the unhealthy food available to them. She also, naturally, began drawing connections between the unhealthy food available to poor urban communities, and the women who serve that food to their families. Tanya realized that poverty has a feminine face.

In order to tackle the insufficient access to healthy food in the South Bronx, Tanya consequently turned to mothers. She starting small, facilitating “Mommy & Me” classes in order to educate mothers about nutrition. In 2009, her efforts expanded beyond the classroom to the garden, and the BLK ProjeK was born.

The women of BLK ProjeK were guerilla gardeners from the outset. They broke into abandoned lots in the South Bronx and planted vegetables. They created a groundswell, compelling more than 200 residents to petition and telephone the Housing Preservation and Development of NYC, demanding that the city allow the BLK ProjeK to turn one of those lots into an urban farm. Eventually their demands were heard, and that lot became the Libertad Urban Farm. In order to deliver produce from the Libertad Urban Farm to their community, the women of the BLK ProjeK then renovated an old school bus, turning it into a beautiful mobile market running exclusively on used vegetable oil.

But Tanya and the BLK ProjeK have their sights set higher still. They want the South Bronx to be able to feed itself. They want to change the economic and political landscape of the community by creating local jobs and promoting municipal participation. And women remain the catalyst in all this. The BLK ProjeK is driven by its firm belief in the “girl effect” – the notion that investing in women and women-led efforts is the most effective way to promote social change. Women plant the seeds of physical and fiscal health in every community.

In order to support the BLK ProjeK, the Spark grant will:

  • Provide funds for the growth and sale of produce from the Libertad Urban Farm
  • Provide stipends for volunteer farmers
  • Promote community outreach in order to encourage participation in the Libertad Urban Farm, as well as the farm’s CSA

And source the following Pro Bono needs:

  • Web Design

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The BLK ProjeK, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization. Visit BLK ProjeK’s website to learn more.

Spotlight on Caitlin Heising, Honorary Host of Spark’s Black & Pink Ball

Spark loves Millennials who are committed to philanthropy and actively making our world a more just and equitable place for all. Black & Pink Ball Honorary Host and Spark Member, Caitlin Heising epitomizes our ideals. Caitlin is actively committed to engaging young people in human rights and empowering women and girls. As an inspiration to us and the next generation of philanthropists, we wanted to learn more. We sat down with Caitlin to learn more about her journey and passions including starting the Young Professionals Network of Human Rights Watch, joining the board of her family’s foundation, and learning to fly.

Caitlin Heisign

Caitlin Heising – Honorary Host of Spark’s 10th Anniversary Black & Pink Ball

What has led you on this journey of philanthropy and social impact? 

Growing up, I watched my mom spend time volunteering in my school and tutoring underserved children in our community. During high school and college, I also tutored and mentored children from refugee families who had recently resettled in the U.S. Meeting them and hearing their stories made the problems and conflicts I’d learn about in class seem much more real and human. In college, I tried to understand how best to empower (as opposed to simply aid) individuals and communities who had been dealt an unfair hand in the world. Also around that time, my parents started our family’s foundation, which intrigued me from the start. I knew one day I would want to be deeply involved in philanthropy and social impact because I could see the improvements it was making in our community at home. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to deepen our impact by exploring different strategies, including funding national policy work, and that’s the other element of this work that I love – you can always do and give better, and there is always more to learn.

Why did you decide to leave the corporate world to join the board of your family’s foundation (The Heising-Simons Foundation) and learn about philanthropy?

After working for a couple years in tech PR and corporate communications consulting, I felt like I had learned a lot and wanted to pivot to a career with more social impact. I had the opportunity to join the board of the foundation and build out grantmaking focused on human rights, and the timing felt right. I know I’m still young, but I also know it’s never too early to be making an impact on the world, and I felt like working with the foundation was my best opportunity to do that. It’s also been great to spend more time with my parents (who I have to say are awesome) and learn more about their values and vision for the future.

What causes are you most passionate about and why?

I’m passionate about human rights, especially here in the U.S. According to a national study, the average American citizen, journalist and politician is unaware that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exists. The language of human rights simply isn’t widely known in our mainstream culture. We’re seeing the effects of this apathy and long-standing systemic inequities dangerously play out all the time lately with racial profiling, police misconduct, and other violent and unjust acts making front-page news every week. And with more than two million people in prisons and jails, the U.S. has the most imprisoned people in the world. As a country that espouses freedom and human rights internationally, we have the power to influence policies in other countries as well. For the U.S. to truly assume the mantle of human rights leadership, however, we will have to practice more thoroughly at home what we preach abroad.

I’m also passionate about empowering women and girls around the world. It’s scary to think about how much still needs to be done to improve health, education, and economic opportunities for women and girls, but it’s clear that these types of investments go a long way in improving lives and communities.

Tell us more about the Human Rights Watch Young Professionals Network you launched in March?  

My friend (and fellow Spark member) Erika Gomez and I started the group to support Human Rights Watch and engage young people in human rights. We’re now a dedicated group of volunteers in the Bay Area who support HRW through outreach, advocacy, and fundraising. We work to promote awareness of human rights issues through public education events and strategic advocacy campaigns, and also nurture the next generation of philanthropists by hosting events to generate support for the organization and its mission. We’re having our inaugural art auction and cocktail party, called A Night for Human Rights, on October 16th in San Francisco – you should come!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d like for us to be continuing the human rights grantmaking at the foundation and I’d like to have completed an MBA program focused on social impact. I’d also like to be in a position to advise other young people and families on next gen and human rights-based philanthropy. I’m a California girl at heart, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I was still living in the Bay Area.

What advice do you have for other millennials interested in making social impact? 

Firstly, I’d commend their interest and passion! Then I would say to take time to reflect on your goals and study the issue you want to change. Meet everyone you can who is also working on that problem – including, most importantly, the people who are directly affected by it. There are a lot of trends and “shiny new things” vying for attention in the social sector. The challenge can be figuring out which approaches will have deep, lasting impact and which will only skim the surface.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?

Flying!

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?

Sense of humor and humility.

What is your favorite journey?

 This is a tough one. I love going to new places. Most recently I went to the fjords in Norway, which was absolutely beautiful. I also am nostalgic and love the drive to Tahoe for Christmas, which for many years we celebrated in my grandparents’ cabin in the woods.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’m lucky to have three amazing grandmothers who are each very different, but all share the qualities of poise, purpose, and passion. For that and more, I aspire to live a life full of love and adventure like they have.

Reflections: Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series Launch

Reflections by Spark Member, David Scatterday

It was a distinct pleasure to participate in the inaugural installment of Spark’s Philanthropic Mentorship Series. Worthy of a truly notable launch, we were joined by philanthropic innovators Yann Borgstedt and Antonela Notari Vischer from the Womanity Foundation.

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Auspiciously, everything about the launch event of such a promising series was seamless.

First, a little about our guests: Womanity is an entrepreneurial foundation that thinks creatively to find solutions to today’s women’s empowerment challenges. Key topical areas of action include giving women and girls a voice, advancing education and opportunities, providing fellowships to emerging female social entrepreneurs.  As a man, Womanity’s founder Yann Borgstedt does not fit the traditional model of a woman’s empowerment pioneer. However, Yann understands that solving for women’s issues is a key part of solving every development issue around the globe.

Back to our scene: we were hosted in the headquarters of the Cordes Foundation, whose work is focused on alleviating global poverty and empowering women and girls to fully participate in the development of their communities.

In my mind, the event crystallized everything that is so great about Spark.

First, reinforcing its mission of empowering tomorrow’s philanthropic leaders, the event was custom-designed to engage millennials in real dialogue with real practitioners. Speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in the field triggered valuable dialogue about real solutions to pain points encountered by the aspiring millennial philanthropists and activists in the room.

Second, the event was infused by a deep sense of shared mission. While Spark and Womanity take relatively different approaches to programming and fundraising for women’s issues – it was very evident the two organizations share a deeply held common cause of empowering women around the world. This shared sense of mission added a tangible sense of relevance and urgency to the entire session’s dialogue.

Finally, over several years of involvement with Spark, I’ve realized that solving for women’s issues requires an ‘all-hands’ approach. In our increasingly globalized and resource-constrained world, every pressing social issue is a woman’s issue. Whether climate change, health care access or hunger, women are disproportionately impacted. Bringing about real change will require large-scale collective action – women and men working together to solve truly global problems.  Both Womanity and Spark are organizations that understand this and practice a large-tent approach to addressing social problems every day.

Last week’s mentorship session made me prouder than ever to be an active male, millennial philanthropist and Spark member, confirming that I, and everyone at Spark, are taking the right steps to meaningfully improve the welfare of women in this generation – and the next.

Feminism: Why You Shouldn’t Just Dismiss It Nor Just Pick It Up

By Anna Nti-Asare

Anna Nti-Asare is a Spark supporter, budding gender studies expert, Stanford graduate, and creative writer. We asked her to guest blog about her thoughts on feminism in today’s world. Check out her thoughts and more about her below, then we’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

“Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”
~bell hooks

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As a student pursuing a master’s in Gender Studies, I often find myself in conversations surrounding feminism and feminist theory. Most people seem to begin the dialogue with a challenge in attempts to show what is wrong with feminism and feminists. I’ve heard that feminists are crazy and that all they want is either to be like men or to destroy them, I’ve heard that people who study feminist theory are simply emotional and take things too personally to pose factual and objective information.

I also encounter those who quickly proclaim they are feminists yet don’t really know what that means to them, nor can they acknowledge that their feminism may be very different than another person’s. These people might say something like – “oh men, they have no place in feminist conversations because they just don’t understand” or “all women should have equal working rights, unless this makes me give up my own class privilege” (I’m paraphrasing here of course).

I think both standpoints are equally as harmful to a feminist movement, at least the one I consider myself to be a part of, one represented by the quote above. As I often do when in conversations concerning feminism, I want to bring in a few bell hooks quotes here that begin to address both those who just dismiss feminist theory and those who mindlessly pick it up, for both are simply misinformed.

In her book Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks writes: “When I talk about the feminism I know – up close and personal – [people] willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like ‘real’ feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it”

I use this quote because it is something I deeply relate to. There are too many people who dismiss feminist politics because they have accepted a mainstream representation of it that loses sight of its goal to end oppression on all levels. Feminist theorists themselves have often been unable to question their own levels of privilege especially those they hold over other women of lower classes or of different race groups. These transgressions are more than fair to critique but they are not reasons to dismiss ones commitment to end sexism and sexist exploitation. If people weren’t so quick to criticize feminism when they meet a feminist, they would provide themselves more room to grow and to see the diverse layers and history of feminist thought (as they are many).

In the same book, hooks continues to a different point: “A male who has divested of male privilege, who has embraced feminist politics, is a worthy comrade in struggle, in no way a threat to feminism, whereas a female who remains wedded to sexist thinking and behavior infiltrating feminist movement is a dangerous threat”

Again, this quote addresses a misunderstanding and one that is extremely dangerous. She explains to her readers that being feminist should not just become a fashionable trend; it is something that should cause a change in your lifestyle no matter what gender you identify with. Simply identifying as a woman does not mean you are automatically a feminist, especially if you participate in acts of oppression. And identifying as a man is not a reason to be excluded from a movement that desperately needs you in order to succeed. I believe it is crucial for those who identify as feminists to embrace this belief because each one of us represents a larger movement. One that often becomes vilified when infiltrated by those who wave the banner and are not willing to learn how they might improve in their own thinking.

This is solely a brief introduction to a general discussion of why more people should set aside their misunderstandings and learn for themselves how beneficial embracing informed feminism could be for themselves and society as a whole. bell hooks beautifully summarizes this by writing: “Imagine living in a world where there is no domination, where females and males are not alike or even always equal, but where a vision of mutuality is the ethos shaping our interaction” I hope you take these quotes and commentary as important food for thought in your next interaction with feminism and that you engage with future pieces concerning my choice to align with Black Feminism specifically. More on this soon…

Visit Anna’s original post here.

About Anna Nti-Asare:
Anna Nti-Asare is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in the UK, pursuing her MPhil in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies. She recently graduated from Stanford University in Medical Anthropology with honors and distinction as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, class of 2014. Anna wrote her undergraduate honors thesis on “Sex Education: An Anti-Feminist Socialization of American Youth.” She is deeply interested in gender and race studies in the US and plans to establish herself as a trusted social commentator on such topics, especially as they relate to youth and popular culture. Outside of studying, Anna is a performance artist – a dancer, singer, actress, and occasional model. She loves finding ways of using her artistic creativity to further develop her intellectual and charitable passions. One example comes through Photography Competing to Raise Support (PCTRS), a photo competition Anna founded in 2012 with the help of two best friends that raises money and awareness for women’s health clinics. She hopes you will enjoy engaging with her opinions and welcomes all feedback.