On April 23, UCSB Arts & Lectures, as part of its Thematic Learning Initiative, co-hosted with the Santa Barbara Public Library Taking Action Matters: Santa Barbara Organizations as Global Change Makers, featuring two-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and representatives from Santa Barbara-based nonprofits. Held at the Santa Barbara Central Library with the library’s Programming and Marketing Librarian Jen Lemberger moderating, panelists joining Kristof were SEE International President and CEO Randal Avolio, African Women Rising Executive Director Linda Cole, Vitamin Angels Senior Program Manager Amy Steets, and Direct Relief Latin America Program Manager, Cydney Justman. A reception for major donors and then a town hall meeting, both with Kristof, followed.
Kristof explained the arguments in two books he wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. In Half the Sky , the argument is that the central moral challenge that we currently face is gender inequity around the world. This as not simply a justice issue, but also a practical issue, because educating girls and bringing them into the labor force gets at many other social issues as well. In A Path Appears, they argue that there are enormous benefits to individuals getting engaged in causes larger than themselves and that we now have evidence of what works in addressing social issues here and abroad such that these commitments can yield significant results.
Kristof’s columns often focus on global health, poverty and gender issues and he offered interesting insights throughout the program on these topics as well as on other issues confronting nonprofits. Guests got to hear short, compelling presentations by each nonprofit leader about his or her organization’s work before a lively panel discussion took place.
When the event concluded, Kristof was off to the Goodland in Goleta for a reception with major donors. After mingling a bit, Kristof fielded questions from donors, including on recovery from a disaster. He noted that a body of evidence, including an ongoing study from Hurricane Katrina, shows that an important factor in adaptability and resilience is the extent to which people have social capital and social connections, whether it be family, a network of friends, or civic organizations. Kristof lamented that these connections are declining and that this is a major challenge facing our country. He indicated that social capital and social connections are critical both in times of natural disaster, like our debris flow, and also in other difficult times, like when one loses a job, which he emphasized is a very common occurrence these days. Also very helpful in getting through stressful times, he noted, is having a larger purpose, a connection to something larger than oneself, whether that be religion or something else.
Kristof ended the session on an optimistic note, sharing how impressed he is with young people both being committed to causes larger than themselves and being pragmatic in how they seek to affect change. He predicted that in the next 15-20 years, the private sector will play a much larger role in doing good, in part because of young people. For this generation, what kind of company they work for, what products they buy, and what they invest in are all important matters. This, Kristof predicts, will put pressure on companies to incorporate values into their business models and the impact of this development could be huge.
Kristoff was then off to yet another event, a town hall meeting at UCSB Campbell Hall, “Building a Resilient Community: Turning Adversity into Opportunity,” moderated by KEYT’s John Palminteri.
Both the discussion and town hall, along with a film screening and a Kristof book give-away on other dates, were part of Arts & Lectures Thematic Learning Initiative (TLI), which provides opportunities to explore issues of importance with the hope that they will initiate change and empowerment. TLI events are open to the general public and are offered free of charge or at a nominal cost. For a listing of this season’s offerings, click here.
Arts & Lectures (A&L) donors help make possible TLI events as well as A&L’s extensive education and outreach activities, in which visiting artists and speakers participate in educational activities for K-12 and college students and other outreach activities for the general public. A nice perk of being a major donor are invites to receptions such as this one with Kristof.
For more information about Arts and Lectures generally, click here.
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