HUBweek’s 2018 theme was We the Future, a call to action and invitation to our attendees, speakers, and the Greater Boston community to co-create a more inclusive, equitable future, together. Invoking the ways in which this region has, historically and today, served as a laboratory and launchpad for some of the world’s most exciting discoveries, the theme speaks to our collective ability to change the world we live in, and to find ways to make a positive and lasting impact in Boston and around the globe. Throughout HUBweek, our speakers shared their thoughts on how to accomplish these goals, and how they have, and continue to, work towards a better future. From the fields of art, politics, global health, and more, below are five ideas from our speakers to create a more just future for all.
1. Empower marginalized communities and change national narratives with art
Human-centered, community-driven, radically inclusive. For Cleo Barnett, Deputy Director of Amplifier, a design lab that uses art to uplift the voices of grassroots social movements, this is the recipe for art that can change national narratives, empower marginalized groups, and create a more equitable future. During the 2018 Change Maker conference, she shared stories of how her organization and team of artists and activists have used art as a tool for social change, especially in the midst of today’s polarized and sometimes hostile political climate. One of Amplifier’s recent campaigns, We the People, was created after the 2016 election and seeks to reframe the Constitution’s opening line in an effort to “reclaim what it means to be a United States citizen” and start a conversation about American identity and values. The artworks have provided the visual backdrop to social movements such as the Women’s March, combating a rising national rhetoric of intolerance and bigotry with symbols of hope and inclusion, and mobilizing citizens to create the future they want to see. “When fear and misinformation attempt to divide us, art is more than beauty and decoration,” Cleo said. “Art has the power to wake people up.”
2. Celebrate and foster diversity in leadership
If you live in Boston, you’ve probably heard of Ayanna Pressley. She’s made history not once but twice as the first black woman elected to the Boston City Council and, more recently, the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts — both milestones long overdue. During her fireside chat with Linda Henry at HUBweek 2018, Pressley shared that in order to create a brighter future, we need to elect representatives that reflect the diversity of our communities. “We need women of every age, of every walk of life, of every gender identity,” she told audiences. “Women that have children, women that are childless.” She explained that no group is a monolith and that “the issues that are championed will be more robust and more fully informed and the policies that are developed will be more reflective of the totality of experiences of being a woman” by electing diverse women. “I do think we are at a point now where we are celebrating and embracing a diversity of narratives of what it means to be woman and what leadership looks like...what we’re lifting up is the value of leadership parity, is the value of cognitive diversity — a diversity of perspective, opinion, and thought — and a lifting up and a valuing of lived experiences.”
3. Break down social barriers by leveraging the power of storytelling
Sharing stories and personal narratives, whether in person, through social media, or even in virtual reality, allows us to better understand ourselves and others, finding commonalities with those who at first appear the most different. Transgender rights activist and Freedom Massachusetts Coalition co-chair Mason Dunn has experienced this firsthand; while leading the Yes on 3 campaign, he successfully leveraged the power of storytelling to advocate for transgender individuals’ rights to access public spaces without discrimination. “People may not understand [transgender individuals’] stories or where we come from,” he explained during the inaugural Change Maker Conference at HUBweek 2018. “But when you look at a person who is transgender — a person who is saying please vote on my ability to access public spaces and just exist in the public sphere — it gets a lot harder to vote against those human rights” when you’ve heard their story. For Dunn, an inclusive and equitable future is one in which we are open to learning about each other’s experiences, overcoming difference through open communication: “At the end of the day, I hope that you will hear the stories of transgender people...to remind you that, yes, we may have some aspect of our identity that seems a little different to many people but, at the end of the day, we are humans.”
4. Uplift women with clean water
Did you know that women waste more than 40 billion hours each year walking to find water in sub-Saharan Africa? That’s more hours than the entire labor force of France works in the same amount of time. Providing clean water to communities around the world that need it has become Scott Harrison’s mission ever since he founded charity:water 12 years ago. “If we had a slogan, this would be our slogan: Water changes everything,” he told audiences during HUBweek. “It is the most transformative substance on this planet.” Not only does water improve health outcomes and reduce the incidence of disease, but it also allows community members — especially women — to recover the time lost to searching for water and reach their full potential in society. Young girls (who are typically responsible for finding water for their families) can return to school. Clean water access “massively impacts women,” said Harrison. “Not only are you able to make dirty water clean, but you’re able to reclaim this lost time...There are stories of entrepreneurship, of women starting small businesses...Some women tell us they’re better mothers — they’re able to spend more time at home.” And a brighter future for women ensures a brighter future for whole communities.
5. Welcome and support immigrants in our cities
Immigration is a hot topic, now more than ever. At HUBweek 2018, a panel of immigrant business leaders and representatives from government and the venture capital field addressed how foreign-born entrepreneurs are a key ingredient in building a brighter future in Boston and beyond. John Barros, Boston’s Chief of Economic Development, began by explaining the negative economic impacts of restricting immigration, dispelling the notion that immigrants “steal” jobs. “In fact it’s about expanding the economy,” he said. “Too often I’m having a conversation about how immigrants are taking jobs or taking opportunities and it’s just not a fact.” Instead, immigrants living in Boston contribute $4.3 billion worth of consumer spending, creating almost 20,000 jobs in our city. Foreign-born business owners and students who choose to stay in the U.S. also contribute valuable skills and knowledge to our innovation ecosystem, founding companies and helping to solve some of our biggest challenges. Barros and the other speakers expressed hopes that the Greater Boston area will continue to be a city that welcomes immigrants and empowers them to reach their full potential, and urged audience members to do their part by supporting immigrant-run businesses and helping to dismantle harmful stereotypes and ideas about immigration.