2018 Annual Report Spotlight: Voqal Fellows Empower Everyday Citizens

January 23, 2019

As part of our ongoing series featuring stories from Voqal’s FY 2018 Annual Report: Be Nimble, we take a look at the work of past Voqal Fellows to provide the tools needed for citizens to make their voice heard in an uncertain and sometimes intimidating political climate.

Voqal believes taking risks and experimenting with new ideas is necessary to advance social change. Our Fellowship is a talent and technology accelerator for change-makers and thought leaders who want to launch their next “big idea” focused on increasing equity for those who are least well off politically, economically and/or socially. In the fallout from the 2016 election, the ability of Voqal Fellows to advance ideas that can rapidly help advance social equity was more important than ever.

Protecting the DACAmented
Antonio Garcia comes from the intersection of tech and immigrant advocacy. He is the founder of the Entrepreneurship Initiative and Protection for All. Prior to this work, he co-founded Latina Girls Code and now serves as the director of curriculum. Latina Girls Code focuses on bringing STEM education to Latina girls from 7-17 years old.

Over the course of the Fellowship, his project rapidly evolved into two separate projects meant to better address the needs of DACAmented individuals. One of these projects is an accelerator for undocumented immigrants seeking to incorporate into a business called the Entrepreneurship Initiative. By incorporating as a business, undocumented individuals are able to overcome many of the legal challenges of working in the United States. The other is a group started by undocumented activists who push for inclusive immigration legislation with a secondary objective of building and activating younger undocumented leaders called Protection for All. During his Fellowship, Garcia proved that sometimes the key to creating effective social change is the ability to respond to needs as they arise.

Giving Workers a Voice
Catherine Huang (Cat) is a technologist that has over 15 years of experience in building media, membership, narrative and advocacy platforms.

Cat’s project, WorkIt, uses technology (assisted AI, cloud computing, messaging and mobile apps), peer networks, legislative information and company policy to provide real-time workplace information and support to people working in low-wage jobs at companies like Walmart. OUR Walmart, an organization that empowers Walmart and other retail industry employees to advocate for themselves (and a Voqal grantee) has been able to effectively leverage WorkIt. This tool has enabled employees to connect with one another around shared experiences and to collectively strategize to create significant change aimed at holding corporations responsible on issues like minimum wage. In a time where employees rights are second to company profits, WorkIt is a key tool in helping workers quickly respond to policies that have real tool in helping workers quickly respond to policies that have real consequences for their everyday lives.

Connecting Organizers to Create Change in Latinx Communities
As a campaign manager for Presente.org, the largest Latinx digital organizing platform in the country, Reetu Mody is on the front lines of creating positive social change.

“The big idea was how do you connect people who want to organize and be part of a movement with the people who are already doing it,” said Mody. Her project, Movement Alchemy: Melding Digital and Grassroots Organizing, addresses that pressing need through a podcast that allows organizers from all over the country to connect with each other and start their own campaigns on issues affecting the Latinx community. In an environment where the Latinx community is forced to respond to near constant attacks on their rights, Mody’s Fellowship project provides organizers across the country the resources needed to build a movement around policies aimed at creating a more Latinx friendly United States.

One of the few early-stage fellowships, the Voqal Fellowship is designed to increase equity and further progressive, social justice-oriented causes. The Voqal Fellows and their projects exemplify the vision of Voqal. Their efforts to provide everyday citizens with the tools needed to respond to the threats and opportunities of an ever-changing social landscape is vital to creating a more socially equitable world for all.

Voqal recently announced the latest class of the Voqal Fellowship. Learn more here.

To learn more about our work in FY 2018 download the full annual report.