2019 Annual Report Spotlight: Supporting Catalysts for Change

As another Voqal Fellowship cohort begins its journey, it only seems fitting to continue our look back at the FY 2019 Annual Report: Build the Movement with a look at some of our past Fellows. In this month’s 2019 Annual Report spotlight, we do just that. 

At Voqal we believe that one of the best ways to build movements for progressive change is by supporting the changemakers who are creating new innovative tools and platforms that help these movements thrive. One way we do this is through the Voqal Fellowship, a talent and technology accelerator for change-makers and thought leaders who want to launch their next “big idea” focused on increasing equity. 2018 was a critical year for the progressive movement. Thankfully, the 2018 Voqal Fellows rose to the challenge.

Empowering Immigrant Communities
Alicia Nieves is a 2016 graduate of New York University School of Law, where she was a Latina/o Human Rights Scholar and staff editor for the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy. Prior to her Voqal Fellowship, Nieves was a legal fellow with Justfix.nyc, a housing tech nonprofit in New York City where she helped low-income tenants use the Justfix web application to build affirmative legal cases against their neglectful and abusive landlords.

Nieves Fellowship project, Streetwide leverages technology and data for immigrant communities. Streetwide’s awarding-winning software allows allies and impacted communities to work together to deliver emotional and legal support to individuals and their loved ones impacted by immigration arrest, detention, and deportation. Nieves works closely with immigrant communities across the country to understand how technology and data can be used to create and sustain community-led emergency response infrastructure for the growing number of individuals and families affected by this crisis.

Training the Next Generation of Activists
A sought-after global speaker on the future of activism, Micah White has delivered numerous lectures at prestigious universities — including Princeton, Swarthmore, Middlebury and the University of Chicago — along with cultural festivals and private events in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Indonesia, and the United States.

White’s project, Activist Graduate School is an online educational institution designed specifically for the needs of experienced activists who want to take their movement work to the next level. Its emphasis is on university caliber seminars on history, strategy, and the theory of social change through collective action.

The difficulties faced by recent social movements in achieving immediate change, despite their tremendous speed and overwhelming size, is a sign that activism as a discipline must embark on a period of paradigmatic reevaluation. It recognizes that what is needed now more than ever is an educational institution that is designed specifically with the needs of experienced activists in mind: an environment where activists can collaboratively study in search of the next theory of change that will spark a successful transformative social movement.

“My hope for activist graduate school is, quite simply, that we create better activists,” said White.

Strengthening Progressive Youth Activism
Nick Guthman is a progressive political organizer based in Washington, D.C. He has worked on local and national electoral races, as well as issue advocacy campaigns surrounding racial justice, health care, and tax fairness. He focuses his energy on rapid response and social media organizing, with a special emphasis on youth outreach and engagement. Guthman’s project, Blue Future, strengthens progressive youth activism through a clearinghouse website, social media campaign and the infrastructure for a national coalition to coordinate, broaden and optimize the work of youth civic engagement organizations. There is a ton of youth energy as a result of our current political climate. Blue Future facilitates coordination and disseminates information to turn that energy into action.

“To build something from the ground up is a privilege,” said Guthman.

Voqal believes taking risks and experimenting with new ideas is necessary to advance social change. Innovative changemakers like the Voqal Fellows, provide social and progressive movements the catalyst needed to help galvanize people around the issues and ideas needed to create a more socially equitable world for all.

Read more about Voqal’s work in FY 2019 in the full annual report.