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Demo Day 2018

A community organizer gazed into Texas’ demographic future. A crisis-text-line founder explained how machine learning is helping to save lives. And a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter recounted the events behind one of the biggest stories of the year.

Emerson Collective’s second annual Demo Day brought together leading minds working at the intersection of social justice, education, health, environment, media, and the arts. Held on December 7, Demo Day ’18 presenters delivered talks, updates, and conversations as diverse and wide-ranging as the organizations they represent.

In addition to those presentations, Demo Day ’18 included several poignant performances, including an excerpt from the work of award-winning playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith; a dance performance by members of ODC.

A varied group of visionaries connected the belief that our collective humanity pushes us all forward. “Leap and the net will appear,” said Emerson Collective Founder and President Laurene Powell Jobs, summing up the spirit of the event. “The net appears because we weave it together for ourselves and for each other.”

Social Justice

Emerson Collective Founder Laurene Powell Jobs joined friend, collaborator and celebrity chef José Andrés for a keynote conversation about the chef’s NGO World Central Kitchen, which delivered 3.6 million meals to people in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, Founder and Executive Director of the Texas organization Jolt, predicted that in 2020, her group would register 300,000 new voters statewide. “We believe that it will be a young and diverse Texas that changes the course of American history and ends the politics of hate,” she said.

Marshall Hatch Jr., Co-Founder and Executive Director of MAAFA Redemption Project, challenged the idea that jobs alone are enough to transform violence driven neighborhoods in Chicago. MAAFA works with young men holistically to reduce gun violence by treating them as the solution to the city's most pressing problems. Through the process they expose the men to a belief about themselves and their city that they never knew was possible.

Peter O’Driscoll, Executive Director of Equitable Food Initiative, a nonprofit consortium uniting farmworkers, consumers, and producers, described the ongoing efforts to improve food safety and working conditions in the fresh produce industry.

Media & Journalism

Ginger Thompson, a senior reporter with ProPublica, spoke with Atlantic Staff Writer Alexis Madrigal about her profoundly distressing June, 2018 report on conditions inside a U.S. Border Patrol facility where children were being separated from their families.

James Burnett, Editorial and Managing Director of The Trace, described the work being done by his nonprofit news outlet, whose goal is to “equip Americans with a better understanding” of gun violence.

What can journalism learn from conflict mediation? “Ask better questions,” said Atlantic Contributing Writer (and Emerson Collective Fellow) Amanda Ripley, who spoke with Solutions Journalism Network Co-founder David Bornstein about lessons she learned from studying other industries’ approaches to reaching across a divide.


Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director for the ACLU and director of its Center for Democracy, explained that in 2018 alone, the ACLU has filed five major lawsuits on behalf of asylum-seekers. But litigation alone can only accomplish so much. “We’re dealing with a problem older than our country, as old as human nature: fear of the stranger,” she explained.


Jonathan Stull, CEO of ed tech company Handshake sketched the crisis facing new college graduates, some 40 percent of whom are underemployed.

Shatoya Ward, Principal of Purdue Polytechnic High School, an XQ Super School, talked about creating a direct pipeline into a four-year university for under-represented students.


Chuck Slaughter, Founder and President of Living Goods, explained how his organization is using mobile technology to support community-health workers in developing countries as they deliver care on demand to people in remote areas.


Solstice CEO Steph Speirs highlighted that four out of five Americans are unable to install solar panels on their own homes. That’s where community-shared solar farms come in, she said, connecting customers—at no upfront cost—to energy savings and reducing their carbon footprint.

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