Donald Trump’s presidency leaves a profound need for a renewal of values and moral norms in the United States. In order to achieve the deep national renewal to which the Biden-Harris presidency aspires, transformative communal structures of moral growth are needed for Americans to widen their circle of concern beyond those who look, think, or act as they do. Young people should be at the forefront of this work, but there’s no existing support structure for a new generation of leaders who are finding innovative ways to cultivate human goodness in their communities. That’s why we’re creating the Social Healing Collective.
Young people are currently at the forefront of political, environmental, and social justice activism, which aims at changing government policies. At the same time, a less publicized and organized network of young people are committing themselves to work as social healers -- nurturing moral growth, communal renewal, and cross-cultural understanding to spark a cultural shift that will accompany needed political change. Through a broad solicitation to a variety of community groups across the country, we will identify promising leaders to support through the Social Healing Collective.
Young people have witnessed communities promote destructive norms of tribalism, toxic masculinity, political demonization, the selfish pursuit of wealth and status, and religious intolerance. There is a desperate need for innovative, antiracist, and antisexist communities that help people to internalize alternative norms and values.
Speaking generally, the fellowship will have four components:
1. Learning & Listening - Regular guest speakers, readings, mentorship, activities, and seminar-style conversations will enable fellows to expand their capacities.
2. Building Community - Since there are no institutional structures designed to support young adults in creating the future of values-based communities, there is a deep need for fellowship among innovative leaders in this space.
3. Creating & Collaborating - Starting halfway through the fellowship year, fellows will each embark on individual capstone projects under the supervision of assigned mentors. Fellows will also together produce a public report on the future of values-based communities.
4. Generating Public Dialogue - Each Fellow will receive mentorship on how to tactically spread their ideas to the right audiences through appropriate media, and the Collective will aim to become a major agent in fostering a new cultural conversation around values, social healing, and community.
People of color, particularly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, as well as people with disabilities, will be given a central place in the Social Healing Collective, with the explicit recognition that marginalized communities often lead a society’s moral growth.
How the funds will be used:
- $10,000 will be used as Serena and Alec’s salaries as they lead this project (working for approximately half of their time on this).
- $5,000 will be used as a fund to support fellows in their capstone projects—enabling them to buy necessary materials and equipment and rent spaces for community events.
- $2,500 will be used to cover the legal costs of forming the Social Healing Collective’s 501c(3).
- $4,000 will be used to commission the design of an attractive web presence and graphic identity, which will be important in attracting the best participants.
Who we are
Serena Bian, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is a community builder focused on local and national healing. She most recently created and led the Biden campaign’s Communities United coalition to mobilize thousands of American neighborhoods while building lasting social infrastructure. Serena was recruited by Vivek Murthy, 19th U.S. Surgeon General under Obama, as a research aide for his New York Times Bestselling book, Together: The Healing Power of Social Connections, where her own story of loneliness and leadership is featured. She is an Encore.org Public Voices Fellow.
Alec Gewirtz, who graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, was a Fulbright Research Fellow at the University of Toronto. While on the Fulbright, he lived and worked as a caretaker at a religious community for people with severe intellectual disabilities. At Princeton, he created and led a community called Workshop No. 1 that grew to over 100 members, where he supported Princeton students at weekly meetings along a shared process of building more meaningful lives.
Together, Serena and Alec also organized the Young Community Innovators Gathering in January of 2020, alongside Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurston, co-founders of the Sacred Design Lab and Ministry Innovation Fellows at the Harvard Divinity School.
The Social Healing Collective’s Advisory Board includes Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup, journalist and activist Courtney Martin, executive vice president at the Aspen Institute, Eric Motley, and co-founders of The Sacred Design Lab, Casper Ter Kuile and Angie Thurston.
- Kevin Thorsen
- Rylen Dempsey
- Potluck Mittal
- Zvi Band
- Brian McGrath
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