TNSchangemakers Urge Social Innovation
On September 9, in the Parsons Green Supply Center, a group called TNSchangemakers invited New School students to participate in an event focused on raising awareness for sustainable consumption practices.The New School for Public Engagement students Melissa Holmes and Victoria Lucas moderated the event. Eleven students gathered around a table to discuss trading their used goods with one another, a practice referred to as “freecycling.”
“TNSchangemakers is a university-wide collaboration among New School students, faculty and administrators to create a program incubator for diverse activities that will accelerate, broaden and deepen social innovation and social entrepreneurship education at the university,” said
Michele Kahane, the faculty advisor and a professor of professional practice at Milano.
Members of the organization collaborate to try to find solutions to global issues, from reducing carbon emissions to promoting women’s education in Africa. According to Lucas, the groups biggest challenge is how best to put the group’s goals into practice.
“It’s all about collaborating and networking to make our ideas come to fruition,” Lucas explains to the students.
Cynthia Lawson, professor of Integrated Design at Parsons, believes that this organization exhibits qualities she hasn’t found in other groups focused on environmentalism and social change at the New School. “I think TNSChangemakers is bringing a long-needed initiative to The New School: one that is both cross-divisional, student-centric and that promotes positive changemaking. Multi-disciplinary collaborations have been supported by the Provost Office for several years now, but this is the first attempt at a large-scale student-run bottom-up series of programs. We often speak of The New School’s values around social change, but as far as I know, there hasn’t been one student organization which was explicitly dedicated to this goal.”
As the organization’s mentor, Kahane’s ultimate goal is to unite all The New School’s divisions for the purpose of environmental and social activism.
“Our aim is to spur inter-divisional collaboration,” Kahane says. “TNSchangemakers is a big tent across the whole university because ‘changemaking’ involves diverse abilities. Our programs are for all students.”
Matt Thompson enrolled at the urban policy program at The New School after he worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative analyst. He joined the TNSchangemakers looking for the opportunity to turn his ideas about social change into a reality.
“I was always around other young people who had great ideas, but couldn’t act on them,” Thompson said.
Holmes admits that the group’s progress may be slow, but remains hopeful that TNSchangemakers will make a lasting impact on social and environmental issues.
“We start in a room like this and make connections and friendships,” Holmes says. “Right now we are trying to figure out how we can have more reuse on campus, but it starts really small with ‘don’t take a plastic bag’ and ‘use a reusable water bottle’...and these small changes are growing and growing very quickly. Things are becoming different and it will allow us to tackle problems like water scarcity and poverty.”