Akimbo’s Free Emerging Leaders Program Helps College Students Channel Their Changemaking Powers

If your pandemic summer’s shaping up to be a bummer, a five-day online workshop series for college-student leaders and changemakers could turn it around—and it won’t cost you a dime.

Akimbo’s Emerging Leaders Program launched in June with 100 students looking to learn the real skills they need to thrive in the working world—and channel their own changemaking powers. It was such a success that Akimbo will offer it again from Monday, August 3, through Friday, August 7, 2020.

Interested students must apply for the program before midnight, Monday, July 6. Click here to learn more and fill out an application.

The program is free, but spots are limited. Finalists will be contacted via email by Thursday, July 9, and a mandatory group call of all finalists will be held at 10 a.m. (ET) on either Monday, July 13, or Tuesday, July 14. Students will receive notice of acceptance on Wednesday, July 15.

The project-based program is designed for fulltime undergraduate college students from the sophomore level up to 2020 graduates. It’s run by two Akimbo coaches with a passion for helping students embrace the unknown and discover their own ability to make change. “It’s really all about leaning into the possibility ahead,” said Taylor Harrington, who manages the program. “There’s no rubric for the projects.”

“This program could be the thing that helps Sullivan students realize, ‘This is what it takes to help me get where I want to go. This is the path I should take. This is the first step. And I don’t have to do it alone,’” Harrington said. “When we ran this program in June 2020, students found their tribe. I had one student reach out and share how reassuring it felt that there were people out there, other college students, who also question the status quo, who want to push the boundaries of what’s possible, who were searching for a community of like-minded peers to support them.”

Founded by entrepreneur, author and blogger Seth Godin, Akimbo offers a range of online workshops that include the four-week altMBA program focused on leadership and management. According to the company’s website, Akimbo’s workshops are “about bending the culture, about speaking up and being heard. We believe that each of us has more power than ever before to see the world as it is, to contribute and to make things better.”

The Emerging Leaders group will meet online through Zoom starting at 10 a.m. (ET) each day. The program includes a few hours of group conversation led by the coaches, followed by intensive work on daily team projects—the exact nature of which can’t be revealed in advance, Harrington said. “I can say they’re open enough that everyone will be able to relate to them and interpret them differently,” she said. “The assignments won’t be silly group projects about something students aren’t interested in. Students will be asked to talk about themselves within the projects and the change they want to make in the world.”

Recalling the June program, Harrington said, “Students spent a lot of time together. The projects helped them dig deep, to leave with more questions than they had at the beginning of the week. There aren’t any case studies. This is about the students, their work and where they want to go … They find the answers within themselves and each other.”

One participant, Kimia Tabatabaei, said the June program taught her “what it means to be a lynchpin, the type of leader whose magic and authenticity and commitment to a purpose bring value to every place they enter. And I’ve learned that being that leader doesn’t require any permission. All you need is to choose yourself, to trust yourself and to believe that you have the power to step up and start making that change.”

Natalie Esparza participated in the Emerging Leaders workshop program in June. (LinkedIn photo)

Natalie M. Esparza, another participant, agreed. “No matter how old you are, no matter where you are in the world, you can take ownership of making change happen. You can ask for help from anyone in the world who’s just as passionate as you, and you can make things that didn’t exist a week ago that are powerful and life-changing.”

Since many Sullivan-affiliated students have already built their own network of like-minded changemakers through the Ignite Retreats, field trips and study-abroad adventures, Akimbo’s Emerging Leaders Program offers a chance to cast their net even further. “Last time we had students from all over the world join us, including students from Australia who switched their sleep schedule to dedicate time to this,” Harrington said. “Experiencing ‘aha!’ moments with students from around the world whom you’ve never met in person is something magical.”

Lecture Series at Furman University Aims to Bring People Together in Polarized Times

The novel coronavirus has spent the last three months driving people apart. This summer, Michele Speitz, an associate professor of English literature at Sullivan Foundation partner school Furman University, hopes the humanities can help bring them back together with “Tolle, Lege,” a virtual lecture and discussion series.

“The humanities addresses these fundamental questions of what it means to be human, of what it means to live the good life, and we’ve had everything that feels normal and feels right go out the window,” Speitz, also the director of the Furman Humanities Center, said. “It’s the tools of the humanities that can help us find a clear path forward and take some comfort in what people have done and said before.”

Related: Furman University professor develops life-saving humanitarian drones

A child’s voice chanting “tolle, lege” (Latin for “take, read”) prompted theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo to begin reading from his collection of Paul’s epistles, which led to his conversion to Christianity. Influencing religious choice isn’t the aim of the series but opening the door to enlightenment certainly is.

“The driving idea behind this was to connect Furman’s really illustrious humanities professoriate to people when we’re feeling disconnected, using the humanities’ power to heal, to reach audiences within the Furman community and then beyond the Furman community,” Speitz said. “It’s always been very important for us that there wouldn’t be any paywalls and that this could be accessed by anybody.”

To wit, all six lectures are free, open to the public, and available now for viewing on the “Tolle, Lege” website. You can also visit the website to register for the live Q&A sessions, which will be held on the following dates:

“There is a really nice spectrum of topics, from biblical Christian texts to Indian art, and I’m proud that it represents the many different types of varied work that makes Furman such a great place to be faculty and to be a student,” Speitz said.

She noted that her early fears of lack of interest have been assuaged with a surge of signups for the Q&As. “This is kind of beyond our wildest imagination how well this is being received right now.”

Related: Furman University wins award for green buildings

“Tolle, Lege” is a collaboration among Furman faculty representing the departments of English, religion, history, Asian studies, classics, and modern languages and literatures, with support from the Furman Humanities Center and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), under the direction of Nancy Kennedy. The Louis G. Forgione Professor of Classics Chris Blackwell was also instrumental in the process of bringing the lecture series to life.

This article was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Furman University website.

Blog: Do Moral Values Exist in Manufacturing?

In the following post, we share a blog from Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University and a principal consultant at Emmanuel Strategic Sustainability. The blog, part of a series, was originally posted here on the Emmanuel website.

Defining Morality
We begin our review of the 17 M’s of manufacturing with “Moral” values. An article by Tranzend Consulting looks at the difference between business ethics and morality, where the latter is a personal perspective of what is right or wrong that will vary for each individual. A company aligned with societal business ethics can still be at odds with the moral values of an individual employee. An example is former employers that would focus on meeting minimum safety requirements mandated by federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards that are focused only on physical safety. My position was an expectation of a much stronger regard for the overall wellbeing of our workforce to include higher than minimum physical security along with financial, mental, and spiritual elements.

“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”—John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO

My Experience
If I were to base the answer to the above blog post title from my experience in manufacturing, I would generally give a “no” answer. I find it interesting that, as I write this content, a stress knot is developing in my chest just thinking about this former aspect of my career. The primary reason I am no longer working in the manufacturing industry is the conflict between both employer expectations and customer practices and my moral values. I felt a failure on the part of the owners of the organizations where I worked and the customers to which we supplied product in fulfilling their moral obligation for me to want to go to work each day.

Hanging Your Moral Values on a Hook
I felt like there was a code in manufacturing to live a different life at work than outside the factory walls. A routine practice was asking employees to lie to customers when quality issues occurred to avoid negative financial chargebacks. Since I see honesty and taking responsibility for wrongdoing as critical moral values, this was at odds for me. If directly asked, I would tell the truth. As you can imagine, this would not put me in good stead with my employer since I was told to do otherwise. However, I would not always share with our customers what I did know about our responsibility for a quality issue, which was still a compromise of what I believe. Owners and executives I reported to would espouse Christian values outside of work but argue that what they asked of me was just business.

Customer Failure of Fairness
A lack of fairness could have driven an employer impetus for not being upfront with our customer base. Each new job would involve contentious negotiations only agreed upon near the production launch. The supplier in this scenario would have to do upfront product and process development without a settlement. At the last minute, a three-year commitment with built-in ongoing price reductions was reached. Then every six months, the purchasing agent would come back, asking for an even lower per piece price. As a comparatively small company dealing with a behemoth auto manufacturer, the typical response was to comply with the demand begrudgingly. The customer was also putting more responsibility for design engineering and prototyping onto the supplier, creating a further compromised opportunity for profitability.

Key Takeaway
The reality is that not every small to large manufacturing company engages in these contrary practices. However, it happened at several employers over my nearly 30-year industry career. The “win at the cost of others” approach drove me away and likely did the same for many others. If we want people to be attracted to the manufacturing industry, then the heads of companies need to engage with one another differently. Instead of a toxic cycle of distrust, for the sake of a few cents to the bottom line, companies should foster a healthy cycle of mutual benefit, in which moral values and employee buy-in are weighted equally to—or even higher than—fiscal profit.

Taking the First Step
There are few Google results when one searches for moral values in manufacturing, which suggests that this is an area ripe for further exploration. I recommend that each person in manufacturing do a “hat on the hook” assessment. If you do not like the results, then I suggest putting a plan together to make the necessary change to properly align your work life with your moral values.

My Gratitude
To spin from what I saw as the seedy side of the sector to a favorable closing, I am grateful for the story of Barry-Wehmiller told in Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family . Two sentences in the book told me volumes about the way they choose to do business. The first was “a dramatically different approach to leadership that creates off-the-charts morale, loyalty, creativity, and business performance.” The second was “Barry-Wehmiller has evolved into a company that generates significant amounts of cash every year.” The result at the point of the writing of the book was holdings of eighty companies with ten global operating divisions. Maybe “not” hanging your hat on the hook is a better approach to business.

Sneak Peek
The conversation on the 17 M’s of manufacturing will continue next week with a focus on “Mission.”



Blog: The 17 M’s of Manufacturing

In the following post, we share a blog from Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies at Sullivan Foundation partner school Mary Baldwin University and a principal consultant at Emmanuel Strategic Sustainability. The blog was originally posted here on the Emmanuel website.

Setting the Stage
The first 28 years of my career were in a combination of manufacturing plants and machine builders. In my early twenties, I have a memory of laying on my back in a grease-covered stamping press. The plant was very noisy as these machines steadily thumped out automotive components. It was also the middle of the summer, so it was hot and stuffy as well. I clearly remember telling myself that I would need to do something different, as I did not want to be doing the same job when I was in my fifties.

“The skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million manufacturing positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential impact of $2.5 trillion.”—Deloitte

A Manufacturing Hiring Issue
The study results found by Deloitte echoed content in a Forbes article where those needing factory workers are unable to hire enough numbers of middle-skilled manufacturing employees. Both sources align with my personal experience of teaching a management principles course. Each semester I would ask the students how many planned to work in manufacturing upon graduation. I had one student raise her hand out of about a total of 400 students.

How to Fill 2.4 Million Positions
The glory days of the great industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan are gone and replaced by a Top 25 list of desirable jobs in a U.S. News and World Report article dominated by those in the healthcare industry. As baby boomers retire from manufacturing, it will be increasingly difficult to fill the open positions if things do not change. We need to figure out how to fill this shortfall.

A New Approach
Top Japanese quality guru Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa developed the fishbone diagram, also known as a cause and effect diagram. The tool is used by manufacturing teams to investigate production issues to find root causes of quality problems. The initial list was four potential causes that included man, machine, method, and materials. First, in research on this topic, I found articles with up to 10 M’s. Second, I compiled a list of the different M’s found in them. Third, I added those I felt were valuable from my experience. The result is currently 17 M’s, with the potential to add more to the list. These will help shape a proposed new approach to manufacturing with the intent to create a path to making this sector once again desirable. It seemed appropriate to use the fishbone diagram to find the root cause of this issue, and that is the method we will be using over the coming weeks as we look for the root cause of the hiring concerns for this industry sector.

Key Takeaway
Albert Einstein is not responsible for the quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We will not let that stand in the way of using it to describe why manufacturing has lost its luster as a career destination. In the coming weeks we will explore how this industry should change to become appealing once again.

My Gratitude
My first job in the manufacturing sector was an opportunity to complete the training and education that resulted in me attaining journeyman machine repair status. I had the great fortune to learn this skilled trade from my mentor, Dar Aiken. He taught me machine diagnostic and repair skills that have been key to my career success. He long ago departed from this world but is a part of my being. If you have had someone like this in your career and are still able, I encourage you to share your gratitude with them.

Taking the First Step
I recommend those interested in learning more about the fishbone diagram to go to the American Society of Quality’s webpage on this topic. They provide a good overview and links to articles, case studies, and publications.

Sneak Peek
We will begin next week with the first M of moral values.

The ‘Invisible Front Lines’: How Brenau University Helps Unseen and Forgotten Populations Survive the Pandemic

Tara Lynch, an alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school Brenau University’s Women’s College, works on what she calls the “invisible front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lynch is a psychiatric mental nurse practitioner for Salveo Integrative Health, which provides behavioral and mental health services throughout North Georgia and statewide through community and organizational partnerships. She also works in private practice three days a week.

Lynch, who earned her B.S. in Nursing, said the current climate has been especially challenging for her clients, including the low-income, inadequately housed and homeless population she works with at Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville.

Related: Social enterprise takes kids on a global journey of the imagination to cope with the pandemic

“The homeless population has been largely unseen in this crisis,” Lynch said. “Often they depend on businesses such as fast food restaurants and coffee shops to be able to use the restroom, freshen up daily, obtain inexpensive hot meals and stay hydrated. With many dining rooms and restrooms closed, they have very limited options.”

photo of mental health nurse practitioner Tara Lynch in her white medical jacket

Tara Lynch

Lynch says anxiety and depression have also been a problem for her clients, especially among high school seniors who had to leave school early. And for more severely ill individuals, such as those diagnosed with schizophrenia, she says changes in their routines have been particularly devastating.

“Stability is key for this population, and the rampant conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 are difficult and frightening for this population,” she said.

Aside from delivering medication samples and making welfare checks on behalf of families who may not have heard from a loved one with mental health challenges, Lynch—like many others in her field—has been working from home since social-distancing measures were put in place. This has made it hard for some of her clients to get in-person treatment, since many of them do not know how to use technology, have limited or no internet access, or do not own a computer or smartphone.

Related: Davidson College alumnus helps spearhead Feed the Front Line Charlotte initiative

Finding treatment locations has also been a problem for Jennifer Langston, a Brenau University senior majoring in psychology and the executive director of Reboot Jackson. Langston’s organization provides peer support and resources to those seeking recovery from mental health and substance use disorders in Jackson County, Georgia.

“When people come to us now asking for help finding somewhere to go to treatment, we are hard pressed to find a place that is doing intakes because of COVID-19,” she said. “There is just nowhere for people to go.”

photo of jennifer langston of Reboot Jackson with colleagues in black logoed shirts

Jennifer Langston (right), executive director of Reboot Jackson, with colleagues

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Langston says the number of individuals that Reboot Jackson serves has more than doubled. The organization has moved its programming online and is providing support groups for those in recovery, including groups specifically for military veterans.

“This population is of deep concern at present in the mental health and recovery communities as they may be particularly vulnerable to relapse or experience other complications during this time,” Langston said.

Housing has also become a major barrier. Several treatment facilities to which Reboot Jackson normally refers people have shut their doors, and some have even asked current clients to leave and return at a later time. All Langston and her team can do is forge ahead with what is not beyond their control.

“My staff and I have tripled our efforts to connect with our peers and with one another,” she said. “We have been working in the office, working from home, answering our phones in the middle of the night—and juggling this all while trying to practice our own self-care.”

Like Lynch and Langston, Assistant Professor of Psychology Melanie Covert has also been busy on the mental health front. Covert is volunteering with the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line (866-399-8938), which provides support, coping strategies and follow-up resources for those impacted psychologically or emotionally by COVID-19.

Covert, who earned her master’s in clinical counseling psychology from Brenau, typically works the line four or five shifts a week, either from noon to 4 p.m. or midnight to 4 a.m. While that might sound arduous, she says she is able to do so from home while also fulfilling her other responsibilities.

“I am really grateful to be able to serve others in some small way and to do my part in helping our community get through this together,” Covert says.

Melanie Covert, instructor of psychology at Brenau University (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Department of Psychology Chair Julie Battle says Brenau University faculty members and students have done an amazing job of adapting to the current environment, even as they continue to do volunteer and other work outside of the classroom.

“We are working hard to support each other and to continue with our academic mission,” Battle said. “This is especially challenging for educational and clinical programs in which students provide clinical services to others as part of their training.”

Despite those challenges, she said Brenau continues to provide “an extraordinary educational experience.”

Related: Mary Baldwin University staff and students find myriad ways to serve community during pandemic

That experience includes offering care and services for students during what has been a tough adjustment for some, an adjustment that Brenau Counselor Gay Baldwin says could potentially lead to cases of situational depression or anxiety.

Particularly at issue, Baldwin says, are the dynamics that students face when going back home and trying to complete schoolwork in an environment they might not be used to.

“Going to classes online, taking and studying for exams, writing papers, and doing all of that while parents and siblings are around – students have to set some boundaries,” she said.

Gay Baldwin

When the university moved from on-ground to remote learning, Baldwin says she made a note of students she typically works with and quickly reached out to them.

“I sent them all an email to let them know, ‘I’m here and available to help,’” she says.

Baldwin has been practicing telemental health for about four years, which she says made for an easier transition from mostly in-person counseling to sessions by email, text, phone, Zoom or FaceTime. Relaxed HIPAA standards in regard to telemental health and COVID-19 have also allowed her to provide better services.

“I’m just glad I can be here for our students,” Baldwin said.

This story was edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Brenau University website.

Davidson College Alumnus Helps Spearhead Feed the Front Line Charlotte Initiative

Like millions of Americans, Jenna Brunner, an alumnus of Sullivan Foundation partner school Davidson College, and her Wells Fargo colleagues quickly adjusted to working from home. But it wasn’t long before conversation during weekly remote meetings turned to how they could make a difference in the community.

In a matter of days, inspired by a similar program in Texas, they developed an initiative with a two-fold purpose: to deliver thousands of meals to front-line healthcare workers in Charlotte, N.C. and help generate revenue for local restaurants.

Brunner and three teammates created Feed the Front Line (FTFL) Charlotte.

Related: “Pledge My Check” campaign asks affluent Americans to donate their stimulus checks to people in need

As of just three weeks after the official launch, the group had surpassed $50,000 in donations, which equaled 5,000 meals. Every dollar given to FTFL goes directly to the partner restaurants, who then prepare and deliver meals to Charlotte hospital workers.

“The goal was to be as efficient as possible in getting this off the ground because the need was, and continues to be, very urgent,” Brunner said. “Just last week, we ramped up to three deliveries per day—that equals 1,400 meals between Sunday and Friday.”

The restaurants have been generous, throwing in extra meals with the orders and making their dishes available at a lower cost so each donation does more. Currently, there are close to 20 partner restaurants, including Haberdish, Crepe Cellar Kitchen & Pub and Growlers Pourhouse, all run by Davidson alumni Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown. The pair also owns Reigning Doughnuts and is in the process of opening a fifth concept.

“This is a hard time for restaurants, big and small,” Brown said. “Prior to COVID-19, we had businesses based highly upon creating an experience for guests, and now we’ve been reduced to take-out. It’s a totally different business. We’ve also lost a gigantic portion of our team, and there has been a lot of emotion around that loss. Still, we are keeping our chins up and trying to find ways to get through. FTFL Charlotte is a part of weathering this storm.”

Related: Newberry College promises tuition freeze for incoming freshmen

While restaurants have suffered significant job and revenue loss, this partnership helps with those who are still working every day.

“I think a big benefit in being a part of FTFL Charlotte is the boost of morale among our team members,” Brown said. “Our staff takes pride in making these meals for our healthcare workers. It’s an incredible opportunity to feel like we are part of the solution and part of keeping our front-line workers fed.”

As fundraising grows, FTFL will add more partners.

“It’s very clear that people are looking for ways to give back during this time. Luckily, getting involved with FTFL Charlotte is something you can do from the comfort of your own home, while abiding by the various stay-at-home restrictions in place,” Brunner said. “What’s unique about our organization is that we launched as a youth-led, local grassroots campaign. Because of this, we are able to be incredibly nimble and fast-acting with our approach to deploying funds raised. On top of that, we are completely volunteer-based and very transparent that 100 percent of every dollar donated (minus transaction fees) goes directly to our restaurant partners and, ultimately, to our front-line workers in the form of meals.”

Most of the work of the FTFL team happens from their homes, but they have joined in a few deliveries. They also regularly speak with restaurant partners and meal recipients.

“We’ve had restaurant owners on the phone almost in tears because they might not be able to pay next month’s rent, and we’ve heard from healthcare workers who are incredibly gracious and feel very supported by their community right now,” Brunner said. “It makes me emotional to think about … it’s really special.”

Alumni at Sullivan Foundation partner school University of Kentucky have founded their own chapter of Feed the Front Line. Read more about their organization here.

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Davidson College website.


Mary Baldwin University Staff and Students Find Myriad Ways to Help Community in Pandemic

It was a grandmother and her two granddaughters, ages 4 and 6, who showed Kerry Mills, Mary Baldwin University Online advisor and assistant professor of art history, the meaning behind her simple act of kindness.

Where she lives in Richmond, Mills is volunteering to help deliver meals to people impacted by the coronavirus crisis, and this family greeted her with a handmade thank-you sign and gratitude from the heart. “The girls were so excited and then proceeded to tell me how they liked my outfit,” said Mills. “You have got to love fashion kudos during a pandemic. They made my day.”

Related: Kayla Harris of Mary Baldwin University wins Ignite Retreat business pitch contest with computer game for personal finances

Her deliveries are part of an outreach effort through the Underground Kitchen—a collective of chefs who usually put on themed pop-up dinners—to distribute free soup, bread and tea three times a week to community members in need, including those who are homebound, emergency and healthcare professionals who are working long shifts, and people in temporary residence while their family members undergo hospital treatment.

Suppliers provide the food for chefs to make in local church kitchens around Richmond. Twice a week, Mills makes deliveries to about 12 residences in the East End of Richmond, while practicing social distancing and wearing a mask.

The Underground Kitchen as a whole is facilitating cooking and delivering 2,000-plus meals a week. “Good food is something I am passionate about and food insecurity has always been an important issue for me,” Mills said. “With the pandemic, more people—whether shut in at home, at work in a hospital, or on a limited budget due to job loss—are facing issues of access to a nutritious meal, so this seemed like a project I could get behind.”

Related: Ignite Retreat alumnus Elizabeth De Wetter organizes 6K fundraiser to build wells in Zambia

From delivering food to assisting areas of the community hard hit by the pandemic, here are some additional members of the Mary Baldwin University family who are devoting time to giving back:

Fouzia Ishtiaq, a student through MBU Online, has coordinated volunteers to help cook and provide meals to the elderly through her own non-profit organization. She has also checked on elderly neighbors over the phone to see how they’re doing.

Josh Smith, another student through MBU Online, opened a daycare for the children of first responders and healthcare professionals in Henrico County.

While the Staunton Farmers’ Market was closed, Lindsey Walsh, assistant director of the Vantage Point, helped create a food map to support local farmers.

Cadets in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership have contributed in their home communities by delivering groceries to elderly and disabled neighbors, driving vegetables from farms to peoples’ homes, and participating in crowdsourced data processing and protein research with the hope of speeding up the process toward a COVID-19 vaccine.

Faculty members Ralph Cohen and Allan Moye helped the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) with their first-ever livestream of a full performance, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in March. The ASC has gone on to produce a slate of streaming performances that have drawn national attention and helped with fundraising efforts.

This story has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the Mary Baldwin University website.


Social Enterprise Takes Kids on Global Journey of the Imagination to Cope With Pandemic

A global social enterprise has tapped into the ancient power of storytelling—and the high-tech reach and capabilities of YouTube—to help children adjust to the COVID-19 crisis.

Papinee, which describes itself as a “progressive children’s storytelling company,” recently launched Papinee Club, which provides parents with a comprehensive toolkit and engaging content to help young children—between three and eight years old—cope with the psychological and emotional stresses created by the coronavirus pandemic. At the core of the initiative is a new weekly YouTube series, also titled Papinee Club. Watch the first episode here.

Dev Suj, founder of Papinee, noted that parents around the world are struggling to find meaningful and positive ways to help their children cope with the coronavirus crisis and the bewildering restrictions it places on their lives. “This is a very stressful time for families,” Suj said. “Isolated at home, parents need to juggle working remotely [and] helping their kids with distance learning, not to mention keeping everyone healthy and positive. Kids are unable to go to school, see their friends, play outside, [while they’re] waiting for things to go back to normal.”

photo of a small child reading a Papinee book that ties into the company's children's programming for YouTube during the pandemic

When they’re not watching the Papinee Club series for children on YouTube, kids can read Papinee’s books about various animals and their adventures around the world.

The project was inspired by Suj’s childhood—or, more specifically, his mother. “[The coronavirus crisis] took me back to my childhood when my mother was sick and we couldn’t leave the house, much less travel,” Suj recalled. “But through her incredible imagination, she told us many fantastic stories of animals that ruled the planet. We visited exotic countries around the world, and it gave me hope.”

Suj’s mom also took him to visit local children’s homes and orphanages every Sunday. There, she would tell share her wildly imaginative stories to empower and inspire the kids. She also invented a word, “papinee,” which meant “unconditional love,” and told each child she encountered that they were her “papinee.”

Today Suj and his team use storytelling through technology to accomplish similar goals, aiming to engage, educate and inspire children around the planet. Each YouTube episode of Papinee Club runs 15-20 minutes and showcases a carefully planned range of activities from yoga, mindfulness and nutrition to art, music and dance expression—many of which parents and children can do together. It’s accompanied by the Papinee Passport, a downloadable collection of activities that provide an educational, interactive and communal way to keep children engaged throughout the week.

Addressing diverse themes such as gratitude, courage, resilience and acceptance, each episode takes families on a journey around the world, ignites their imagination through creative storytelling and encourages family bonding through joint activities. Ultimately, Suj said, Papinee Club emphasizes a message of universal love and respect and seeks to reassure children of brighter days ahead while encouraging dialogue and sharing and suggesting ways to cope with the stresses of the pandemic.

Each episode’s segments are animated by real families and volunteers from different parts of the world who find themselves in very similar circumstances. Sharing their unique talents and experiences, they provide a window into different cultures and reinforce the concept of a global community coming together in support of each other.

“With the world essentially shut down, we had to be extremely innovative, creative and resourceful in how we created this show,” Suj said. Conceived and created in less than 14 days due to the urgency of the crisis, the entire production—from developing the original script, creating bespoke toolkits and step-by-step instructions for participating families, to editing and animation—was managed remotely and volunteer-led. “We had to find the entire creative and production team, enlist all our friends to help, and it is mind-boggling how everyone and everything just came together. We were all unified in our desire to get kids to understand that everything is OK and that we are going to make the world better together.”

this photo shows a child in need who received a free storytelling kit from Papinee

As a social enterprise, Papinee gives away a free “Inspire” storytelling kit to a child in need for every kit that is sold.

The pilot features five families and characters from all walks of life and different corners of the globe—Telluride, Colo. and Los Angeles in the U.S. as well as Portugal, Turkey and Thailand. “This is a show for families by families, and beyond providing a set of fun, educational and interactive activities, it shows kids and parents alike that they are not alone and that we are stronger together,” Suj said. “Our main goal is to inspire them to learn, laugh, and love unconditionally because that is what Papinee is about—unconditional love.”

Papinee was founded as a social enterprise to educate and inspire children to become respectful, responsible and compassionate global citizens of tomorrow. Its proprietary WHIGZ curriculum (World, History, Imagination, Geography, Zoology) draws inspiration from Montessori and STEAM as well as the centuries-old craft of storytelling. The company says its mission is to awaken a sense of curiosity, encourage respect for the planet and promote the values of universal love and human connection through the eyes of its animal characters from across the world.

Papinee is already known for its heirloom-inspired toys, interactive storytelling kits with a strong emphasis on education and pop-up amusement parks throughout Asia and Europe. As a social enterprise, Papinee also gives a free “Inspire” storytelling kit to a child in need for every kit that is purchased. The company’s Papinee Club series also brings its signature animal characters to life, animated on screen and online for the first time. Additionally, the show represents the brand’s first introduction to the U.S.

“This project has grown organically and has been sustained by the passion and tireless dedication of our network of volunteers,” Suj said. “We are working at light speed to complete it as the need is so urgent and the current situation so extraordinary and universal. We are incredibly humbled by the reception of the concept and the generosity of volunteers from around the world who helped to create the pilot. This is what motivates us to work even harder and faster, and, hopefully, when this crisis is over, the lessons we have taught will continue to inspire.”

Six additional episodes are currently in development with new episodes released every Saturday on Papinee’s Youtube channel. Full episodes, individual segments and the Papinee Passport are also available on Papinee.com.


UK Alumni Launch Nonprofit to Feed Frontline Workers and Support Restaurants

Five alumni from the University of Kentucky, a Sullivan Foundation partner school, are putting their degrees to work by showing support for front-line workers and local restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

With backgrounds in business and medicine, Michael Zhu, Jodi Llanora, Kyle Luo, Logan Jones and John Stein refused to feel helpless in the fight against COVID-19. “The original idea for Feed the Front Line originated in Houston and started to make its way to other cities,” Zhu said. “When our team heard about the mission of the organization, it immediately resonated. We love the double-sided impact.”

Related: Sullivan Foundation alumnus Elizabeth De Wetter organizes 6K fundraiser to build wells in Zambia

Feed the Front Line (FTFL) began as a simple idea—raise money, buy local food and deliver it to healthcare workers. Now, the successful nonprofit operates in several states.

Together, Zhu—who graduated with a degree in finance from Gatton College of Business and Economics in 2019—and the group of UK alumni created the Kentucky chapter. Llanora and Luo are both 2019 graduates who earned degrees in biology. Jones and Stein, also 2019 graduates, earned their degrees in finance and marketing.

Here’s how it works: Through donations, FTFL Kentucky is able to purchase bulk meal orders from local restaurants. Volunteers deliver those meals to hospitals, testing sites and other healthcare establishments. With 100% of the proceeds allocated to local eateries, the result is a two-sided impact for each dollar raised. The mission is to feed those on the front lines while also helping restaurant employees.

“We saw a need and wanted to meet that need. It sounds simple, but we just wanted to help in whatever way we could,” Stein said. “We believe many people feel that same desire to help in any way possible. One of the most powerful things is seeing how people rally behind the cause for the common good.”

The generosity is nothing short of impressive. So far, Feed the Front Line Kentucky has raised more than $10,000, allowing the team to deliver 400 meals, with another 200 meals scheduled for delivery this week.

Related: Former volleyball star from Cumberland University now saving lives in pandemic

Additionally, FTFL Kentucky recently partnered with MiddleGround Capital as a corporate sponsor. The private equity firm—founded by Kentucky native John Stewart—will assist with delivering more than 500 meals throughout National Nurses Week (May 6-12).

“Some of the most tremendous business leaders that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have always focused on giving back to the community and bringing others along with them on the path to success,” Zhu said.

The desire to make a positive impact is what drove the team to launch Feed the Front Line Kentucky. That same desire will keep them motivated to continue giving back throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We felt like it was our duty to at least attempt something that could help our local community,” Zhu said.

This article has been edited slightly from the original version appearing on the UK website.


Free Webinar: How to Amplify Engagement and Connections Online

A panel of experts, including Sullivan Ignite Retreat facilitator Chad Littlefield, will present an interactive, fish bowl-style, collaborative webinar titled “Top 10 Tips & Activity Ideas That Amplify Engagement & Connections Online,” at 4 p.m. (ET), Monday, May 11.

Click here to register for the webinar.

This webinar is ideal for all educators, leaders, experiential trainers and event organizers who must now deliver or manage groups in virtual settings.

Without all of the natural, organic interactions we get when working face-to-face with colleagues, students and clients, it’s important to know how to create and nurture meaningful connection and active engagement online. It’s also important to mix it up to avoid “Zoom burnout.” Discover what works to create and build engagement and connections in virtual settings from a panel of nine self-proclaimed ‘explorers.’

Chad Littlefield & Will Wise from We and Me
Lisa Hunt & Phil Brown from High 5 Adventure Learning Center
Mark Collard from playmeo
Dr. Amy Climer from Climer Consulting
Jenny Sauer-Klein from Play on Purpose
Nate Folan from Nate Folan Consulting
Tracey Ezard, author of The Buzz

Each panelist will share their No. 1 virtual meeting tip together with one or more activities that showcase their idea followed by a crowdsourced Q&A. This event will likely be very different from many of the dry webinars you have experienced recently. Think “short and sweet” times nine!

This live webinar will be limited to the first 500 attendees, so join early if you want a spot. Click here to register!