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Tessa Clarke: Co-Founder and CEO, Olio
After years working as a strategy consultant, Tessa Clarke realized she wanted to be doing rather than just consulting and moved into the media industry with a view to one day “do something myself.”
But she had no clear vision of what that would be until it came to her seven years ago.
“I encountered the problem of food waste through a personal experience, and when I discovered the enormity of that problem, immediately I committed to solving it,” she says.
As the child of a farmer who had grown up at the heart of food production, Clarke admits she has a “pathological hatred of food waste,” knowing how much effort goes into creating food. She would always go to extreme lengths to avoid it.
“When I was moving, I found myself with some good food that we hadn’t managed to eat, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away,” she recalls.
“I set off on a bit of a wild goose chase to try to find someone to give it to and failed miserably. Through the whole process it seemed crazy that I should have to throw this food away when there were surely plenty of people within hundreds of meters of me who would love it.
“The problem was they just didn’t know about it. And so the idea of Olio, a mobile app where neighbors and local shops and cafes can share surplus food, came about.”
Since its launch in the United Kingdom in 2015, almost seven million people have joined the Olio community and share a wide range of both food and household items on the app.
They also have a team of volunteers who can help redistribute larger amounts of food needing a home, often from big companies.
“At the moment we’re really focused on our core markets of the United Kingdom and Ireland,” Clarke says.
“However, we’ve seen items successfully shared in 63 other countries so far, and with the app available in English and Spanish, we’re supporting Olioers from Singapore to Mexico and everywhere in between to be able to share more and waste less.”
Budi Sudarto: Founder and CEO, Ananda Training & Consultancy
As a non-binary, gay Indonesian and Muslim, Budi Sudarto offers a multicultural and multifaith perspective on LGBTIQA+ issues and community, something Sudarto believes needs to be recognized and respected.
“Throughout the years of study and involvement with the LGBTIQA+ communities, especially multicultural and multifaith LGBTIQA+, I’ve both experienced and witnessed ongoing racial discrimination and prejudice in various settings, including from within the mainstream LGBTIQA+ communities, ethnic and faith communities, as well as the broader society,” Sudarto says.
“The turning point was when I experienced injustice while working for an LGBTIQA+ health organization.”
Sudarto now delivers training to organizations after founding Ananda Training & Consultancy, urging consideration and inclusivity to all identities in the workplace.
“We believe that it is only by highlighting inequity, inequality and injustice that we can start implementing systemic change,” Sudarto says.
“We must not underestimate how alienating it can be for people with intersecting marginalities to survive and thrive in a system that has been specifically designed to privilege a specific group over another, how it has a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing, and how that can affect their performance and interpersonal relationships with other team members and in their own personal lives.
“Intersectionality must be placed at the center if we are truly committed to equity and inclusion.”
A former student of Monash University, Sudarto now works with the school to further research and increase knowledge in the field and has advised at a national level on issues of diversity and inclusion.
“Contributing to academia is a way to remind everyone that, even within academia, inequity and injustice exist, and through critical thinking and reflection we can do something to dismantle the status quo,” Sudarto adds.
“However, academic evidence should not be seen as replacing, but instead as complementing lived experiences, as data and theory are often gathered from trauma, survival, and joy.
“For me, to be on the ground with the communities, to work alongside professionals, and to contribute to academia – these are an integral part of the work that we do, as we inform, gain strength and share wisdom across disciplines to further strengthen our work in equity, intersectionality and justice.”
Surabhi Yadav: Founder and CEO, Sajhe Sapne
Spending summers in her parents’ rural village of Bundelkhand, India, Surabhi Yadav noticed that, unlike her, most of the children in her extended family didn’t value education or have access to quality schooling.
“Growing up, I would listen to the girls and women in my family remark ‘when you become famous or have your own money, hire us as your janitors.’
“These women are the most hardworking people I have known in my life, and yet their level of expectations from themselves was incredibly low,” she says.
“The women in my family, the very backbone of our households, were treated as second-class citizens and were devoid of any sense of ambition or self-worth.”
As Yadav furthered her education, she felt the gap between her reality and theirs ever widening, something she found both heartbreaking and confusing.
“It often made me question, isn’t it stupid to deprive opportunities to a whole section of the population which is eager to learn and has rich potential?”
After finishing her education in Delhi and at the University of California, Yadav was part of COVID-19 relief work in India and noticed how many young women wanted to carry on their education.
So she founded Sajhe Sapne, which means ‘shared dreams’, an initiative that helps young rural women to build their careers and join the modern workforce.
“The reason we don’t have extraordinary ed-tech solutions for rural youth is not because there is lack of money or innovation, but there is lack of trust that rural women can learn modern job skills,” Yadav says.
“A lot of our students come from Dalit and Bahujan communities, including those which are generationally stuck in poverty and casteism.”
Yadav hopes to change that with Sajhe Sapne. “We have designed a community college model named Sapna Center, also known as Dream Center,” she says.
“We help them launch their careers by offering modern skills such as coding, project management, math teaching in their local languages, provide access to networks and confidence building support.
“We want to build a generation of skilled and confident young women professionals from villages in domains which are currently labeled too advanced for them.”
Women who have taken the courses across seven states already are thriving and earning stable salaries in reputable companies rather than only being confined to menial jobs.
“Our alumni not only aim bigger but pursue opportunities without waiting for any permissions,” she says. “To me, that’s the biggest win. I hope one day one of our own alumna, will become the CEO of Sajhe.”
Kevin Dedner: Founder and CEO, Hurdle Health
Kevin Dedner is someone who always finds light in the darkness, but he realized when it came to addressing mental health for minority populations, there were few places to turn.
After experiencing depression himself, Dedner struggled to find a culturally responsive therapist who understood him fully, including the stigma of mental health issues within his community and the mental health burden of living in a racialized world.
With a background working in public health, he founded Hurdle Health in 2018, which provides people of color with effective mental health care, an area which often comes with cultural and racial barriers.
The training Hurdle provides aims to improve the cultural responsiveness and humility of their licensed therapists through education and coaching.
“This company is born out of my own experience interacting with the mental health system,” Dedner explains.
“And what I know for sure is that it doesn’t feel good to sit in therapy and talk about your experiences in life and the person sitting across from you looks like a deer in headlights and they’re asking you questions that seem to be challenging your truth and what you’re experiencing.”
Studies show that therapy will fail for 50 percent of minorities compared to 33 percent of white patients.
While the best outcomes are for patients and therapists who share the same racial match, the Hurdle training plan enables therapists who do not resemble their patients to be equally effective at achieving clinical outcomes.
His company equips mental health professionals with the skills needed to effectively address issues of race, ethnicity, class and culture.
Ineza Umuhoza: Founder, The Green Protector and Loss and Damage Youth Coalition
“Age five, I woke up to find my bedroom was suddenly a lake,” Ineza Umuhoza recalls.
“Furious wind and rain had torn the roof off from my house in Kigali, Rwanda. It was a terrifying experience which would warn of things to come and shape my life.”
After seeing the devastating impact of climate change throughout her childhood, she decided to join the voices for change.
With her strong mother as a role model, ecofeminist Umuhoza believes in the power of women to lead that change and the youth of the nation to be part of the solution.
She founded The Green Protector, a Rwandan NGO to increase active youth participation in protecting the environment.
Part of the Rwandan delegation of climate change negotiators under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Umuhoza is also a thought leader who has worked with international organizations such as National Geographic to amplify her message.
She has gone on to co-found and act as global coordinator of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, an organization of more than 400 young people from more than 40 countries advocating and taking action in addressing loss and damage due to climate change.
In 2022, she helped deliver a demand from youth activists to COP27 for a fund to cover loss and damages and was successful. As a result, world leaders agreed to make contributions to begin offsetting the effects on the most vulnerable nations.
“While climate change affects the most vulnerable communities first, it will eventually touch all of our lives,” she says.