Passion for Social Justice Springs From an Increasingly Interconnected World

Alanna Ford’s work in social justice has brought her across five continents, from the cloud forests of Ecuador to the urban slums of Nairobi, Kenya. A life-long entrepreneur and artist, Alanna Ford envisions and executes businesses that empower local communities in developing countries. Now working in innovation and learning at Population Services International (PSI) in Washington, D.C., Ford continues to empower underserved communities through social-change efforts.

Ford believes that her time abroad during her college years helped manifest the world view that inspires her unceasing work as an agent of positive change. On her first solo trip out of the country, Ford traveled to Ahmedabad, India, to work with the Self-Employed Women’s Association. Ford developed new artisan designs for the trade organization, supporting a network of women and their families — and in turn, helping communities in need of sustainable income.

During that summer in India, Ford gained her first insights into the dynamic cultures that populate the globe. One morning, while traveling on a bus, Ford felt a moment of profound connection while watching women harvest a field. Writing in her journal, she described the experience: “I had a vision of us all coming from the same source — that we are different expressions of a oneness. I saw these women in the field, and immediately I understood that we were different manifestations of the same humanity. I realized that, if I am the same as you, I have to act. If you are hurt, then I am hurting, too.” Despite the contrast of an extremely different culture, Ford felt the pull of a shared humanity.

This deep sense of interconnectedness — across varied cultures and traditions — informs her empathy for others and her passion for economic and social justice. She visualizes herself as a link in a chain, able to benefit others by following her heart and honoring mutual good. “I have a lot of privilege and access compared to most people on earth,” says Ford. “I feel a strong responsibility during my time here to leave the planet better than the way I found it.”

Ford sees no limit to the benefits that can grow from socially conscious innovation. For those of us who benefit from privilege, thinking creatively about how to foster social justice can help each of us on our individual paths. As Chief Seattle, renowned leader of the Duwamish tribe in the Pacific Northwest, said “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

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