Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemakers of the Week: Andrew Kaplan, Sam Gilman & Alyssa Garrett

Andrew Kaplan, Sam Gilman and Alyssa Garrett students at Brown University, discuss their work bringing students to the policy-making table to fight for generational equity.

Andrew, Sam and Alyssa are being featured as part of Ashoka U’s new series, “Changemaker of the Week” which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!

1) What is your project or organization?
Common Sense Action (@CSAction) brings youth voices to the policy making table to fight for generational equity. This summer, we brought together a group of over 25 young leaders from across the political spectrum and across the country to release a framework for the Agenda for Generational Equity (AGE) in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center. AGE is a conversation starter. It is a bipartisan — not non-partisan — policy agenda that advocates for Millennial priorities. Beginning in the fall, CSA will launch chapters on college campuses from Georgia to California to deliberate, formulate, and advance Millennial priorities.

2) How did you get involved with this project / organization (or how did you decide to found it)?
We founded Common Sense Action because we realized that our generation is in serious trouble. It is getting harder and harder to climb the ladder of American opportunity. Worse, there are few youth voices at the policymaking table. To get to the table, you need money, connections, or numbers. By virtue of being young, we have neither money nor connections. But if we can organize and empower young people to engage politically, we can have numbers, especially on our campuses.

3) How have being college students changed the way you act as changemakers?
When you’re in college, you’re surrounded by so many incredibly talented and ambitious people who want to make their mark on the world. This has enormous benefits. First, it provides a perfect ecosystem for attempting to make social change because you can easily pull together a multi-talented, interdisciplinary team to advance any project. Second, with a small group of dedicated and passionate leaders, you can mobilize a campus and make a real impact.

4) What’s the best part of working on your venture?
The best part of working on Common Sense Action is building. It’s building a vehicle to advocate for important generational issues that don’t get much publicity. It’s building policy that if implemented could make a real difference. It’s building relationships with folks who have many different accents and come from across the aisle and all across the country. It’s building a team of leaders on college campuses working together to advance Millennial priorities.

5) What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a changemaker?
Work with the right people. Working with people who share your values, goals, and work styles makes all the difference in the world. Perhaps more importantly, make sure that they share your motivations for making social impact in addition to your motivations for success.

6) How has your school or school’s social entrepreneurship initiative helped you progress as a student social innovator and in this venture?
The Social Innovation Initiative, housed within the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, has helped us turn the idea of Common Sense Action into an organization. They have offered more time, patience, and advice than we could have ever asked for. Our weekly meetings with Lizzie Pollock who was a former community organizer and is the Assistant Director of Social Entrepreneurship, have helped us more than we could ever explain.

Stay caught up with Andrew, Sam and Alyssa by reading their posts on the Swearer Center’s blog. More information about Andrew, Sam and Alyssa will also be featured on social media this week, so make sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook!