Isabel Miranda

Isabel is a guest contributor for Ashoka U's Student Changemaker Stories campaign. She is a currently a Field Coordinator for The World Bank and holds an Undergraduate Degree from Santa Clara University, and a Master's Degree from University of San Fransisco.

Witnessing the Snowball Effect of Changemaking

This blog is part of Ashoka U’s Student Changemaker Stories: a campaign bringing together diverse student changemaker perspectives to shift the narrative around what it means to be a changemaker and who can be one – on campus and beyond. Each story concludes with a note of gratitude and call-to-action from the author.

They say hindsight vision is 20/20. In my experience, since my senior year as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, I could feel how each step I took was contributing to “the right direction.”

What I didn’t know was how each experience I had would create a snowball effect on the next experience. Each moment would open subsequent experiences, which led me to my current chapter: living in Bogotá, Colombia working for The World Bank.

My Changemaker Journey – A Return to México

I was born in México, but primarily grew up in the Bay Area. From a young age I became acutely aware of the differences in opportunities and lifestyle between my two homes, as well as the privileges that I had. I became curious about why things were different between these two homes and what I could offer as a changemaker.

One of the many events offered by the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship during my fellowship.

My major experience as a changemaker was through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship offered by the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, where I worked with the social enterprise ILUMEXICO. Throughout my summer field research, I witnessed first-hand how innovative and sustainable technologies could be made affordable to rural communities in México while simultaneously creating economic opportunities.

A special aspect of this field research was reconnecting with my home country and giving back through the research. From my experience with the fellowship, I discovered a passion for sustainable development and female-empowerment initiatives. From there, my discovery process as a changemaker grew quickly.

Discovering, Losing, and Re-Discovering Changemaker Spirit

Attending the Climate Reality Leadership Conference

At this time I also felt drawn to learn about the climate crisis. I attended the Climate Reality Project’s Leadership Training led by Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore where I became part of a network of over 20,000 individuals across the world equally as motivated to take action against climate change.

In Fall 2016, I was personally heartbroken through the U.S. election and felt an inner shift: The momentum and positive “snowball effect” of my changemaker experiences seemingly halted.

I felt both frustrated and hopeless through rhetoric used during the 2016 election around three aspects very personal to me: the Latinx community (in particular Mexican immigrants like my family and I), women, and the environment/climate change.

I felt conflicted between staying or leaving the United States at this time in my changemaker journey. However, I always believed in the power of education and reminded myself of this belief. I made a personal decision that if I wanted to enable greater change, I would start by getting my Master’s in International and Development Economics.

Pursuing Research and Taking Charge of my Journey

Divided by my interests in doing research related to women in Latin America and climate change, I ambitiously took on two research projects for my Master’s.

I became involved in implementing and doing field research on a project looking at the impact of mentorship on female micro-entrepreneurs in Medellin, Colombia. I spent four months in Medellin helping to implement the project and conducting surveys.

Team collaboration during my field work in Medellin for my Master’s.

Simultaneously, I was working on my Master’s Thesis, which focused on the indirect impacts tropical cyclones have on infant mortality and the implications this has on development. After graduating, I began to look for jobs in social impact where I could keep building my metaphorical snowball.

Reflecting on all these experiences, I now see a deep connection between them. When I accepted my current position with The World Bank to oversee the monitoring and evaluation of a female coding bootcamp project in Bogotá Colombia, I could feel my changemaker journey come full-circle.

Cultivate a Strong Sense of Direction

Even though making decisions around your life direction isn’t simple, there are ways to cultivate a strong sense of direction and ambition:

  • Be willing to make career choices that are unconventional and take active practice in stepping out of your comfort zone.
  • Growth is constantly happening – trust that any decision around your location, studies, work, and other decisions will teach you what they need to.
  • Reconnect with the places that have informed who you are today. For me, this was pursuing field research back in my home country of México and re-discovering the milestones in my own story and journey as a changemaker.

As you practice cultivating your sense of direction, the right opportunities will show up. I wish you the bravery and the courage to say “yes!” to those opportunities and strive as a changemaker along the way.


Closing Words from Isabel

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