credit: Kevin Colton Photography

Name: ABBY EVANS 

College: Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Major: Anthropology and Africana Studies

HWS Leads Certificate Candidate

Centennial Fellow Summer 2012

THE PROJECT:

A modernized and passionate approach to raising social awareness and encouraging social change through taking advantage of my leadership skills and the anthropological methods of understanding and learningthat I have been studying at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

I believe in humanity, and I believe in the power of knowledge. I believe that everyone has a story to be told and heard and that those stories will impact you and change the way you see the world you live in. I believe in social awareness leading to social change, and I believe I can be a leader in guiding this process.

From a very young age my grandparents encouraged me to have conversations about the things I was seeing, the people I was being exposed to, and the experiences I was having. Having grown up visiting them in Washington DC I always looked forward to buying my copy of Street Sense from the “Cat in the Hat” at the Eastern Market. Street Sense is a bi-weekly  “street newspaper” which empowers the homeless of DC through an economic opportunity to sell the newspaper that challenges the expressions and understandings of poverty and injustice related issues in our nations capitol and the United States as a whole.  (www.streetsense.org)

When thinking about how I would like to spend my summer I was looking for a way to combine my values and skills as a leader, anthropologist and activist in a project that would impact a cause in a positive and progressive way. Through my experience working with and studying at the Centennial Center for Leadership I have been developing my values as a transformational and servant leader. Using these skills and the knowledge I gained during The Leadership Institute in the development of comprehensive action plans, I have designed a 12-week intensive project as a consultant to and volunteer for Street Sense.

Having contacted Street Sense and offering them my services, it has become an exciting process fleshing out all that I could do for the organization in terms of initiating a new way to increase social awareness and pay homage to the efforts that Street Sense is giving these individuals. The project that I have designed is furthering the work that Street Sense has done through the creation of social media tools to empower both the vendors and the readers. The goal will be to increase the readership and see a rise in the amount of discussion being had about homelessness, poverty and injustice. Having realized the time constraints of only working on this project for 12 weeks, I have worked to create a cohesive plan that is “doable”. That being said, many of the goals I originally had and would love to pursue have been dropped from this initial action plan; however, I do foresee my involvement with Street Sense continuing in the future.

Street Sense will have three interns working for them this summer which have been prescreened and targeted for their specific skills: editorial, media, and management. I will have access to these interns and will also be hiring an assistant that will support me in the completion of this project. I will be utilizing the methodologies and values that I studied at the Centennial Center about Servant Leadership in how I interact with these interns and my assistant. Through modeling my work and relationship with these people I will demonstrate putting this project ahead of myself and truly express compassion and empathy toward the people we are serving and those I am working with while remaining humble and true to my capabilities. This project is not simply about me and the experience I will have; it is about enabling and empowering the vendors of Street Sense and the readers who can lead social change as well as creating a sustainable project which can be continue after I return to campus in the fall.

The project is comprised of four main goals, which are also based off of the Transformational Leadership model: understand, create, educate, and reflect. The “Understand” phase of the project draws greatly from my anthropological methods background and my appreciation for Transformational Leadership. Using the concepts of “individualized consideration”, “intellectual stimulation”, “inspirational motivation” and “idealized influence” this project will aim to make these homeless people’s stories true testament to what they have been through and what they are doing to make a change through Street Sense. During the first two weeks I am in Washington D.C. I will be designing a survey with Street Sense that will go out to the readers and subscribers of the newspaper through being printed in an edition of the newspaper, as well as being posted on each of the social media outlets (ie: Facebook, Twitter, and the Street Sense blog). The survey will be used to evaluate the level of impact that Street Sense has had on the awareness of their readers about the subjects of homelessness, poverty and injustice. The survey will be kept completely anonymous and will allow Street Sense and I to collaborate about how the social media tools I will be creating will best reach both the current readers and the future audience of Street Sense.

The second phase, “Create”, will span for 10 weeks. The goal of the “Create” phase is to craft visual media projects that will make homelessness a more “human” issue in others eyes. The emphasis is placed on telling the story of these Street Sense vendors and the impact Street Sense has had on their lives. Every Monday I will upload a vignette of a particular vendor and their story to YouTube. In coordination with these videos I will work with my informant on a “One Week” photography project that will enable the vendor to tell their daily life story through pictures. This piece of the project is extremely sustainable in that it only requires a vendor to use and process a disposable camera. Their images can be uploaded to the blog or published in the issues of Street Sense even after I leave Washington D.C. Street Sense is currently working with a D.C. photographer who is leading a photography class for their vendors. I would like to compare efforts with this individual and help them encourage the use of vendor photography in future Street Sense issues.

The third piece of this project is called “Educate”; this phase is aimed toward making sure these social media projects (the mini-documentary series and the “One Week” Photo Project) truly educate those who are watching and reading them. This goal is especially important in terms of empowering not only the vendors but also the readers of Street Sense. In order to complete this goal I will be continuing my academic studies of welfare in the United States and be sure to ask the vendors whether or not they have been made aware of what is available to them and what they have used and/or not used. Having taken Professor Monson’s Social Policy course this past semester, I already have an extensive background in the subject which I can use to do further academic inquiry. If I find that many vendors are unaware of what is available to them, I would like to work with Street Sense to enable these individuals in acquiring this knowledge.

The final goal and piece of this project, “Reflect”, is comprised of two tracks. I will be sure to consistently reflect on the work I am doing throughout the entire process to evaluate whether the projects I have started are beneficial to the cause; this is the first track. In addition to reflecting throughout the project implementation I will also be doing a follow up survey of the readers to assess how the projects have impacted the way they understand and interact with the homeless. I would like to see an increased readership and a greater amount of dialogue on the social media pages with people addressing issues of inequality and injustice. Working with the interns and my assistant, I will aim to make sure these social media pages are not only showing homelessness but also empowering the readers to enact social change through instilling knowledge.

This project has every piece of me in it, yet I am fully aware that I am only one person and I cannot change homelessness on my own. The goal for these 12 weeks is to create a lasting impression on Street Sense, the vendors, and the readers. Too often we walk past people and forget that they too have their own stories to be told and heard. This is the goal of my project: empower through the experiences of others and enable social change. Street Sense has already created all of the avenues to take in educating the readers of the street newspaper and its benefits but they are not being taken for their full advantage. They have enabled their vendors to share their stories and sell more newspapers through publishing their bios and vending locations online; however, this is not enough – what I am doing is taking that work a step further in telling and showing the stories of these individual’s lives and Street Sense’s success. I want to create a 10-week campaign that will make homelessness human again and allow these people to share their stories and experiences and the impact Street Sense has had on their lives with more people. I will be gaining invaluable experience as a leader both for the team of interns and my assistant that I will be leading, and for the movement I am hoping to initiate. When I return to campus in the fall I would like to lead a forum in how transformational and servant leadership models can be used to guide social awareness movements and share how my experiences collaborating with Street Sense encouraged me to take full advantage of the interdisciplinary studies that I have been pursuing here at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.