MPA Program at CCNY
MPA students Stanley Azuakola, Destini Hornbuckle, Tarik Fathallah, and Kanto Rasedoara completed projects in the fall semester aimed at solving issues related to poverty and inequality in the US and globally.
The projects marked the culmination of the year-long Social Innovation Fellowship offered by the MPA Program, which provided the fellows with two semesters of financial support as well as ongoing mentorship by Professor Fatima Ashraf, a long-time MPA faculty member.
Creating Policies for a Future Workplace that Leaves None Behind
Azuakola produced and edited three documentary videos titled The Future of Work in a Post-COVID World exploring remote work, the gig economy, automation, and other trends accelerated by the pandemic. The videos were inspired by Azuakola’s observations in recent years of the technology-induced changes in many industries such as transportation, journalism, and retail.
“We need to be talking more about what the future of work is going to look like. We can’t wing it or be merely reactive,” said Azuakola. “We have to be proactive, deliberate and bold in rethinking how to design a future of work that is not only productive but also just and equitable - one that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”
Azuakola also highlighted the array of skills he developed while carrying out the project, including organizing and conducting interviews with experts, analyzing and framing the experts’ analyses, editing video, and writing a compelling narrative script.
Azuakola is a native of Nigeria with a longstanding interest in using technology to improve government accountability and address social problems. Before coming to CCNY, he founded Civic Monitor, a web application that helped inform voters about candidates’ positions on key issues during Nigerian elections.
Financial Literacy with Radical Consciousness-Raising
Destini Hornbuckle developed a pilot project to bring financial literacy to high school students, employing an approach that combines traditional financial literacy skills with radical education about the structural origins of racial wealth inequality.
The financial literacy resources will be delivered through an application called FiLIT funded by a mix of subscribers, donors, and social impact investors and designed to transform young people's mindsets about money.
“Creating FiLIT really pushed my creativity,” Hornbuckle said about the project. “Initially I just wanted to make sure that Black and Brown children had more access to financial education because I've seen how not having it can make life so much more difficult, but ensuring that they also know the ‘why’ and understand the truth about capitalism is so important when attempting to solve any social issue.”
Building Rural Economic Power in Madagascar
Rasedoara, a native of Madagascar, created a project called Akaiky, to build a network of locally owned food distribution cooperatives in rural areas of her homeland to empower farmers to advance by endogenous means.
“Developing Akaiky helped me gain knowledge about the agriculture sector in Madagascar and find ways that innovation in this sector can make a significant impact on the lives of the farmers and increase safe access to food,” Rasedoara said.
“This project is very close and dear to me because I decided to pursue my MPA in the hope of making a positive impact to my home country of Madagascar,” Rasedoara added.
The project also sparked Rasedoara’s interest in food insecurity in the US, leading her to intern in fall 2020 at Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a nonprofit organization that collects food before it gets thrown away and gives it to people in need.
Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve Access to Public Health Information
Fathallah worked with an international team of social entrepreneurs to develop AccuroLab, an application that fact-checks any question, comment, or story about coronavirus and provides the user with accurate information from credible sources such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control.
“The Social Innovation Fellowship helped me turn my passion for social justice into a pragmatic solution, but more importantly, it challenged my assumptions about what it means to be an agent of change,” Tarik said of his project. “It helped me take a step back and assess how AccuroLab could play a larger role in helping African communities and organizations gain better access to critical information during the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.”
The project originated in the MIT COVID-19 Challenge: Africa Takes on COVID-19, a two-day competition aimed at creating viable solutions to public health-related issues in African countries. During the competition, Tarik met his team, which hailed from the US, France, and India and included three African immigrants, among them Fathallah, who is of Moroccan origin.
Drawing on their combined cross-sectoral expertise, the team won the competition and has continued to develop AccuroLab since. This semester the project will receive support from the Zahn Innovation Center at CCNY as part of the Spring 2021 Incubator Startup cohort.
Scholarships for Social Justice
The MPA Program’s Changemaker Scholarships are available to its students each semester and are awarded in a competitive application process in which students submit detailed project proposals for review. The scholarship helps students create social impact projects of their own design as a means to pursue innovative approaches to solving social problems while developing their skills, expanding their networks, and advancing their careers.