“We are sitting in a city of privilege,” said David Elcott, Taub professor of practice in public leadership at New York University, addressing a lecture of students, faculty and staff in Tongnino Hall on Tuesday, April 1. “It’s easy in our settings to be critical about change.”
Elcott served as a moderator for a lecture entitled The Business of Justice: New Horizons of Social Transformation, which ran at Tognino Hall on Tuesday, April 1 at 6 p.m. The lecture focused on the narratives of two entrepreneurs devoted to social justice and combating poverty and homelessness.
Roseanne Haggerty, the founder of Community Solutions, a national institution that spearheads creative models for ending homelessness, spoke first on her experience working at the Covenant House in Times Squre, which provides temporary shelter to homeless youth, it opened her eyes to the perpetual plight of the homeless and impoverished and it led her to search for deeper, truths about the situation the homeless are in and for more permanent solutions for providing affordable housing.
“There is no such thing as a coherent system [to support those in need] and that is the most striking thing we have organized ourselves in response to,” said Haggerty. “This does not have to be an ideological battleground. It’s a ‘process problem’ we currently face in terms of working together to make the poor a priority.” Haggerty advocates for the training through technology, using public health tools and technology for the optimization of resources, and teaching groups to function as a team.
Haggerty works to transform available residential buildings into low-cost housing, but realized early on in her career that “the big questions were those we had not yet scratched the surface of: why do these people fall through the cracks in our society?” Her new goal was ambitious but imperative to her mission. “I sought to reduce the homelessness in Times Square by 2/3 in three years.”
Will Haughey is co-founder of Tegu, a Honduras-based toy company that brings social justice innovation to the workplace while using sustainable materials in production.
He described his journey from working as a successful investment banker on Wall Street to managing the construction of magnetic wooden toy blocks. “The manufacturing climate in Honduras is harsh. There is no guarantee of work for 12 months out of the year, no emphasis on personal development of employee…employers simply size up a potential employee base and tell them to repeat daily a process in hopes that the employees will get faster and faster each day.” That, Haughey states, is detrimental to the dignity of those fortunate enough to secure a job in Honduras.
“We need to challenge the way people approach the process of employing manufacturing workers. It is our goal to develop a leadership which helps individuals flourish from what would otherwise be an entry-level job to somebody that could run a factory because of the skills they have learned and the opportunity available to them.”
“The future is about boundary crossing and interdisciplinary problem solving,” responded Haggerty on a question directed to her about what she thinks the future holds in further collaboration for social justice. “It’s about having citizens contribute to this process and help build communities where children and families can flourish.”
Though the results of both entrepreneurs’ hard work continue to produce results, they acknowledge that the task is bigger than either of them. “There’s a certain benefit in humbly recognizing that we want to change the world, and at the same time if we can’t be faithful in the small things in life ,it will be difficult to ever attain change,” Haughey said.
“Personally, I’m not going to change the world, but I’ve been given a passion for a particular change in a certain way. The greatest thing I can give it is focus, and be open to what comes my way.”
Laura Sanicola is Assistant News Editor at The Fordham Ram.