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“Crown Heights” Delivers an Arresting Story About Our Criminal Justice System

July 17, 2017

The new film Crown Heights is a crime story, a legal drama, a love story, and a tale of enduring friendship all rolled into one. It’s a true story, yet it's scripted. More than anything, it’s a strong commentary on what President Obama described as “one aspect of American life that remains particularly skewed by race and by wealth, a source of inequity that has ripple effects on families and on communities and ultimately on our nation—and that is our criminal justice system.

Photo: Sundance

The Film “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” Starts a New Conversation About Conservation

July 17, 2017

Lately any discussion of being environmentally green seems to get into the topic of red vs. blue. Whereas in 1991, 78% of both Democrats and Republicans considered themselves environmentalists, a Gallup poll from last year found that now “27% of Republicans think of themselves that way, compared with 56% of Democrats, a partisan gap of 29 percentage points.”

The documentary film Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman offers a fresh take on conservation.


Insights from TED2017

April 26, 2017

As this newsletter lands in your in-box, Meredith (ProSocial Founder & CEO) is sitting with thought leaders from around the globe excitedly listening to dozens of accomplished speakers deliver 18-minute talks on “ideas worth spreading.” Exhausting and rewarding, the TED Conference is the world’s flagship annual Technology, Entertainment, and Design convening. It is an extraordinary meeting of ideas, minds, networks, and institutions and a catalyst for a better future.

TED is being held in Vancouver, and presenters, including scientists, activists, artists, authors, entrepreneurs, and others, are addressing the theme of “The Future You"—with talks exploring technology advances, medical discoveries, tools for personal growth, and the priorities of our planet.

At TED, surprises are the norm. This year (as you may have already seen in the news), Pope Francis joined virtually—appropriate to the theme—to share a TED talk recorded in Vatican City. He spoke passionately about the dangers of being “centered around money and things, instead of people,” the need to overcome a “culture of waste,” and the values of equality, social inclusion, and compassion for others. Ultimately, he suggested, our brightest future will come from the recognition that we are all connected.

He encouraged each individual to hold out hope for that vision of the future. “And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,” and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.”

The Pope was modeling the very behavior he is espousing. By encouraging hope and imagining aloud a better future, he is changing the world and creating change makers. His intended audience extended was not only the “grasstops” influencers in the room but also others across the globe. It’s a powerful and energizing example that mirrors the work we do. 

Follow along with the latest news and videos from TED2017 here.


Discovering the Meaning in Life

April 26, 2017

Scientists have found an important factor that links people who are healthier, happier, more satisfied and successful at work, and even live longer—and we’re not talking about diet, exercise, or sleep. So why don’t more people know about the importance of purpose? 

That’s something ProSocial is working to help change on behalf of the John Templeton Foundation, which funds research that explores contributors to human flourishing. A sense of purpose in life includes a combination of goal-directedness, commitment, personal meaningfulness, and a vision beyond oneself, and there are ways to cultivate it, according to Kendall Cotton Bronk, an associate professor of psychology in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Claremont Graduate University.

The Purpose Challenge campaign, launching later this year, will focus on promoting purpose among high school seniors. Working in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, we’ve brought together experts such as Bronk, who studies purpose and youth development, Ethan Sawyer, better known as the College Essay Guy, and others.

We’ve also tapped the genius marketing minds behind the Red Bull brand. Creative agency Kastner & Partners will develop video content and surrounding messaging for The Purpose Challenge. From extreme sports and stunts that reinforce the message that “Red Bull gives you wings” (e.g. their YouTube video, livestreamed by more than 8 million viewers, featuring Felix Baumgartner freefalling from outer space to earth for 24 miles at more than 800 miles per hour) to the “Like A Girl” campaign, developed for Always, that powerfully called attention to society’s role in the precipitous drop in self-confidence girls experience during puberty, K&P will bring break-the-mold thinking to this important philanthropic initiative. 

So we are excited, for sure, to see what our collaboration generates to inspire young people to rise to the challenge and explore their purpose. We’ll share that with you in a few months!

See Jane Make Cities Run

April 26, 2017

“If I were running a school, I’d have one standing assignment that would begin in the first grade and go all the way through school, every week: that each child should bring in something said by an authority—it could be by the teacher or something they see in print, but something that they don’t agree with—and refute it.” —Jane Jacobs

What makes a city vibrant, safe, and functional for residents? Writer and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) had plenty to say on that subject, and although she wasn’t trained as an urban planner, her people-watching observations and opinionated commentary wound up shaping both city landscapes and approaches to public transit, urban design, and public policy. Citizen Jane, a documentary film out this month, shares archival footage of city life from the 1950’s and 1960’s and recounts Jacobs’ fight to preserve neighborhoods like New York’s Greenwich Village from the wrecking balls of tyrannical real estate developer Robert Moses, who sought to construct expressways and monolithic, uniform building complexes. Her David-and-Goliath story resonates today as a playbook of grassroots organizing against authoritarian power.

Conducting outreach for the film over the past few months, ProSocial has contacted hundreds of organizations, neighborhood councils, and leaders in urban planning, design, and architecture to collaborate on developing screenings, discussions, and other events related to the film. For example, in select cities, neighborhood walking tours, coordinated by the organization Jane’s Walk, will culminate in participants seeing Citizen Jane at a local theater—an activity in keeping with Jacobs’ assertion that “You’ve got to get out and walk,” paying attention to how people truly live day to day, in order to understand the building plans that work best for a city.

Though many people will first learn of Jane Jacobs as a result of this documentary, working on this project we consistently heard comments like, “She’s the reason I went into the urban planning field,” or “Wow, she’s my idol,” or “I grew up learning about her legacy.”

Watch the Citizen Jane trailer or get information on theaters and tickets here. If you’re involved with grassroots organizing, women’s leadership, urban studies, public policy, or another focus and you’re interested in organizing an event to educate and inspire a group with Jacobs’ story, group sales are available in orders of 25 for $200, or $8 per ticket; please contact Lauren Galaz at Lauren Galaz at

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