A New Model of Engagement: Empowering Women to Become Agents of Change

i3By Adrienne Feit Tanner

Insight. Innovation. Impact. What’s Your i?

That was the core message of UJA-Federation of New York’s recent i3: A Summit for Women, where 350 women gathered to hear from thought leaders, visionaries, game changers and innovators, each representing diverse platforms. They came to hear from women who’ve done and are doing remarkable things, and to be inspired to realize their own dreams and pursue passions that can change the world.

As the engine behind this summit, UJA-Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy division set out to leverage UJA’s role as a communal convener of ideas and ideals, and offer an alternative to more traditional modes of connecting to supporters. As a caring community, UJA attracts women who think deeply about many things, from local challenges to global issues. By offering a diverse line up of change agents, UJA can be better understood as a facilitator of content, even when that content spotlights other organizations and the women behind them. The foundational premise of i3’s chairs – Sandra F. Cahn, Karen S.W. Friedman, Suzanne F. Peck, and Vicki M. Weiner – has been unwavering: a rising tide lifts all boats, and each of us can play a unique role.

The audience heard from women who were propelled by the unexpected, who were driven by personal and global challenges, and who took on enormous challenges and continue to do so every day. They met trailblazers like Nicole Hockley, the mother of a first grader killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who founded Sandy Hook Promise to find innovative solutions to the problem of gun violence so that other families might be spared the pain of losing a loved one. Shiza Shahid discussed how growing up in Pakistan paved the way towards her founding and becoming CEO of the Malala Fund, and why she is now focused on leveraging philanthropy, innovation and the media for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment. Finally, we were not surprised by the huge crowd that formed in the lobby after the summit to examine a “solar suitcase” brought by i3 speaker Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist who co-founded WE CARE Solar, which promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity.

Elana Broitman, shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Nabiha Syed, Assistant General Counsel at Buzzfeed and Lori B. Andrews, distinguished professor of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent, discussed civil liberties and cybersecurity, reminding all of us to protect and be vigilant of our online footprint. And they heard from Mindy Richenstein, who’s harnessed UJA’s Women’s Philanthropy as a catalyst for change, founding, UJA’s Supplies for Success program to help thousands of disadvantaged schoolchildren get the supplies they need to start the school year off right.

Importantly, UJA’s newest initiative, Live With Purpose, was previewed. Through Live With Purpose, the Jewish community will be galvanized around strategic volunteerism, with the goal of pledging 1,000,000 hours of service next year.

i3 attendees left the summit feeling empowered and contemplating how their own ideas can spark change. And knowing that they don’t have to do it on their own. There is power in the collective – join forces with your community, with women, with friends, and with other dreamers, because being impressed with women making change is one thing, but leaving your own impression is another.

Adrienne Tanner is the Executive Director of Women’s Philanthropy at UJA-Federation of New York.