Cheryl Dorsey: Social Entrepreneurs Already Helping to Rebuild Haiti

Their blend of passion and pragmatism helps bridge ideological divides and speed change.

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As a Harvard-trained pediatrician, Cheryl Dorsey could have had her pick of plum jobs. But her experience launching a mobile health program to serve inner-city Boston neighborhoods while still in medical school changed her path forever. "I developed a deep interest in social justice and social change work," Dorsey says. "It transformed my thinking about my career and my place in the world." 

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Echoing Green President Cheryl Dorsey

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Dorsey's place is to help make sure other social entrepreneurs get the funding and support they need to launch transformative projects. She is president of Echoing Green, the nonprofit that helped fund her Family Van project back in 1992. The organization has given more than $28 million in start-up capital to 450 social entrepreneurs worldwide. Dorsey works to incubate the next generation of leaders, those who will follow in the footsteps of earlier Echoing Green grantees like Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. 

Social entrepreneurialism's blend of passion and pragmatism, says Dorsey, offers the best hope of change, and she is impressed by how today's millennial generation members are willing to devote themselves to the task. Several Echoing Green grantees are already on the scene in Haiti, trying to alleviate suffering and rebuild the infrastructure after the horrific earthquake. One Echoing Green fellow, for example, is working with grass-roots groups to incorporate technology into rebuilding efforts; another is coordinating a push to use local materials and artisans to construct earthquake-resistant housing. "It is these kinds of innovation, repeated over and over again, community by community, that holds great hope for rebuilding Haiti," says Dorsey. 

The U.S. News podcast series, Leadership for the Next Decade, explores the ideas, innovations, and solutions that will inspire America for the future. Moderated by U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly, the podcasts feature exclusive interviews with leaders across the spectrum, from education, business, art, science, and medicine to government, public service, and philanthropy.