2017 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards

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by Lou Killeffer

Last week I joined hundreds of others at the Tribeca Festival Hub on Varick Street in lower Manhattan for the 8th Annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.

Co-founded in 2009 by distinguished Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival Craig Hatkoff, and Rabbi Irwin Kula, the Disruptor Foundation works to raise awareness of and encourage the advancement of disruptive innovation and its application in society. Christensen’s original Disruptive Innovation Theory, published in 1997 in his groundbreaking book The Innovator’s Dilemma, explained how simpler, cheaper technologies, products, and services can and will dethrone entrenched market leaders.

Now entering its eighth year, the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards celebrate individuals and ideas that have broken through and had an impact.

The awards showcase disruptive innovators in business and far beyond, across a wide array of critical fields including technology, biomed, politics, education, healthcare, spirituality, religion, economics, sports, fashion, and philanthropy. 

What knits all this together, as Craig succinctly says, is that the Awards explore and honor “the irrepressible power of the human spirit”. Amen.

So these are awards with a difference; created by and for people who are making a difference; creative thinkers who are, in fact, also doers. Those in pursuit of what some might call big wisdom; the innate capacity in each of us to be the best version of ourselves – and do more good.

As in each preceding year, the scope and scale of this year’s honorees’ ambitions and achievements are simply breathtaking. And if that sounds over the top to you – or you’re running short of time or simply having a bad day/week/month – do yourself a big favor and click on any one of the 2017 Award winners.  

Their stories are inspiring. You’ll be in a different place after experiencing them. Trust me and prepare to be amazed.

Mick Ebeling

A recipient of the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award and named one of the most influential creative people by The Creativity 50’s, Mick has sparked a remarkable movement of pragmatic, inspirational innovation. As a career producer and filmmaker and now founder and CEO of Not Impossible, based at least in part on his book, Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn’t be Done, Ebeling harvests the power of technology and story to change the world.

Dr. Paula Kahumba

Paula is the CEO of NGO WildlifeDirect in Kenya. In 2013 she launched the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign exposing the poaching crisis that led to major reform of Kenya’s laws and practices against ivory poachers and traffickers. Poaching fell by 80% in just three years as a result. In January 2016 Paula partnered with local media and the wildlife authority to launch NTV Wild, Kenya’s first wildlife documentary series made in Kenya for broadcast to Kenyans. The companion discussion program, NTV Wild Talk shines a light on Kenyan problems, solutions, and heroes. In April 2016 Kenya burned her entire 105-ton stockpile of ivory. 

Christopher Fabian

Chris is a technologist who co-founded UNICEF’s Innovation Unit in 2006 with Erica Kochi. Today he runs UNICEF Ventures, which evaluates emerging technologies in the service of positive global change. In 2015, Chris led the launch of UNICEF’s Venture Fund, the first United Nations fund of its kind to invest in early-stage “frontier technology” like drones, data science, machine learning, 3D printing, nano satellites, and genetics. To date the Innovation Fund  has concluded over thirty investments in twenty-six countries. 

Alexa Meade

Alexa is the American artist best known for inventing a new approach to portraiture. She applies paint directly to models and the surrounding scene, creating the illusion that real-life people and places are inside the world of a two-dimensional painting. Her innovative art has been exhibited at The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, The Saatchi Gallery in London, the Grand Palais in Paris, and the United Nations building in New York. Her work has also been commissioned by leading global brands, including MINI Cooper, Ralph Lauren, Sony, and Porsche. Alexa’s collaborated with world-renowned magician David Blaine and with space-time researchers at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Her TED Talk, Your Body is My Canvas, has been viewed millions of times

 Kennedy Odede Jessica Possner Odede

Kennedy was raised in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya – the largest urban slum in Africa. As a child he experienced the devastating realities of extreme poverty while dreaming about how he could help bring change to his community. Today Kennedy is one of Africa’s best-known community organizers and social entrepreneurs. He is a New York Times best-selling author and the Co-Chair of the Youth Panel for the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. While working at a factory in 2004, Kennedy saved 20 cents, purchased a soccer ball, and started the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) movement. Driven by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirits of the people of Kibera, SHOFCO became the largest grassroots organization in the slum. One of Kibera’s first to receive an education at an American liberal arts college, Kennedy received a full-scholarship to Wesleyan University, graduating in 2012 with honors in Sociology as the Commencement Speaker. He won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition, was named one of Forbes’ 2014 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. 

Jessica is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur, a New York Times best-selling author, and the co-founder and COO of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). On meeting Kennedy in 2007, when working as a study abroad student with SHOFCO in Kibera, Jessica became one of the first outsiders to live inside the slum and was deeply moved by the struggles facing the community. During Kenya’s 2007 post-election crisis, Jessica urged Kennedy to apply to American universities and when Kennedy joined Jessica at Wesleyan, fulfilling his dreams of an education, together they co-founded Shining Hope for Communities in 2009. That year, Jessica was graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in African-American Studies. She won the 2010 Do Something Award and was named “America’s top-world changer 25 and under” live on VH1. Jessica is the youngest alumnae in the history of the school to receive Wesleyan University’s “Distinguished Alumni Award.” 

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Lou Killeffer is Editor-at-Large for Innovation Excellence, and Principal with Five Mile River Marketing. A versatile marketing strategist, Lou’s passion for communications and innovation has made him a trusted advisor to some of the world’s most enduring businesses and brands, from ATT to UPS, where he helps enterprises embrace change, look ahead, and focus on sustaining success.