These 5 education leaders are changing the world

International Education Week celebrates the benefits of cultural and academic exchange programs around the world. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education promotes how international education programs:

  • Prepare Americans for a global environment.
  • Invite the world’s future leaders to exchange ideas and experiences in the United States.

Today, the celebration kicks off at World Savvy by highlighting the accomplishments of five global education leaders whose impacts on education expand internationally. World Savvy has had the great fortune to partner with these regarded leaders and benefited from their diverse perspectives. 

We will promote International Education Week on our Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook page throughout the week. World Savvy will also join the festivities with EXPLR Media webinar on November 16. Our very own Shumit DasGupta, Professional Learning Facilitator, will lead the session, which focuses on the video “We Create Together,” about a STEM program that brings Jewish and Muslim kids together in Gaza. The video — complemented by a corresponding lesson — explores how to use content as a vehicle to increase student engagement by building connections between content and each other. 

Global Education Leaders 

Madiha Murshed

“Despite income levels, social backgrounds, types of schools, and language or cultural differences, there are archetypes of teachers that hold true across national boundaries. In coming back and working here, I realized that east and west are not so far apart as they sometimes seem.”

Madiha’s contributions to global education are remarkable — from co-founding World Savvy with Dana Mortenson to now serving as the Managing Director of two schools in Bangladesh. Madiha recently opened the Aurora International School in Bangladesh, which teaches an international curriculum designed to build global competency skills for all its students. Since 2008, she has served as the Managing Director of Scholastica, a well-regarded English-medium private school in Bangladesh. Madiha graduated from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2002 with a Masters in International Affairs and a concentration in Economic and Political Development. She received a Bachelor’s Degree, Magna Cum Laude, in Development Economics from Harvard College in 1999. Since May 2006, Syeda Madiha Murshed has served as Executive Director of SPEED, a training center in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa

“How can we reform education without understanding the realities of the people we serve?” 

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is a leading expert in changing how school leaders enact culturally responsive leadership and anti-oppressive schooling practices. He has published four books and over 50 other publications in some of the most highly rated journals in education. His most recent book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Harvard University Press, 2018), is a top-seller and is being used in over 100 leadership training programs across the U.S. and Canada, as well as other parts of the world. Dr. Khalifa also regularly partners with school districts to conduct equity audits using research-based practices to help school leaders eliminate systemic disparities in schools and society. He is currently starting a new non-profit (TEECH), which would develop culturally responsive teachers training teachers to empower community-based settings. Dr. Khalifa was formerly the Robert Beck Endowed Professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and is currently a professor of Educational Administration and the Executive Director of Urban and Rural Initiatives at The Ohio State University. He also is a former district administrator and science teacher in Detroit Public Schools and a leading expert on educational reform in African and Asian contexts.

Dr. Khalifa has served on our Global Advisory Board here at World Savvy and has partnered with us in our work with schools. We are fortunate to benefit from his incredible wisdom.

Dr. William Gaudelli

“Being a global citizen means being aware of diversity in your community, learning to live at peace with one’s neighbors, and to appreciate the diversity that exists with people around you. I think as well as being concerned about the biosphere and the way in which we interact with the earth and its resources coupled with an awareness of how power operates on the planet.”

Dr. William Gaudelli is a prominent international scholar whose research focuses on global citizenship and teacher education and development. His career spans 30 years as a classroom teacher, researcher, professor, and seasoned administrator. He has published over 60 scholarly pieces and three books. In his latest book, Global Citizenship Education: Everyday Transcendence, he analyzes global citizenship education in various global locales. Dr. Gaudelli is a frequent keynote speaker at international conferences and guest lecturer at multiple universities worldwide, including China, Italy, Israel, Thailand, Japan, India, Poland, Hong Kong, Germany, and South Korea. He has participated in panel discussions and conferences with UNESCO, UNAI, UNAOC, WFUNA, and many professional organizations.

World Savvy is proud to have co-founded the Global Competence Certificate (GCC) program in partnership with Dr. Gaudelli and the Asia Society. Bill is currently serving as a Dean and Vice Provost for Innovation in Education at Lehigh University. 

Petteri Elo

“Education cannot be mainly about learning and reproducing facts.”

Petteri Elo is a renowned Finnish educator and educational consultant who has worked with educators worldwide on hands-on pedagogical and curriculum development. He turns his innovative and experimental practices with his students into engaging and thought-provoking training concepts for educators worldwide. As a trainer and consultant, Petteri is praised for his passion, energy, and expertise in curriculum development/implementation and innovative pedagogy from various viewpoints. Petteri’s way of combining theory and practice brings life to the critical goals of 21st-century education. 

World Savvy is thrilled to have been selected to present with Petteri at the upcoming SXSW Edu conference on March 7-10, 2022. World Savvy’s Chief Program Officer Mallory Tuominen and Petteri Elo will co-present a session titled, Phenomenon Based Learning for Local Citizenship. The session will explore how phenomenon-based learning centers students in the learning process and supports global competence development. 

Dina Buchbinder Auron

“Every person in the world is an agent of change. Wherever you are, there is something you can do to improve your community, your city, your country, your world.”

Dina Buchbinder Auron is a social entrepreneur that has introduced an innovative, action-oriented international education model called Education for Sharing (E4S) to systems that have long struggled with passivity and rigidity. E4S mission is to form better global citizens from childhood through the power of play. Since its inception in 2007, E4S has worked with over 1.3 million children, teachers, and families with important results in Mexico, the United States, Guatemala, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Panama, and New Zealand. Dina is an Ashoka Fellow and an emerita member of the BOD of the International Youth Foundation. She is a Vital Voices Lead Fellow, a WEF Global Shaper, and an Edmund Hillary Fellow. She is also a Hubert Humphrey Fellow in Urban Planning at MIT and holds an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Education for Sharing and World Savvy both focus on developing global citizenship among K-12 students and are planning collaboration in 2022.

From Despair to Hope: What We Learned About Solutions Journalism from Journalist David Bornstein

For World Savvy’s second installment of the Changemakers Series on September 22, 2021, CEO Dana Mortenson sat down with award-winning New York Times journalist, author, and Solutions Journalism co-founder David Bornstein. It was a dynamic and encouraging discussion about how journalism might be transformed to focus not just on today’s most pressing issues, but also on possible solutions – and solutionaries. This trailblazing work in our current climate of polarization could not be more timely or critical for engaged citizenship.

Imagine, for a moment, waking up each morning, making your coffee, and then settling in to read the news. But instead of an endless stream of information about the world’s issues, you open the newspaper (or your web browser) to stories covering fascinating and encouraging solutions that address some of the day’s most urgent issues – and ways you can join to create change. Wouldn’t you feel a bit more hopeful and maybe empowered, while still informed about the issues of today?

David Bornstein thinks so. 

Throughout this hour-long discussion, David shared Solutions Journalism’s mission and growth and how they are revolutionizing the field of journalism by engendering trust, advancing local and global solutions to the issues that matter most to people, and bridging political divides by focusing more on what is being done right in communities and driving collaboration across difference. Learn about all of this – and more – by watching the full video of David and Dana’s discussion here!

One of our favorite parts of the event is near the end, where David demonstrates Solutions Journalism’s groundbreaking tool to connect you to solutions stories about responses to the world’s challenges from all over the web: SolutionsU. Through the tool, you can access featured stories about current events, search for coverage by issue, strategy, SDG, and more, and even access tools for educators. There, educators can copy and customize lesson plans from their teaching collection, utilize their step-by-step guide to creating your own using the Solutions Story Tracker, share with your students how to utilize the tracker, learn from other educators how they’ve been using SolutionsU tools, and even request more information about SJN’s Journalist in the Classroom program where your students can learn directly from the journalist who wrote a story you’re using in class. The possibilities are endless.

Solutions Journalism is, at its core, focusing on a mindset shift with 25,000 journalists in over 550 news organizations across Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, the US, Latin America, and more. While the organization started out with a mission to legitimize and spread the practice of solutions journalism, that’s happened more quickly than expected – as evidenced by the numbers above – and the organization’s mission has shifted to now focus on transforming journalism for an equitable and sustainable world.

We couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Solutions Journalism’s mission and World Savvy’s goals to ensure students are not only prepared for future success in a global society, but also inspired to contribute to peace, justice, and sustainability for our world. The skills developed by consuming and participating in solutions journalism echo those in World Savvy’s Global Competence Matrix: openness to new ideas and ways of thinking, empathy, effective collaboration, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, and so much more. And Solutions Journalism’s tools are an incredible resource for World Savvy educators as they guide students through Knowledge to Action, a multi-step process based in Design Thinking in which youth learn about an issue, research potential solutions to address the root causes of the issue, think creatively and critically about how they can impact the issue, and devise an action plan to create positive change.

World Savvy envisions a future where all people, young and old, are empathetic, civic-minded, engaged global citizens. Where they can collaborate across cultures, communicate across difference, and solve complex problems. And we believe this vision starts with education – with preparing a generation of empathetic and engaged young leaders ready to address complex, real-world challenges.

This year, in an engaging series of online conversations, we’re highlighting changemakers and thought leaders across sectors who share this vision. Just like Amanda Ripley and David Bornstein have done, they will inspire us all to know more, care more, and do more for a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful world. In this six-part series, we’ll learn from journalists, activists, civic and nonprofit leaders, young changemakers, and more. 

5 Solid Ways to Build Connections with Students

One thing remains certain in a world fraught with unknowns — students need connection more than ever; connection with teachers, connection with peers and connections to the content they are engaging with on a daily basis. 

Evidence shows that relationships are critical in school reform efforts. Higher levels of trust and collaboration have been associated with a greater openness to innovation and improvement [1]. Connections between and among students also matter. Through collaboration with peers and teachers, students are able to critically analyze the world in which they currently live, the historical and social connections to that world, and imagine a future of hope and possibility. Further, collaborative problem-solving provides students with experiences that better prepare them to be problem solvers and citizens as they matriculate through school and into careers. 

World Savvy’s work is grounded in a set of Evidence-Based Principles that leverage nearly 20 years of experience embedding Global Competence in K-12 teaching and learning. The first of the four principles is Cultivating Connections. Our goal is to identify and nurture connections across individuals and issues to make learning personal and relevant.

What this looks like in the classroom:

  • Personalizing learning to center students’ strengths, needs, and interests
  • Emphasizing connections across issues and subjects
  • Exploring and nurturing connections across identities
  • Constructing meaningful opportunities for collaboration

World Savvy is kicking off our school year with several new team members who have a collective total of over 80 years of experience in the field of education. Meet the team below and hear more about the ways in which they prioritized building connections in their classrooms.

  1. Lay the foundation by establishing strong classroom culture with imagery and exercises.
    From KK Neimann, who joined World Savvy as the Director of Professional Learning in June.

    “Back-to-School was always my favorite time! As a 6th grade Humanities teacher, my students were new to middle school and coming from many different elementary schools, so it was essential to spend a lot of time building community with kids.”

    “To begin that process, we spent a lot of time exploring and understanding our Classroom Culture. I had a gigantic poster up that started with “In this classroom, we will…”, and kids worked in groups to discuss the behaviors that could go along with the items on the list. What does it look like to “Form opinions based on facts and exploration”? What does it look like to really “Listen” and “Collaborate” and “Be patient with ourselves and others?” The classroom walls were filled with examples of the kind of thinking and feeling I wanted them to do in my space. One poster was a quote from James Baldwin – “You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with YOU, not with its idea of you.” Another came from Minnesotan author Sun Yung Shin and said, “Tell me the truth of the matter. When I don’t understand, I will not protest or judge or correct, I will simply listen harder. I am here to recognize you as my fellow human being with a story.” Another said “Listen to understand, not to respond.” I used these posters as models for how we would all show up in my space, and we looked to them all the time for guidance.”

  2. Build connections with an identity circle.
    From KK Neimann, Director of Professional Learning.

    “Once our Classroom Culture was set and understood, I built connections through an Identity Circle exercise. Everyone in the room, including me, identified and shared the identities that are important to us. I talked through my circles first as a model for students, and then they got to sit at their tables and think through their own identities. Kids shared what they were comfortable sharing, and their circles included things like gender, race, nationality, religion, age, sexual orientation, birth order (“I am the oldest child.”), sports they play (“I am a soccer player”), hobbies and talents (“I am a musician”), and so on. As I circulated around the room, I got to chat and connect with kids about their circles, and in turn, they chatted and shared identities with their peers. As a group we discussed how identities can change over time, how some of our identities are misunderstood or stereotyped, and how it would feel if someone chose our circles for us or ignored one of our circles. It is a powerful exercise; everyone feels seen, and everyone feels they know their peers better. In addition, they learn that everyone has identities that are important to them, and to really understand someone, we have to try and know all their circles.”

    “I will miss engaging in these activities with students this year, but I am excited to work with teachers and support their efforts to connect with their own students and create communities where everyone feels seen and valued. It is only from that place that kids can learn.”

  3. Create opportunities for students to build connections outside of the classroom.
    From Molly Dengler, who joined World Savvy as a Professional Learning Facilitator in MN in June.

    “As a special education teacher and administrator across different settings, I created opportunities for my students to cultivate connections with the greater school community to be seen for their strengths, provide leadership opportunities and combat the isolation that can sometimes occur in a special education setting. One student with autism practiced functional and social skills through an internship with our facilities manager which included passing out lunches. My self-contained 1st and 2nd grade class created awareness around school recycling procedures and performed weekly inspections by completing a scorecard for each classroom to ensure that the recycling was not contaminated.”

  4. Talk about communication preferences to build a stronger team.
    From Whitney McKinley, who joined World Savvy as a Professional Learning Facilitator in the Bay Area in MN in June.

    “Communication was always a cornerstone of my classroom community, whether I was teaching math, science, or art. In order to work together and grow as a team, we not only needed to communicate, we needed to understand how our communication styles and preferences interact with those of others. The beginning of the year is a great time to start building communication pathways, to better understand each other, and to learn how we like to give and receive feedback. In the first weeks of school our team would explore simulations, complete personality tests, share personal communication preferences, and most importantly, reflect on how these experiences would influence our work together. By acknowledging and understanding communication differences early on, we were able to lay the foundation for rich discussion and productive feedback as the year progressed.”

  5. Don’t do it all. Build cohesion by empowering students.
    From Shumit DasGupta, who joined World Savvy as a Professional Learning Facilitator in the Bay Area in November of last year.

    “As a high school science teacher, I always struggled with the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ needed to do; proper labs, creating models, and generally keeping the classroom functional. We had a year of labs ahead of us, and I was just one person. The solution? As many parents and elementary school teachers could probably tell you, it was ‘make the kids do it.’ It sounds obvious at first, but putting the onus and responsibility of maintaining the classroom offered students to be vested in the community — they controlled where materials lived, tracked it through a spreadsheet, made sure all the classroom pets and organisms were taken care of, and fell into a routine when they arrived to class. Not immediately, and not without practice, but establishing this practice in the beginning of the year was entirely worth it. This simple cornerstone — the expectation that students needed to do their part so that we could get to the fun business of doing actual science — added a cohesiveness to the classroom experience that can’t be replicated with a list of rules or an addition to the syllabus. Once we worked out the kinks in the system, it was an unspoken ritual that wasn’t verbal, didn’t need prompting, and added a sense of comfortable routine to the start of every class.”

World Savvy partners with schools and districts to integrate global competence in K-12 teaching, learning, and culture. This is a dynamic process that isn’t a one-size-fits-all program model, so our partnerships demand responsiveness. Our work is anchored in four overarching principles: 

  1. Cultivating connections 
  2. Promoting active, interdisciplinary learning
  3. Fostering Knowledge-to-Action
  4. Reflecting and adapting

Today’s blog featured the first of four principles. We will dive into the remaining three over the course of the school year. Stay connected!

[1] Bryk, Anthony S and Barbara Schneider. (2003) Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform. Creating Caring Schools, Volume 60, Number 6, pp. 40-45. 

The Surprising Truth about Conflict: What We Learned in a Conversation with Bestselling Author and Award-winning Journalist, Amanda Ripley.

For World Savvy’s inaugural Changemakers Series event on July 28, 2021, CEO Dana Mortenson sat down with award-winning journalist and author Amanda Ripley to discuss her latest book, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out. It was a dynamic and thought-provoking discussion exploring the causes and impacts of high conflict on interpersonal, community, and national levels, and what we all – young and old – can do as responsible community members and citizens to shift from high conflict to healthy conflict.

Over the course of an hour that flew by, Amanda walked us through her journey of understanding high conflict. She met with conflict experts such as mediators, gang violence interrupters, religious leaders, ex-guerilla fighters, and more, and analyzed toxic and violent conflicts in Chicago neighborhoods, the Colombian jungle, and even within US politics. What she found was that most high conflict shared two key characteristics: 

High Conflict (A conflict that becomes self-perpetuating and all-consuming, in which almost everyone ends up worse off. + Typically anus-versus-them conflict.)

Through the stories of individuals shared in the pages of High Conflict – Gary, a conflict expert who finds himself embroiled in a local political feud, Curtis, a former gang leader turned violence interrupter who now works alongside the man who killed his childhood idol, and Sandra, one of many ex-guerilla fighters in Colombia – Amanda painted a picture not just of what high conflict looks like, but also how we might extract ourselves and instead pivot to good conflict. 

Good Conflict (Surprise, Fluidity, Many different emotions, Complexity, Humility, Passion, Spikes in stress hormones, Violence unlikely) vs High Conflict (Predictability, Rigidity, Same emotions, Simplicity, Certainty, Righteousness, Chronic stress, Violence more likely)

These characteristics of good conflict reminded us of something else: World Savvy’s Global Competence Matrix, which outlines the relevant behaviors, attitudes, and skills World Savvy works to instill: valuing multiple perspectives, comfort with complexity and ambiguity, empathy, questioning prevailing assumptions, engaging in inclusive dialogue and collaborative problem solving. It is our hope that, by approaching conflict with these skills and dispositions, today’s youth will be equipped to engage in healthy conflict that moves us all forward and addresses some of our world’s biggest challenges.

“The big lesson for me is: the problem is not conflict. We need conflict. That is how we get stronger, that is how we get pushed, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our countries, in our schools. We need to stand up for ourselves, we need to challenge each other - and be challenged! So there is something that I like to call good conflict - the way John Lewis said “good trouble” - there is good conflict which is necessary and healthy. And you can actually see the difference in the data. Questions get asked, curiosity still exists, and you still experience anger, stress, frustration, all of those things, but you also experience other emotions, like flashes of understanding, surprise, humor even, curiosity...The kind of conflict you’re in really matters.” - Amanda Ripley

Imagine for a moment a world where healthy discourse and good conflict takes place. Where statehouses, neighborhoods, and dinner tables are filled with rich dialogue where multiple perspectives are valued and welcomed. This important work begins when schools are equipped with the tools to transform their learning environments, and where students develop essential skills like critical thinking, problem solving and communication. These skills are foundational to fostering good conflict over high conflict. 

World Savvy envisions a future where all people, young and old, are empathetic, civic-minded, engaged global citizens. Where they can collaborate across cultures, communicate across difference, and solve complex problems. And we believe this vision starts with education – with preparing a generation of empathetic and engaged young leaders ready to address complex, real-world challenges.

This year, in an engaging series of online conversations, we’re highlighting changemakers and thought leaders across sectors who share this vision. Just like Amanda Ripley did, they will inspire us all to know more, care more, and do more for a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful world. In this six-part series, we’ll learn from journalists, activists, civic and nonprofit leaders, young changemakers, and more.

Enlight Foundation Announcement

Dear Friends,

We have some fantastic news to share with you! The Enlight Foundation, a critical World Savvy partner for the last five years, has made a generous $5 million investment in World Savvy’s continued national growth. This donation kick-starts World Savvy’s Vision 2035 Campaign to raise $26.5 million over the next five years toward national expansion at a crucial time in our nation to reimagine an education system grounded in the skills and dispositions young people need to navigate our complex, diverse, and interconnected world.

And, even more exciting – this gift is a challenge grant! Over the next year – July 2021 to June 2022 – all funds raised to support World Savvy’s 2035 Vision will be matched 3-to-1 by Enlight, up to the first $3 million installment of this $5 million pledge. This means, if you support World Savvy in the coming year, your gift will be tripled!

The Enlight Foundation employs an innovative funding strategy to promote community, nurture collaboration and build resilience among an ‘ecosystem’ of vibrant organizations empowering youth as changemakers for a better world.

Since 2002, World Savvy has been building a movement for a future-ready, inclusive education system that builds global competence. By 2035, our goal is to engage a network of 10,000 middle and high schools in diverse geographies across the U.S., reaching an estimated 5 million students. We will leverage the learning and impact in this network of schools to change the discourse nationally on what constitutes a ‘quality’ education. World Savvy is creating a future-ready K-12 system that deeply and equitably prepares young people for life as engaged citizens, thriving professionals, and global problem solvers.

We are so grateful to the Enlight Foundation for helping to accelerate the momentum for this movement. It will take all of us to reimagine the future of education. Will you join us and support a generation of engaged global citizens, preparing them to thrive today and shape tomorrow’s world—a more just, equitable and sustainable world, where all youth can leverage their agency as changemakers.

Join the movement!

In Solidarity with our Community

Art by @stattheartist

Our Twin Cities community is grieving again, as Daunte Wright, another unarmed Black man, was killed by police on Sunday, April 11th. Daunte Wright was a father. A son. A brother. A partner. A friend. A valued member of the community. He was 20 years old with a full life ahead of him. Less than one year after the murder of George Floyd, we again confront the institutional and systemic racism that continues to violently cut short the lives of our Black neighbors.

To our BIPOC colleagues, partners, friends, and loved ones: we see you. We are here to support you and to ensure that you have the space to express your grief, anger, frustration – whatever you are feeling in the wake of this new but all too familiar trauma. We are committed to allowing our staff – and especially BIPOC team members – to take time for rest and self-care, and to be in community. 

We are also committed to showing up for and supporting the family of Daunte Wright and his community that has been so impacted – and retraumatized – by his murder. Brooklyn Center is a diverse community broken up by several major highways. In the best of times, huge swaths of it are considered a food desert; with businesses closed, many are struggling to access basic necessities. The Sahan Journal has shared a great list, updated frequently, of places where individuals can donate goods, volunteer their time, or contribute to mutual aid funds to support those most impacted:

Donations to the The Daunte Wright Sr. Memorial Fund can be made at 

As we work toward the systemic change so desperately needed to cultivate an inclusive and equitable society, we’re here to listen and learn alongside our community, and stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors and community members who bear the brunt of this injustice, time and time again. 

Statement of Solidarity with the Asian Community

As the Asian American community deals with Tuesday’s mass shootings in Atlanta that left eight dead, including six Asian women, World Savvy issued the following statement:

“World Savvy stands in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community during this painful time. In the last year, compounding the challenges facing immigrant and BIPOC community members during COVID, we have seen a dramatic escalation of targeted violence toward our Asian neighbors. We’ve seen COVID-19 referred to repeatedly by those in power with racial slurs, stoking these xenophobic fears and hatred and contributing to a climate of fear for Asian community members. This week, a gunman opened fire at three Asian-operated spas in Georgia, killing 8 people, six of whom were Asian women.

This unspeakable act is emblematic of the larger systemic issues we face as a nation struggling to build an inclusive society in our multi-ethnic democracy. We all must come together not only to condemn these acts, but to act swiftly to combat this rise in racial violence. The first step toward healing must be acknowledgement: both of the long history of discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans – and specifically the stereotyping and dehumanization of Asian women – in this country, as well as the underlying foundation of white supremacy that has allowed this to persist through generations.

Our hearts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives this week in Georgia. At World Savvy, we remain committed to moving forward with a mission to expand learning and understanding across cultures, build our collective capacity for inclusive dialogue and changemaking, and engage in deep reflection – and action – rooted in our understanding of how we unknowingly contribute to the systemic issues underlying these events. We stand with our neighbors, and remain hopeful for change.”

In solidarity,
World Savvy

Tuesday in America: 2020

Art by Andres Guzman (Instagram: @andresitoguzman)

This week, we grieve for America. For the familiar refrain of black bodies killed by structural violence rooted in white supremacy and the legacy of slavery. And as a consequence of the modern-day weaponization of whiteness that causes harm – and death – a straight line can be drawn from Amy Cooper in Central Park to George Floyd in South Minneapolis. 

The week began with the viral video of a woman in central park, calling 911 on a black man birdwatching, who asked her to leash her dog who was disrupting the habitat (and was off-leash against the stated rules). Then on Monday came the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, who crushed his neck for at least 7 minutes, ignoring cries of “I can’t breathe. Everything hurts. They are going to kill me.” And on Tuesday, in the WeWork in Minneapolis where World Savvy offices, a white CEO called 911 on a group of young Somali entrepreneurs who share the same space, using the office gym, assuming they were there illegally. Though this kind of institutionalized racism has been in the air we all breathe for hundreds of years, social media offers us all a window into its particular cruelty and violence. It is a reckoning that we cannot choose any longer to pretend is overblown or overstated. And yet, videos of murder sometimes offer fodder for debate, rather than a unified outcry for accountability and change. 

The weight of this, and what comes next – the healing and the repair – must begin and end with reflection and accountability for how we can all do better. Why does this matter, must it matter, to me? To our organization?


I am a white woman living in Minneapolis, by way of New York City, where these most recent incidents occurred. I’m the mother of two daughters, and the co-founder of an organization that for 18 years has been committed to engaging youth in the pursuit of radical empathy, relentless curiosity about the world around them, critical thinking about the root causes of injustice, and deep understanding of the people who shape our communities–however different from ourselves and our own experiences. I founded World Savvy with my dear friend, Madiha Murshed; a Bangladeshi Muslim who endured the xenophobic backlash in post 9/11 America and believed a different future was possible, and that education was the most powerful platform to strive for that. But the calculus for my decisions – every choice I make as a parent and a professional and a citizen – are shaped and privileged by my lived experience as a white person. An advantage I did nothing to earn except be born in the skin I am in. 

When I talk with my children about the history of slavery and criminal justice reform, and systemic racism, it’s a choice; to ensure my children grow up awake and aware. But for a black or immigrant mother or father, these are not choices; these conversations are blueprints for survival for themselves and their children. They are the acknowledgment that this is a Tuesday morning in America, in 2020. I shudder to reconcile a world in which I would pray for the graphic video of my child’s violent murder to go viral, in search of an audience who can muster outrage; a world in which I would require that evidence to prove the injustice. And even then, to endure the inevitable debate of its merits – of the delayed and all too often unattainable justice for the atrocity.  


In the face of this, and in the spirit of accountability, we are sharing the actions we are taking – actions you can take also – to call for justice for George Floyd, and to do your own work toward anti-racism:

Learn: we are recommitting ourselves to our own internal anti-racist work – to learning, listening, and working toward Ijeoma Oluo’s call to “fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself.” No matter where you are on your own anti-racism journey, the following resources offer chances for deep learning:

Listen: here are people of color in our community who are speaking up on behalf of justice, and provide additional ways to advocate for justice and supporting your neighbors of color.

Many individuals listed here offer additional resources they have created themselves for your own anti-racist journey. Please keep these things in mind when you interact with the resources they have created: 1) Most will have a welcome or “read first” section in their bio or website that includes instructions for how to utilize the resources and/or interact in the community they have created. Please read these first and honor them. 2) Many also have a Patreon page. If you utilize resources they have created, recognize the creative, intellectual, and emotional labor involved in this, and please support them however generously you are able.

Just a few of the voices we are listening to:

  • Mike Griffin, Minneapolis Activist, @votegriffin
  • Christiane Cordero, WCCO Reporter, @christianewcco
  • Ricardo Lopez, MN Reformer Reporter, @rljourno
  • Sheletta Brundidge, Author, @shelettaisfunny
  • Nekima Levy Armstrong, Civil Rights Lawyer, @nvlevy
  • Alicia Garza, Co-creator of Black Lives Matter, @aliciagarza
  • Opal Tometi, Co-creator of Black Lives Matter, @opalayo
  • Patrisse Cullors, Co-creator of Black Lives Matter, @OsopePatrisse
  • Ijeoma Oluo, Author, @IjeomaOluo
  • Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Activist/Writer/Educator, @MsPackyetti
  • Austin Channing Brown, Writer/Speaker/Producer, @austingchanning
  • Layla Saad, Author of Me and White Supremacy, @laylafsaad
  • L Glenise Pike, Anti-racism educator and author, @elleglenisepike
  • Rachel E. Cargle, Writer/Lecturer/Public Academic, @RachelCargle
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, Journalist, NYTimes 1619 Project, @nhannahjones
  • Raquel Willis, Writer/Activist/Speaker, @RaquelWillis_
  • Monique Melton, Anti-racism Educator, @moemotivate
  • Reverend Jacqui Lewis, PhD, Anti-racist Activist and Minister, @RevJacquiLewis

Advocate: we are taking action and calling for justice for George Floyd and wider reforms to policing and policy.

This Google Doc, Taking Action for George Floyd, courtesy of the Coven in Minneapolis,  is “a collaborative resource list of ideas to help white people show up for racial justice” and includes many concrete actions we can all take right now.

Give: we are supporting organizations working for racial justice and criminal justice reform, local media, and those most impacted by George Floyd’s death.

At World Savvy we stand in solidarity and support of the many colleagues and organizations working toward this vision of a different future, a more just and equitable reality. We are here in support of the students, teachers, and families we work alongside who are adversely affected – every single day – by this structural violence. And we are committed to doing our own work that advances learning, discourse and truth-telling in the service of that vision for our future. 

And on behalf of our team, our Board, and the amazing network of colleagues and collaborators impacted by events like these that have become all too common in America, we grieve. And we will keep striving for a different reality, with relentless hope for a day when this is not a Tuesday morning in America.

Dana Mortenson is the Co-Founder and CEO of World Savvy. Dana is an Ashoka Fellow, was named one of The New Leaders Council’s 40 under 40 Progressive American Leaders, and was winner of the Tides Foundation’s Jane Bagley Lehman award for excellence in public advocacy in 2014. She is a frequent speaker on global education and social entrepreneurship at high profile convenings nationally and internationally, and World Savvy’s work has been featured on PBS, the The New York TimesEdutopia and a range of local and national media outlets covering education and innovation.