Radical Inclusivity Is Key to Solving Social Problems
Dream.Org CEO Nisha Anand Leverages Her Peacebuilding Skills to Advance a Progressive Agenda With Help From Aligned Conservatives
Devin: could you just share with us what you see as your superpower?
Nisha: I think my superpower is a bridge. I think that I was born a first-generation kid in America. I really was the bridge between the old world and the new. I served as the translator for my dad, who was very much coming to America to fulfill his American dream and yet not fluent in what is America. Me being raised here, I could be that translator. I could really see the different sides to a lot of different arguments. I think growing up feeling like an outsider and feeling like a misfit, I actually ended up fitting in everywhere.
Nisha Anand, CEO of Dream.Org, is changing the world in ways some would have said are impossible. By building bridges across what many see as uncrossable chasms, she is leading change on her progressive agenda for social justice and climate change.
Nisha is an extraordinary storyteller, so I encourage you to listen to this podcast. She relates stories of some of the 12 times she’s been arrested! You won’t want to miss anything, and I can’t include all her stories in this write-up.
She shared the story of helping to pass the First Step Act during the Trump Administration with help from former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:
Dream.org achieved a major win with the passage of the First Step Act, a federal bill that aimed to improve the criminal justice system. Nisha was initially skeptical about the possibility of bipartisan support for criminal justice reform.
She soon realized, however, that red state governors and various conservative groups, such as fiscal conservatives and libertarians, were also interested in reform. With the help of Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House and Republican representative, the organization worked towards a bipartisan coalition.
Despite concerns that the election of President Trump would derail their efforts, Dream.org persevered, and the First Step Act was ultimately passed with support from both sides of the aisle.
Over 20,000 people have been released from federal prison as a result of the bill. For Nisha, this achievement solidified the effectiveness of bipartisan collaboration in achieving lasting change.
“I worked with Newt, worked with Trump, worked with all sorts of characters to get this passed,” Nisha says. “And that's just a first step. It laid the groundwork for a lot more to be possible than on the state level, with a lot of bills being passed after that.”
“So it really did for me solidify that this way works,” she says. “When you have that many people for it, it's durable. It lasts. People don't want to reverse it.”
As you can see, Nisha’s superpower is bridgebuilding.
AI Podcast Summary
Nisha Anand, CEO of Dream.org, was a guest on the Superpowers for Good show with Devin Thorpe.
Dream.org works on issues such as climate change, social justice, and tech, and uses a unique approach of radical inclusivity.
Anand has had success with civil disobedience but also acknowledges the importance of changing hearts and minds.
Her master's degree in international peace and conflict resolution has helped her in building bridges across the aisle.
Anand discusses her work on passing the First Step Act, a federal piece of legislation on criminal justice reform.
She learned that finding common ground on even just 2% of issues can lead to progress.
Anand believes that bridge-building is key to combating polarization in society.
Everyone can develop bridge-building skills by connecting with others on a human level and taking a more inclusive approach to their work.
Dream Corps tackles social justice issues through tech and innovation with campaigns such as Green For All and #cut50.
The conversation ended with a call to action to use our superpowers for good to make positive changes in the world.
Nisha’s success isn’t just a matter of having built unlikely bridges, but the traffic that crosses them. Her impact is huge.
She shares the story of another arrest that taught her important lessons about what has become her superpower.
Nisha shares her experience of being arrested in Burma while participating in a protest to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of a pro-democratic uprising.
She was part of an international delegation of 18 people from eight different countries, including six from the US. They were all arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, but their arrest was a well-coordinated action, and the news made front-page headlines worldwide.
A US Congressional Representative, Chris Smith, flew to Thailand to help get them out, and Nisha had the opportunity to sit next to him on the flight back to the States. She had planned to convince him of her opinions, but instead, he opened up the conversation about human rights abuses in the world and asked for her thoughts.
Nisha realized that building bridges and connecting through humanity is just as important as passionate activism. The experience was eye-opening for her and happened in 1998.
“We had so much in common in human rights abuses, we never got to the stuff we didn't have in common,” Nisha says.
Nisha offers some tips for developing skills like hers.
“Anyone that has young children, you tell them to listen to respect, to be kind,” she says. “We tell our children these things, and yet we can't practice them ourselves.”
We’re actually quite good at peacebuilding, she says. We just ignore the relevance of the way we decide with a group what pizza to order or which movie to see. The same skills apply to solving climate change.
If you follow Nisha’s example and advice, you can enhance your peacebuilding and bridge-building skills. You may even turn them into superpowers you can use to do more good in the world.
Nisha Anand (she/her):
About Dream.Org: At Dream.Org, we close prison doors and open doors of opportunity. We bring people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with freedom, dignity and opportunity for all.
Twitter Handle: @thedreamcorps
Company Facebook Page: fb.com/thedreamcorps
Biographical Information: Nisha Anand is an Indian-American activist, mom of two teenagers, and a boundary-busting national leader for social and racial justice. Once a grassroots activist arrested in Burma for pro-democracy demonstrations, Nisha is known today as a leader in cultivating unlikely and unconventional partnerships to create change. As Dream.Org’s CEO, Nisha guides a team of storytellers, organizers, and policy experts working on some of society’s toughest problems to create a better future for all.
Twitter Handle: @nishamanand
Personal Facebook Profile: fb.com/nishaanand.org
Instagram Handle: @nishamanand
Other URL: nishaanand.org