Unite with anyone to do right: Stand Together CEO Brian Hooks shares insights for an effective social change model
3 highlights from an enlightening conversation on tackling society’s toughest issues from the ground up
Stand Together CEO Brian Hooks joined serial entrepreneur Jeffrey M. Zucker’s People Are the Answer podcast, a series dedicated to people who invest their time, talent, and resources to tackle our country’s biggest problems from the bottom up.
If you’re driven, passionate, and audacious enough to think you can help make the world a better place — by reshaping education or immigration; by helping gang leaders to become community leaders; by fighting addiction — you already understand that it takes a special mindset to even begin, much less succeed.
For Stand Together, that mindset is at the heart of our bottom up approach to social change. It starts with a deep belief in people, seeing those closest to a problem as the source of solutions, and uniting with anyone to do right.
Below are excerpts from the podcast, which have been edited for length and clarity, and may help you on your own journey to enact change.
“Unite with anyone to do right and with nobody to do wrong”
“It’s a Frederick Douglass quote that we take a lot of inspiration from. And if you think about the origin of that insight, the fact that Douglass is the one that spoke those words, it’s particularly profound because Douglass was born into slavery, experienced the absolute worst transgression, [worst] injustice that any person could experience being in.
“And yet, when he sought to reflect on where he could add the most value, rather than being bitter and looking to seek vengeance on those who had done him this unimaginable wrong, which would’ve been completely understandable, he decided that he could be an agent for positive change.
“And in order to do that he was willing to unite with anyone to do right and be conscious that he would unite with no one to do wrong.
“And that’s profound.
“So we’ve really tried to take that to heart, and the problems that we address are really big problems in our society. And to think that any one person has all the answers is silly. None of us have all the answers.
“And so if we’re going to solve these problems, we need to take that ‘unite with anyone to do the right idea’ seriously, and we need to aggressively seek partners who can share our vision on an issue and who can help us.
“And together we can be more effective than we could on our own.”
Tackling big problems doesn’t need to be “us vs. them” – K-12 education is a case in point
“It’s been incredibly divisive. Public versus private, teachers versus parents, unions versus charters, these sorts of things.
“So you flip that on its head and you say every student has a gift, there is no average student. And our system needs to recognize that and be tailored to the individual. Individualized education. That we need a diversity of solutions to realize that vision, so thousands of different ways for students to learn things because there are millions of different ways that students learn.
“We should care about good education. Let’s bring people together to advocate for good education that can happen in public schools and private schools and charter schools and religious schools, micro schools, home schools, you name it.
“We want good education for kids, education that can unlock the student’s potential and really light a fire under them to go out and find ways to contribute to the lives of others.”
Stand Together’s bottom-up approach to social change
“Progress happens when people are empowered to realize their potential and find ways to be successful in their own lives, by contributing in the lives of others and really living a life of meaning by helping to make the country, make the world a better place.
“And the way that we try to go about accomplishing that vision is by investing in the capabilities that are required to break the barriers that are holding people back. To transform those institutions in society, whether that’s education or the strong communities, businesses, or public policy. To help transform those institutions so that rather than inhibit progress, they’re empowering people to drive progress.”
Learn more about Stand Together’s issue areas.