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Dream.Org With Nisha Anand, CEO & President

By September 22nd, 2023No Comments30 min read
Home » Dream.Org With Nisha Anand, CEO & President

DSP 6 | Dream.Org

Turning dreams into reality: where determined optimism meets unwavering action. In this inspiring episode, we have Nisha Anand to dive into the world of Dream.Org, a remarkable organization that’s making waves at the intersection of criminal justice reform and climate change. At the heart of this conversation is Nisha’s unique perspective on leadership. With a focus on fostering an organizational culture, she reveals the secrets to building a team that’s passionately dedicated to a shared vision. Throughout the discussion, Nisha’s unwavering optimism shines through. Her determined optimism is a driving force behind her work, propelling her to tackle some of society’s most pressing issues head-on. Her belief testifies that, in the face of adversity, progress is not only possible but essential. And don’t miss out on the exciting news – Dream.Org is on the brink of disrupting the entire incarceration system with a groundbreaking million-dollar prize. Tune in now and be part of the movement for change!

Listen to the podcast here


Dream.Org With Nisha Anand, CEO & President

In this episode, we have Nisha Anand. Nisha is an Indian-American activist, mom of two teenagers, and a boundary-busting national leader for social justice in the United States. Once a grassroots activist arrested in Burma for pro-democracy demonstrations, Nisha is known as a leader in cultivating unlikely and unconventional partnerships to create change. As 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.

In our conversation, Nisha goes deep into what it is to lead a movement and to take over after an iconic founder and what it means to stay optimistic every day while dealing with some of society’s toughest issues. If you’re a leader of a social movement or if you want to be the leader of a social movement, you’re going to enjoy my conversation with Nisha Anand.

Welcome to the Discovery Pod, Nisha.

Thank you for having me on.

It is always great to have the chance to talk to guests who are doing incredible work in the United States as we look at the social profit sector in the United States from here in Canada. I’m excited about the conversation we’re going to have about your role the great work that happens at and what it is that does. Start us off by explaining to our audience what you and your colleagues are up to. is a US-based national nonprofit organization. We work on criminal justice reform and climate. Those are the main issues that we’re working on day in and day out. What makes us unique is that everything we do with this idea of radical inclusivity is at the top of our minds. How do we build the biggest table possible so that any of the solutions we come up with include ideas outside of our own?

We want to have a big table to get the best solutions. That means all of our legislation is bipartisan legislation in the US. All of our work in re-skilling the tech sector or folks that are entering the green economy is going to include both folks in grassroots and from communities that are underserved and big companies that are looking to build their employee base. We’re going to bring together unlikely allies to come up with solutions and create a path toward the future.

One of the phrases that come through consistently in learning about is the quotation, “We’ll work with anyone to make the future work for everyone.” It feels aspirational. How do you make that true on a day-to-day basis?

We’ve forgotten how much we have in common. That does not mean that I want to use a big broad brush and say everyone is the same, we all care about the same things. We don’t. There are major differences between us. That’s what makes both of our countries quite beautiful to have that diversity and that richness. Even with people whom we disagree on most things, that doesn’t mean we disagree on everything. For me, being obsessed with finding that one place where we agree, and then working on that together, not only gets a solution across but also helps bring us back together.

In these divided times and polarizing times, just that working on one common thing together brings us back together. You think of projects in your community, whether it’s cleaning up a river or helping build a Habitat for Humanity house or something like that, when you bring folks together, nobody cares what your politics are. You’re doing a project. You’re doing good together. We embrace that. We don’t agree with you on our climate solutions. We’re not going to work with you on climate, but perhaps there’s something in the criminal justice world that we can work on together, and we’ll do that.

It sounded aspirational. You put some life to it in your answer there. It must be difficult on a day-to-day basis to remember that. You’re not above the divisiveness you’re describing, you’re right in it and you’re trying to find those moments of connection and those places of agreement. How do you remind yourself and members of your team to keep that alive in the work of the organization?

What helps us is it is fundamental to who we are. It is what sets us apart. We make sure that we never compromise who we are. You can only authentically say you’re a bridge builder if you’re incredibly confident in who you are. We start with who we are, which is we have very progressive values. We don’t try to hide it. We very much have been concerned about freedom, justice, and opportunity. We are champions for those who have been left out and left behind. We can’t hide that. You talk to me for ten minutes, it comes across pretty clear who I am.

We combine that with radical inclusivity that says, “I’ll take anyone else that wants to work on this issue.” We also put equity upfront that you can count on us to bring in an equity lens, to bring in racial justice and economic justice because that’s who we are. That’s my value. I’ve grown up with a little bit more of a community-oriented racial justice background.

Our Republican counterparts on the other side who we work with, that’s not their lens. They don’t see the world that way. It’s a blind spot they have. When we get in the room together, they can count on us to point that out for them like they can call out the blind spots that I have. I don’t always look at an individual pursuit of accomplishment. I’m not thinking about an individual’s movement forward or how to get ahead in the world. That’s valid. It’s just not my first way of looking at the world.

We can balance each other out and we can help each other come up with good solutions. It’s baked into who we are. That’s not to say it’s easy. Certainly, I can disagree, especially with those closest to me. I can get into heated arguments with my family. It’s easier with folks doing it. In work, we make it. I tell folks, “Do not put out a tweet if it’s going to further divide people.” Don’t write anything. If it increases the polarization, it’s not a solution for us. doesn’t do that. There is enough out there where we can keep our progressive values, not be nasty, and not increase hate. Let’s do that.

What a novel concept. A lot of what does represents something that we see working quite effectively in the Canadian context of the social profit world. Finding areas of strength. Finding where organizations or communities or issues have something to push off from. Even if you’re at the bottom, you have something to push off from. Anchored in strength, you can pull more people together rather than continually pointing out why things aren’t working or why things are broken. It’s not so much the why. It’s the, “What are we going to do about it?”

We’re stuck in that why. We want to point fingers and blame. That’s how it feels right now.

As a bit of a mushy-headed leftist myself, we can disagree with those closest to us. We can agree on what the solution is, but maybe we aren’t properly motivated by the right rationale to seek that solution. Let’s argue about that. You don’t get a lot done in that conversation. How do you identify the projects that is going to take on? You mentioned the two areas of focus within very broad categories. Within those two categories, how do you decide if this is an issue or this is an area that we’re going to jump in?

We started with what we thought were two very large issues. If we could prove that you could bring people together and do giant pieces of legislation, which are social change solutions at scale. There are not a lot of ways to scale social justice. There certainly is, but if you get a piece of legislation that can change the law for the whole country, then you’ve done it. We thought, “What were the biggest problem sets where at the time of our inception, which was many years ago, no one thought there could be bipartisan consensus on?” We said, “Let’s try it.”

We could have chosen anything. Education, immigration, and healthcare here in this country. There are so many things where it seems like there isn’t any common ground. The two we chose were ones we were passionate about. When I interviewed for the job, I was told we were going to pass bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. I laughed out loud because I thought that was an oxymoron.

I had been working on criminal justice reform my entire life as a young activist up into an adult. I had never met, at that point, a Republican who wanted to work on criminal justice reform. There was very much a, “Lock them up, criminals. Throw away the key. Three strikes, you’re out. You’re in jail forever.” We saw this huge exponential rise in incarceration in this country from the ’90s. We still did it because they came at it for very different reasons. As a progressive, I’ve always seen it as an issue that’s about justice, racial justice, and economic justice. It has a long history that I couldn’t ignore. That’s why I want fairness and oppression. All of those things. Like you said, mushy-headed lefty. I’d never heard of that before, but I’ll use it.

The Republicans, the folks from the right who came to the table came for very different reasons. We had fiscal conservatives who didn’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on the prison system. We had social conservatives who believe in redemption, rehabilitation, and second chances, and are anti-death penalty. We had the libertarian side of the Republican party. Libertarians want less of a police state and less of people getting arrested for marijuana offenses. These were very different reasons. Just like you said earlier, the reasons they came to the table were very different. That didn’t matter. We instead passed what we think of as our signature piece of legislation that’s now years old, the First Step Act.

It was a federal piece of legislation. Since that day, almost 30,000 people have come home from prison. We didn’t just pass it with a little majority. We had 89 over 100 senators. During the Trump administration, when Republicans controlled, all of the houses voted yes. It was a lot of bipartisanship. That means it’s durable. It means it’s very hard to overturn. When we say we’re doing it with climate, they laugh and they’re like, “That’s not possible.” We did it on criminal justice reform. They’re like, “Of course you did.” It was like, “No. When we first started, no one thought it was possible.” I’m a believer. Being an activist my whole life, this is what I’ve done that has had the most measurable impact.

Check against results. You’ve delivered some results. We probably don’t want to spend too much time on it, but I do think it is something that you said when you interviewed for the job, you laughed at the purpose of the organization and still got the job. The rest of the interview must have gone very well.

I interviewed for the fundraising role. My background was in fundraising. As most of your audience knows who are running organizations, development professionals and fundraising professionals are hard to find. That’s one lucky way to get a job. Is anyone trying to crack into a nonprofit to get the fundraising role?

That is right. We’re seeing more of the fundraisers moving into the chief executive officer role of a lot of organizations. On the Discovery Pod, we’ve had a number of organizations that are either named after their famous founder or the fingerprints of their famous founder are a big part of the organization. Very much true of with well-known political commentator and entrepreneur, Van Jones. The founders will always be very much a part of the organization. How do you build a brand that is separate from that entity while holding onto the benefits of that association?

Van has created a lot of amazing organizations over the course of his life. I came to meet him before this organization existed when he had built the Ella Baker Center and after that, Color of Change. Green for All was its freestanding initiative as well. He is the idea guy. He can see a future that oftentimes no one else can see. He’s a bit ahead of his time and he comes up with ideas of how to move the world forward. He’s that starter guy. He is a spark.

By the time I came to this organization, Rebuild the Dream, he had already successfully handed off several other organizations, got them started, brought the people into sharing that vision, and then moved on to the next one. My first job working here was as the Development Director of Fundraising and I became his Chief of Staff after that. I learned for about six years, as his Chief of Staff, how he operates. In 2019, he went on to run Reform, which is another criminal justice organization in the US, and that’s when I became CEO. It was very much a, “Learn everything you can now, see where it can go after.”

Are there the lasting imprints of that, or are there donors to the organization that says, “When do we get to meet Van?”

Most of our donors have met Van. He’s somebody that’s undeniable in person. When he left in 2019, it was always a double-edged sword with a celebrity founder. There are folks that think, “You don’t need our money because you have Van.” They’re also folks who say, “I’ll do anything with Van. Bring me in.” They want to be tied to them. It goes both ways. In the early days, that’s fine. You take any opportunity. When you are small, you’re starting, and you have a big idea, you go from opportunity to opportunity. It’s that startup culture. It’s present in nonprofits.

In the early days, you go from opportunity to opportunity in that startup culture. Click To Tweet

There comes an age when you mature, you go through that adolescence and you need a longer-term strategy and a little more a plan. That’s where I come in. Having a fundraising background, I did a lot of systems building in my first year as CEO in 2019. In my second year, I was like, “Let’s do some big things.” That was 2020. Those plans didn’t work out. That was a whole other learning how to lead. It’s been pretty exciting.

On our work here at the Discovery Group, we do a lot of work with the governance of social profit organizations and fundraising as well. Particularly, on governance, what we see is movement organizations do hit a level of time when it’s essential that they hit that level of maturity and that advanced adolescence to sustain gains that they may have made in the startup phase and to sustain the energy and the momentum to take on new challenges. As someone who’s been in movements your whole life, how do you see the role of governance evolving in an organization like

You have to stop and do it. The whole saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” gets said everywhere. I think that’s true from the beginning. This was something that was very present. Everything Van said from the beginning and the people we brought in is you are the people who dream and you are the folks who, when you come together, inspire not just each other but the world. If you bake in from the beginning that you are the folks that are going to take care of each other because you’re going to do hard work, but it’s going to be inspirational, you have to look out for that culture.

Even though in the beginning we didn’t have it defined, we didn’t have core values for a few years. We didn’t have the right systems to make sure we could maintain that. We didn’t have any of that when we started. The spirit of what we were trying to build was always there. When I took over, I thought it was my job to codify some of those feelings, the things we knew, and make this an amazing place to work. How do you deal with those changes? Some of it’s the boring stuff.

Transitioning from a baby group to an adolescent group to a more mature group, we brought in consultants to do an entire organizational design with us. The Crossland Group was our consultants and they looked at, “What are all the values? What are all the problems?” They designed our organization and a different type of org chart than we would have done on our own. Having someone from the outside be like, “Here’s where you are. Here’s what your organization will look like.” That was a huge piece of what brought us to maturity.

I hired our first-ever CFO internally, our Chief Financial Officer was a big move into maturity, and a Chief People Officer. Our Chief People Officer is phenomenal. Knowing that there’s someone beside me whose sole job is to wake up and think about how our people stay here, grow, learn, and stay part of the organization or move on, having her by my side to be able to do that and having our CFO by the side who is always looking at finances, that’s how you build. You get mature people around you who are better at their jobs than you are, versus when I was trying to do all of that myself. It’s the right roles and the right processes. Drag people along. Sometimes people don’t want to make the changes.

Get mature people around you who are better at their jobs than you are. Click To Tweet

Sometimes they’re afraid because they don’t know how or what their role will be. One of the things I see in organizations that are growing, founded organizations, and new startups, is there is a type of personality of people who are truly mission-committed. We’re all there for the purpose. The ambiguity and the fluidity of the way the organization operates allow them a sense of stability that they can always find a way to add value. As you start to codify and as you start to structure the organization, the box gets a little tighter and you start to see some defensiveness that comes out of many people.

In any change management process, everyone thinks, “What does this mean for me first?” Before we announce any kind of change, even if it’s the tiniest change, we’re going to change the retreat location or something. That’s the first thing we come up with. “Everyone’s going to be listening for how it affects them. Are we speaking to that up top? Are we making sure they have some sense of stability or naming the uncomfortableness of not knowing, too?” With all the uncertainty being able to name, I’m asking you to be uncertain for the next month while we figure this out. I promise we will land somewhere that makes the most sense for the mission.

One of the hardest things for me, because I love being the transparent, consensus-building, and collaborative leader, is sometimes at this stage in our organization, I don’t tell everyone until we’re ready to unravel the change because of that shock, what if, and how. Sometimes it’s better to wait versus bringing all anxiety. I know that with my teenagers. Growing up, I wouldn’t tell them necessarily, “We were going to make this big move,” until we were going to make this big move. Thinking about maybe we’ll go across the country, there will be anxiety for months and months, and then I’ll be like, “Actually, we’re not going to.” It’s that idea.

Nisha, you mentioned you came into the organization as the Director of Development looking after fundraising. You’ve got a message for the kids, if you want to get into the social profit sector, go into fundraising. You’re with the organization for a little while. You said you’d go into the Chief of Staff role for six years, and then you become the CEO. I think a lot of our audience will be curious to hear what that transition is like moving from the fundraiser, which is externally focused and dependent on internal systems to now the CEO who has to be externally focused and is accountable for those internal systems. It’s a very significant change. Talk to us a little bit about what that transition was like for you.

As long as I’ve been in nonprofits, I never thought I wanted that senior top title because it’s a lot like the high school principal or the head of the high school. They get blamed for everything that goes wrong in the school. They get no glory when things go well. It seemed always like a hard role. I never thought I wanted it. I was happy being that number two person.

The development director has a lot of power in an organization. You get to move people along in your vision. You’re organizing a class of people, the donor class and foundations, and getting them to move along with a vision. I always loved that. I’m an organizer at heart. My first job out of college was national organizing for the War Resisters League back in New York and we had chapters all around the country.

DSP 6 | Dream.Org

Dream.Org: A director has a lot of power and an organization. You get to move people along in your vision. You’re actually organizing a class of people, the donor class and foundations, and getting them to really move, along with a vision.


That’s how development felt to me, organizing. I liked that role. I also liked being number two. Being chief of staff, I learned so much. Van’s vision is always expanding. I was learning new things every single year. I remember the conversation when he called and said, “I am going to take that job at Reform and I want to recommend you for CEO.” I said no. I was happy where I was. I was very good at that job. I could have imagined doing that job. I thought I was fantastic at it.

He hung up on me and he was like, “Fine.” I called a few coworkers and told them about it, just a few of my best work friends. They said, “Why would you not do it?” One of them said to me, “If you’re comfortable in the role you’re in, you’re in the wrong role.” That’s not who they knew me to be. I’ve never been somebody who wants to do the same thing over and over again. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing. That was a challenge. It wasn’t just, “Do you want to be CEO?” It’s like, “Do you want to be CEO when your charismatic founder is leaving, and all of the money that comes with it, and all of the connections?”

It’s not a job that might be unglamorous. It’s coming after a founder leaves. I called Van back and I said, “I will do it.” He said, “Good because I would’ve thought you wasted a bunch of years of your life if you had stuck with that. You should be taking that job.” He knew it. It took me maybe an hour or two hours to know it.

That’s not too long.

It was scary. The first year was like, “We’re all right.” Dealt with all of the transition, and then 2020 hit and no one was all right. We were all beginners in 2020 again.

As fundraisers, we think about fundraisers and organizations is talked about it disorganizing, but it is observing human behavior, making connections, and being aware of the social dynamics and situations. It’s incredibly important. As chief of staff, you both set the table and then observe the meal as it’s served and prepared. You do have that very interesting outside observer role of what the CEO is doing on a regular basis. When you make that transition to being the CEO, are you still able to maintain that external focus? How have you managed to stay as self-aware as you are through that transition?

Every CEO is different. The roles that are required of the CEO in different organizations are different. Mine is, “Be an external face and an external spokesperson. Try to get this way of being in the world out there.” That’s a big piece of it. The other big piece of my role is fundraising. I’m someone who likes to fundraise. A big chunk of that is in my world, and then we’re trying to do very minimal of the internal focus, but at the end of the day, I am the keeper of the culture. I am the person that holds everyone accountable to vision.

Every CEO is different and so and the roles that are required of the CEO in different organizations are different. Click To Tweet

Now, the roles I’ve had in the past, especially in a startup environment and for a chief of staff, for somebody who has new ideas all the time, I can’t help but dig in sometimes. That has been the biggest learning. It’s always less helpful when I dig in. I have to trust that I hired the right people to do the right jobs and set the times for certain projects. I’ll say, “I’m going to want to hear about where you’re at in a few weeks,” versus other projects. When it’s done, they can come to me. Being able to let go of that, “I like the startup energy.” Crafting a spreadsheet to plan our timeline or our budget, that’s not a good use of my time. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I have to stay external. I have to focus on the fundraising and organizing side, but organizational stuff can suck you right back in.

There’s a funny thing about organizations that they do take on a life of their own. You mentioned that when you were considering taking the role, there was a group of people that you called. One of the things that I learned through my own experience being a leader of organizations but also doing these shows is many leaders have that group of people, whether they call it their 911 list or their advisors usually outside of the organizations that they lead. Who do you turn to when you need advice or when you’re facing some of these challenging issues facing

When you’re in an organization and you’re not in the main leadership role, you do have peers you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. As you move up in the organization, there are fewer of those people you can go to. One of the first things I did as CEO was I identified I needed a professional network that was different. I couldn’t just have Van either as the mentor. I needed a lot of other mentors. That was an intention I set right when I became CEO. I decided I wanted to look outside the nonprofit sector for some of those mentors. I joined two professional networks.

One is this amazing group of women called the Renegade Women who are all doing big things in their sectors. A lot of folks in the finance sector and investors. Now, we invest together in groups for certain vehicles and certain startups. They were all folks building their brand. Whatever jobs they were at, very different than mine. Love them. I joined them right at the beginning of the pandemic. I am going to Miami to hang out with them at our yearly summit. My closest professional network is a global network that a lot of leaders can join, which is called YPO, the Young President’s Organization. I joined them during that time as well. Are you in YPO?

I was in YPO.

I feel like I’m talking about a cult sometimes, but honestly, joining YPO has been the biggest gift during my leadership because of that group of people who are all CEOs of very different businesses. I can turn to them for anything and that’s what this professional network is about. It’s getting deep and talking about only the things that are the hardest, most difficult, ugly things you don’t necessarily share with other people. They’ve all gone through worse. Whatever I’m experiencing, they’re running companies of similar sizes and similar staff. Everyone has a story and it helps.

DSP 6 | Dream.Org

Dream.Org: This Professional Network is all about getting really deep and talking about only the things that are the hardest, most difficult, and ugliest.


We’re all in different things but we’re in different things together. It’s a rallying cry for YPO. It is so important for leaders to have that external perspective. The only people we’re talking to as social profit leaders are other social profit leaders. The noise inside the tin can gets pretty loud pretty quickly. I want to pivot back to more of your leadership with your team for a second.

The work that you do is challenging. We haven’t spent much time talking about how you balance criminal justice reform and climate change within the same organization. How do you keep that motivation for your team at the center of what they’re doing on a daily basis? I’m sure they come to as fellow travelers in the movement. How do you sustain that on a day-to-day basis?

I am an optimist by nature. I’ve always been an optimist. It’s something I get accused of quite a lot. I don’t think of myself as a naive optimist. I think of myself very much as a determined optimist. I’ve seen too much of the world in my life that if I wake up, and then decide I’m going to do something, I know it gets results. If you work out every day, you’re going to get into better shape. You can create the future you want. I’ve seen that happen in movement work. I know if I’m determined and my whole staff is determined, I can be optimistic. I’m not optimistic naively. I’m like, “We can create it.”

We passed six criminal justice reform bills in a year in states all over the country where we are having this thinking that we are having this resurgence in crime. It’s not an easy environment to pass legislation. If folks stay inspired and determined, they’re doing amazing work out there. I do try to bring the spin. I do try to bring the energy. It’s not fake. It’s who I am. I have been accused. It’s a running joke around here of being on the idea of toxic positivity sometimes. That might be the case, but I am one of those people who wake up and try to spin everything to an opportunity. I don’t know how I got that way.

I get accused of that too. I remind people, that it’s not that it’s toxic, but a dosage issue. You get too much exposure to me on some days and that’s what makes it toxic.

Where did that optimism come from for you?

The only thing that changes the world for the better is finding elements, glimmers, and things that are working. Finding strength, finding progress, and moving forward from that. As a sector and as a society, finding fault with what’s going on and finding what’s wrong is not the hard part. It’s finding the people who are doing the work that are going to change that for the better. That’s why I love the work that we get to do here at the Discovery Group.

DSP 6 | Dream.Org

Dream.Org: The only thing that changes the world for the better is finding elements, glimmers, and things that are working. Finding strength, finding progress, and moving forward.


It’s why I love the sector so much and I love this show because I get to talk to leaders like you who are finding that positivity and some pretty difficult issues. Criminal justice reform in particular is going to be very challenging for a lot of people. You do it anyway and you do it with strength. You find the strength and push off from that. If we don’t do that as a sector and as citizens, that’s where I would lose my optimism. It’s when you stop trying.

It’s a choice of where to look. Do we decide and choose or keep looking at all the places of fault? Like you said, that’s not the hard part. We can choose to keep searching for the good.

This is where we’re probably not toxic positivists. You have to say that all the things going wrong are okay. You don’t have to accept that’s the state of play. You’ve recognized that’s how we want to change. This is how we want to change society for the better. We want to change our community for the better. If we can find those elements where it’s working or the potential for it to work in the darker spots of places, that’s where you start and that’s where you build from.

It’s one of the things that the way tells its story is so compelling to me personally because you’ve found issues that matter and it’s how you do it that resonates much more in how you talk about the work that you do and bringing people together that may not agree on many things. That’s so powerful. We need so much more of that.

I agree. That’s how we balance it. It’s not what we do so much. It’s how we do it. That was one of your questions. How does climate and criminal justice live in the same organization? It’s because it’s the same thing. Trying to solve some of our most difficult and hard problems together.

I don’t want to sound flippant, but I was thinking about a story as I was getting ready for this conversation. Where I grew up around the corner, there was a restaurant that served Chinese food and Italian food. It was the neighborhood place, so you walk by. The son of the owner was in my junior high. How do you do that? My dad says, “Everybody gets hungry and people like different things, so we feed them.” Our job is to feed people what they want and bring people together. I was thinking of that.

I use a very similar example when people say, “How do you find common ground with these people that I think of as my enemy?” I’m like, “Have you ever ordered a pizza where you’re a vegetarian and the other person’s non-vegetarian? You do it every day. You know how to do it. I can split the pizza in half. I can order two different pizzas. We can all eat veg. You come up with a solution. You know how to find common ground.”

Making it about those big social issues is the hard work of and your colleagues. As we come to the end of our conversation, I want to ask you a closer question. Are you ready?


What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to quite a few things. We are trying to disrupt the entire incarceration system. We can keep making reforms. We will keep doing little reforms that make it better inside prison and better for folks coming home from prison. The whole system is broken. We have a million-dollar prize out there that we put out for anyone who has the most disruptive solutions using a tech-enabled future that could change the way we think about incarceration in prisons. Hopefully, our goal is to reduce that population inside.

That prize is coming up at the end of October 2023. I saw the five finalists. I am very excited about giving away $1 million. Who’s not excited about it? I’m excited about the future of the field. Also, 80% of the people who applied and competed for that prize were formerly incarcerated folks. That is so inspiring to see what’s possible when you create that space for folks to invent. We say a lot here, “Genius is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.” If we can be the place that has some of that open door of opportunity to folks and showcase that talent, I hope we get to disrupt this industry that’s completely backward, has poor motivation, waste of money, has no rehabilitation, no good outcomes, it’s getting worse and worse by the day, and we can do better.

Genius is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not. Click To Tweet

It sounds like something right for disruption. Before we go, could you tell the audience how they can learn more about

It’s easy because our website is We usually have our most up-to-date actions on our news page. We do have a membership. Anyone who is committed to that change-making that embodies progress without polarization, we have a place for you. If you want to make a change in your local areas, we have a lot of support. We have scholarships for getting into different fields. We have cohorts where we do a lot of training so you can influence legislation and work on whatever advocacy issues in your local area you care about. We have a lot of ways to get involved as individuals. Of course, we’re a nonprofit, so we’re always looking for donations too.

Nisha, thank you so much for being on the Discovery Pod.

Thank you.


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