Introducing: Hope Dominos

Faith or fear. Hope or despair. Compassion or indifference. We make these choices every day. How YOU choose to engage in the world and in relation to others has a DOMINO EFFECT on everyone around you.

The combined impact of our individual choices defines our culture.


WHAT is Hope Dominos?

Hope Dominos is a collaborative effort to promote positive culture & inspire joy.

For the next year —implementing an idea I incubated April-July 2016 in Residence at TED headquarters in New York City — I will travel around the United States on a “listening tour” to explore culture, identity and leadership through inclusive conversations and fun activities facilitated by local and national partners — while celebrating and elevating everyday people who make their communities and this country a great place to live.

In the same spirit, we will explore the Art of Migration — through personal stories of migrants and refugees. The act of “leaving familiar surroundings behind and venturing into the unknown with uncertainty” serves as a catalyst for realizing innate human qualities that we all possess but don’t always have occasion to realize — courage, strength, resilience, creativity, hope, faith, humility, among other things. When practiced well, like an art, migration increases adaptability and expands a person’s capacity for risk and change. These are skills that benefit everyone, and we can look to the migrant experience as a guide and inspiration.


WHY — and Why Now?

The United States of America attracts people from all over the world because people believe America is the land of freedom and opportunity, peace and prosperity. We are designed to be an inclusive, dynamic and adaptable society founded on democratic ideals and values, where anyone can realize their maximum potential and secure a safe, happy, healthy future for their children. America = Hope.

Recently, however, when I step outside the rosy bubbles I normally occupy, I am shocked by two distinctly un-American phenomena: polarization and despair. These feelings are fed with a steady diet of fear and blame by social media, television, radio and even politicians. The vilification of migrants and refugees has become especially fashionable. Social networks reinforce stereotypes while Americans are increasingly satisfied to accept opinion as truth — without even trying to talk to the people they are talking about.

Courage & compassion are being replaced by contempt & complacency.

Faith is becoming dominated by fear.

People are not listening to each other… not even trying to understand, to relate, or to empathize. Instead of seeking solutions, more and more Americans are pointing fingers and waiting for someone else to fix things.

I KNOW WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

Foreigners are not the problem!

Migrants and refugees are not trying to change our culture. The very reason people risk and sacrifice so much to come to America is to pursue, embrace and defend American values and ideals for themselves and their children. “This is not a new phenomenon. We just forget. Because, by design, previous waves of foreigners become woven into the very fabric of our society… We have lived this story over and over again. This is the epic story of America. The biggest threat to our culture does not come from the outside. It never has.” This was the subject of my July 2016 TED talk (video here).

TED Residency talks in New York, July 2016
No doubt, we have many challenges. We always have and always will. What defines us is how we choose to handle the challenges — and each other. This is a choice we each make daily. Each of us is a thread in the fabric of America. Woven together, our choices define us as a nation.

Who are we? How do we define our culture?

What is necessary NOW to restore confidence in our democracy — so we all are motivated to participate, so we all feel valued as stakeholders, so every individual’s unique life experience might contribute to local and national policies that benefit our collective best interest?

The solutions to all our challenges can be found in our defining asset: HOPE.

America = Hope.

There is always a positive way forward. #FaithNotFear


HOW to Inspire Hope?

Reality is shaped by perception, and perception is shaped by exposure.

The more polarized our communities become, the less exposure people have to “others” they perceive as different. When we lack exposure (original experience), secondary sources control our perception, opinions and reality.

The best way to remedy this situation is through personal interaction, deep listening and shared experiences. Even better to have fun in the process — promoting positive culture — inspiring hope and joy — by *celebrating* people who make our communities a great place to live. Teachers, artists, community volunteers, small business owners, the crossing guard who smiles and greets you every day, and countless others.

Wherever challenges exist, you will find amazing people doing their best to create a positive impact. In the spirit of hope. With faith in a better future.

Why not seek to discover the good that surrounds us every day — instead of sitting in front of televisions and computers consuming toxic propaganda?

Choose Hope. Choose Joy. Choose Faith. Choose Courage. Choose to Care.

Your choice matters.

Hope Dominos is a collaboration of local and national partners who seek to promote positive culture and inspire joy by:

  • Engaging community members in shared experiences to deepen relationships and foster mutual understanding;
  • Exploring culture, identity & values — leadership and accountability — in communities across the USA;
  • Celebrating individuals and initiatives that make our local communities and this country a great place to live;
  • Recognizing the Art of Migration as a tool anyone can employ to navigate change, strengthen adaptability, and increase capacity for risk; and
  • Inviting everyone and anyone to step up and participate in the challenge of innovating forward, to co-create welcoming communities where future generations can thrive, happily, together.

We intend to have FUN in the process. I hope you will join us!


WHO is Hope Dominos?

Hope Dominos = Anyone & Everyone who choose to be a force for good.

You might not think of yourself as a force, but the truth is — we are all interrelated. Your words and actions, your mood and attitude, even your choice to be silent — YOU have a direct impact on the people around you.

There’s a Spanish phrase I learned in Guatemala for the warm feeling you get when you meet someone whose presence just feels good: “Me cae bien.” You fall well on me. I always loved that, and now it makes more sense.

YOU can learn more, receive news & updates, learn about community events near you, and join the movement on Facebook and #HopeDominos on Instagram. (Website in development.)

Deeply grateful for encouragement and collaboration of a growing number of supporters, including national organizations and local partners such as: TED, the TED Residency, TEDx organizers, TED-Ed Innovative Educators, Welcoming America, The Canales Project, Fwd.us, HIAS, JFON West Michigan, Open Future Institute, Voyaj, and countless friends & colleagues.


WHEN/WHERE/HOW can you participate?

September 2016 — March 2017: Pilot Cities

From September 2016 to March 2017, local partners in 6–10 pilot cities are organizing foundational events to spark engagement and conversation among members of their communities — and to recognize and celebrate in community the everyday people who make their cities a great place to live.

Pilot cities are: McPherson, Kansas. Atlanta, Georgia. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Boston, Massachusetts. Washington, D.C. Huntsville, Alabama. New Orleans, Louisiana. Vail, Colorado. Waco & Austin, Texas.

Our first event is Sept 28 at the Public Library in McPherson, Kansas. As they say, there is no fear in McPherson (pronounced Mc-Furson) — so this is the perfect place to start! We will also participate in the McPherson Festival of Cultures, formerly McPherson Scottish Festival. Huge thanks to TED-Ed Innovative Educator Shannon DeSair Brake for making this happen!

Sept 30, 2016: TEDxPeachtree with Jacqui Chew in Atlanta, Georgia (tickets available here). This is particularly exciting because two of our partners are based in Atlanta: Welcoming America & Jenn Graham’s Civic Dinners.

Oct 15, 2016: Univision’s historic RiseUp AS ONE concert on the border of the United States & Mexico near San Diego — to promote & celebrate unity through music. Co-chaired by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Salma Hayek, Samuel L. Jackson, Quincy Jones & Sprint President & CEO Marcelo Claure.

Oct 21–22, 2016: TEDxMidAtlantic with Dave Troy & Nate Mook in Washington, DC (tickets available here). Various musicians with our partner organization The Canales Project will perform at the TEDx event. We are planning additional community gatherings in DC around these dates.

Nov 3, 2016: JFON West Michigan, Welcoming Michigan & other local partners are organizing a community workshop + dinner in Grand Rapids.

Nov 19–20, 2016: TEDxBeaconStreet with John Werner in Boston, MA.

Dec 5, 2016: TEDxHuntsville salon event with Everett Alexander, Welcoming America & local community leaders in Huntsville, AL.

Dec 13, 2016: TEDxPeachtree salon event in Atlanta, GA.

Dec 15, 2016: Bring Your Own storytelling event in New Orleans, LA with journalist & videographer Jesse Hardman, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice & Propeller social innovation hub.

Jan 6, 2017: TEDxVail with Kat Haber in Vail, Colorado (tickets will be available here) with additional events in the region around this time.

Jan 19, 2017: Peace Ball organized by Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC.

Mar 10–16, 2017: SXSW with Blair Glencorse & Accountability Lab.

March — Nov 2017: Hope Domino National Tour!

Super excited to take Hope Domino on the road! March — Nov 2017, we will drive around the country, exploring culture & identity through inclusive community conversations, recognizing & celebrating the amazing everyday people who make their communties a great place to live, having FUN together, and connecting local conversations into a national dialogue. (Contact me to get your city on the Route Map.)

Together, through our diverse & unique life experiences, we will also explore the Art of Migration as a tool to navigate change, strengthen adaptability & increase capacity for taking risks. We invite you to share your stories!


P.S. IDEAS Worth Spreading

Hope Dominos is an independent project — a movement — to promote positive culture in the United States and globally. This is something that’s been on my mind and in my heart for years — literally since 2002 when I was working as the National Staff Attorney for the Justice for Our Neighbors program of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. I am deeply grateful to TED for giving me the opportunity to push pause on “real life” for 3 months to finally focus and develop this idea into an action plan.

TED’s mission statement: “TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”

In the spirit of TED, I invite you to join me on this journey seeking hope, inspiration and a bright tomorrow for our children and future generations!

Huge thanks to Rebeka Ryvola for this butterfly image, a beautiful symbol of Hope, Joy & the Art of Migration!

#HopeDominos #FaithNotFear #ArtOfMigration #BetterTogether