For the last seven years, Eugenie Teasley has been working to raise the aspirations of disadvantaged youth. She is founder and CEO of Spark+Mettle, a new organisation that likes to help people flourish. Its pilot programme, Star Track, helps disadvantaged 16–24 year olds to map and launch their optimal career by providing innovative online training, inspiring mentoring, and funded work experience with progressive, ethical SMEs.
Prior to this Eugenie taught in a south London school, worked at the brilliant non-profit, 826 Valencia, in San Francisco, and has been an educational consultant. She holds a BA from the University of Oxford and an MA in Social and Cultural Studies in Education from UC Berkeley. She lives in Brighton, UK, with her husband, son and two dogs.
?!X: What’s the Future You Choose?
ET: The future I choose is a socially egalitarian one: a world where people are judged equally, regardless of their work, salary or family set-up. One in which religion and gender and sexuality and language are the starting points for building a collective understanding of humanity, rather than the sources of hatred and struggle. One in which the social construct of race is torn down. One in which education is both local and worldly, and allows children to think for themselves. One in which jobs are respected and rewarded for being the ones with the most positive social and environmental impact.
?!X: What’s a ‘think’ to create this future?
ET: There are many ‘thinks’ that can help create this future. For the UK, Owen Jones’ recent book “Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class” is a great starting point. As is a fantastic study, “A Bit Rich” by the new economics foundation, which demonstrates that hospital cleaners create over £10 in value for every £1 they receive in pay, whereas tax accountants destroy £47 for every £1 they create. Charles Mills’ ‘The Racial Contract’ is a compelling analysis of how race came into existence. Paolo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ still captures my heart and head. And Martin Seligman’s latest work, ‘Flourish’ could benefit us all.
?!X: What’s an ‘act’ to create the future you choose?
ET: I agree with Dave Eggers when he called upon the TED community and the world to get involved with a local school. But my act would be to make it broader, and ask people to connect with young people—especially, but not exclusively, the disadvantaged and the marginalised—and to talk to them, to ask them questions about how they envision their future, what their aspirations are, and to help them realise their ambitions. This doesn’t have to be confined to schools: it could be done through a mentorship scheme or through a work placement programme, or through any other route available to them.
My act would also include listening to other people carefully, rather than just picking out the bits you want to hear. That includes listening to the people who disagree with you. Listen to what they say, and try to understand why they are saying it. Societies favour some over others: where do you fit in? Where does the person talking fit in? What can you do collectively to make your society fairer?
?!X: What’s a ‘vote’ to create the future you choose?
ET: Is it cheating for the vote to be to sign up to Spark+Mettle? If education and employment and equality and flourishing are important to you, then it’s a good place to start.
But you may be compelled by a different sort of cause or concern. My vote then is to encourage people to stay loyal to what they believe in, to shout about it loudly, and to pledge when they can. But it’s not disloyal to cheerlead for other causes too, if they capture you, even fleetingly.
?!X: What’s your favourite song and why?
ET: Favourite song: so hard. But I’ll go for Minnie Riperton’s “Les Fleurs” as it is choc-a-bloc with optimism and hope and flourishing in its original sense.
?!X: Can you share with us up to 5 weblinks that you find interesting and inspiring?
www.826valencia.org — where I used to work and a constant source of inspiration and delight
www.leftfootforward.org — a non-partisan, progressive lens on politics
www.agoodweek.com — where people can unite with the common goal of doing good, in a groovy, un-preachy way.
Inspired to tell us The Future You Choose? You can here.
Follow Eugenie on Twitter @eugenieee