Bringing Our Authentic Selves To Make Change with Ashanti Branch of The Ever Forward Club

Ashanti Branch, Founder of The Ever Forward Club, will be joining us once again to kick off the opening session at Big Ideas Fest 2018. His groundbreaking work helps students and educators all over the world bring their authentic selves to make change. Ashanti and his students will lead a Taking Off The Mask workshop, which encourages participants to look behind the masks we wear on a daily basis, and a way to share experiences and acknowledge social norms inherently learned throughout our lives.

We caught up with Ashanti at a stop his #100KMasks World Tour to discuss the impact Big Ideas Fest has had on his work. 

Ashanti: Hello from Chiapas, Mexico, living in High Definition the work of the Big Ideas Fest.

ISKME: Why has The Ever Forward Club partnered with Big Ideas Fest over the past few years?

Ashanti: Ever since my first talk at Big Ideas Fest 2014 it is hard to believe how many things have shifted forward for me personally and my non-profit organization, The Ever Forward Club.

During my first Big Ideas Fest, I was not only there as a speaker but ISKME CEO Lisa Petrides told me that she believed that the Action Collab work could benefit what we were doing in Ever Forward.

I was a Middle School Assistant Principal so each day is a new adventure and there are rarely good days to take off. But after driving to Half Moon Bay for the first time in my life, after living in Oakland all my life, I was first amazed at the atmosphere, and as I began to learn about what an Action Collab was, I realized that I needed to take the next two days off of work so that I could learn and absorb what was about to happen.

I met students from South San Francisco High School, one who I still mentor to this day, and my mind was expanded to envision an opportunity for my young men to participate in the Big Ideas Fest, which for me had been a life-changing experience, to learn a new way of thinking about solving problems.

Since the beginning of our partnership in 2015, we have brought over 12 young men, to participate in this amazing conference. Two of our young men have been trained as youth Action Collab facilitators, which was truly an amazing experience for me to witness as their mentor, to see them leading adults through a process which has been such a powerful experience for me and my organization.   

This partnership has been unforgettable in the lives of our young men, who are often not the highest performing students at their schools, but who at the Big Ideas Fest are respected as equal participants and who are looked to as experts when adults need to understand a youth perspective. And that respect that they get is what always makes them ask, "When can I go back to Big Ideas Fest?" For me, I have not missed a Big Ideas Fest since 2014 and as one of the trained Action Collab facilitators, it has been a tremendous learning experience for me as well.

ISKME: What specific components of the Big Ideas Fest experience have impacted your work?

Ashanti: Big Ideas Fest has impacted our work because as the Executive Director I often come up with BIG IDEAS that I want my team to implement and It often causes me to slow down in order to speed up. Some ideas need to be made quick, but some quick ideas as a solution to a Big Question we have as an organization need the imput from the team and the many ideas can usually create a much more rich idea as well as more buy in from the team who will be implementing most of these ideas.

ISKME: Do you have any recommendations or words of advice for others that are thinking of attending Big Ideas Fest?

Ashanti: As a man who has been going to conferences since I was 16 years old as the Photo Editor for my school paper and attending Journalism conferences all over the country to Corporate Civil Engineer, to Math Educator, to Secondary School Administrator, to Social Entrepreneur, I have experienced all types of conferences, and by far Big Ideas Fest is one conference that I recommend to people all the time, regardless of what profession they work in.

It will expand your mind and your thinking to help solve some the worlds biggest problems.

As I sit here in Chiapas, Mexico after traveling to three cities in India, talking to people about our global campaign, The 100,000 Masks Challenge, helping people all over the world to explore their own personal mask and accept the masks of others, we believe it is beginning to build healthier communities. The lessons learned in the Big Ideas Fest were a huge catalyst of our current growth as an organization from Oakland, California who has now expanded our work to over 10 countries and collected over 25,000 masks.

All that to say... Don't Miss It