3. Elsa Sze: One Idea at a Time

"What is the biggest lie you've ever told?" That's the question Elsa Sze asked a room of Harvard University students on one rainy Saturday afternoon in October. She asked with two of her own biggest lies in mind.

The first was to a young inner-city boy named Antonio. Elsa met Antonio on in 2012 when knocking on doors. Antonio, excitedly, went with Elsa door-to-door, asking them if they'd registered to vote. At the end of the day, Elsa asked Antonio what he wanted to be when he grew up. Antonio said he wanted to be the President of the United States. Elsa said he would and she would vote for him.

This was what she identifies as her first big lie. After all, inner-city kids are half as likely to graduate high school. They are twice as likely to be unemployed and one in three will end up in jail one day. The notion that he'd climb through this hierarchy to be President one day? Pie in the sky.

Elsa realized her second big lie on Election Day. That day, Elsa went door to door, offering rides to the polls for those who might normally have trouble getting there. One person she met was an older woman named Rochelle. Rochelle, attached to an oxygen tank, was having a hard time breathing. She clearly needed to go to the hospital and Elsa knew that. While Elsa recognized this, what Rochelle said to Elsa surprised her: "Take me to vote and then the hospital". It was then that Elsa realized two things: 1) Rochelle cared so much about Election Day because it was one of only a few days every four years her voice was heard and 2) the idea that our voice only matters on Election Day is a lie.

Elsa knew that Rochelle's voice mattered. She knew that, in order to engage Rochelle and others daily, it was a matter of limiting the barriers to participation. The key was enabling people who couldn't attend the town hall meetings, whether they're at home on an oxygen tank or they're unable to make the meetings. Elsa set out to create a space for conversations that matter with people who matter. That's when Agora was born.

As founder and CEO of Agora, Elsa is democratizing the world using technology one idea at a time. She's connecting constituents with policy makers like never before. For Elsa, in her own words, "the urgency of life is today", and today, like every other day, is a chance for each of us to use our voice to influence the world we live in for the best.

 

Learn more about Agora by visiting agora.co.

Matthew Scott