Jenny: Agent For Global Citizenship
Jenny left the corporate world to launch ProjectExplorer in 2003. Her mission? Bring the world into the classroom.
Q: Describe yourself in three words:
Explorer. Storyteller. Global Citizen.
Q: What motivated/inspired you to create ProjectExplorer?
My personal global education began in 2000 while on assignment in Hong Kong and Japan for Credit Suisse First Boston (Yes, I’m formerly from the corporate world). This was my first time off the North American continent. This experience and the months after 9/11 became the catalysts for founding ProjectExplorer. After 9/11 I observed the people around me becoming increasingly afraid of the world outside of our borders. As I listened to these conversations, I began to think about the power and potential in developing a global understanding from a young age.
The idea of ProjectExplorer began to percolate in 2003. (This was before the existence of YouTube and online video was not yet mainstream). I started by researching students’ and families’ abilities and means to travel and was shocked by this statistic: According to the U.S. Department of State, about 75% of Americans do not have a passport.
In 2006, I launched ProjectExplorer.org - a free video-based website aimed at providing virtual passports to students around the globe, and encouraging kids to experience the world beyond their community.
After 15 years working with schools, I find there is still a pressing need for programming that promotes understanding, respect, and inclusion. A working knowledge of religions, geography, and history is absolutely essential for living and prospering in our increasingly interconnected world.
Q: What skills does it take to run a successful non-profit?
In my case, running ProjectExplorer requires me to be a "plate spinner" who wears many hats.
In this job, there is no average day. In addition to directing, producing, and overseeing all creative aspects of ProjectExplorer, I'm also the Executive Director. It’s a juggling act switching between the administrative and financial portion of the business, while keeping a strong focus on the creative, educational product. While I have learned to juggle the two roles, perhaps the most important skill is learning to delegate. The willingness to “give up” some of the control in order to focus on the big picture is something I have been working on a lot lately.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about working in the non-profit world?
Biggest myth/misconception - Nonprofits don’t make money! A nonprofit actually cannot survive without income because, without it, it would be unable to run the programs that create impact. Being a nonprofit (or 501c3) doesn’t prohibit an organization from making money or generating income, it simply means that all profits go toward an organization's mission.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to join a non-profit board?
When it comes to a career not every one is able to “follow your passion.” In fact, most people’s passions simply don’t translate into a career or provide a sustainable income. My advice? Follow your passions by volunteering or joining a nonprofit board. I’ve served on nonprofit boards and junior boards for 20 years now, and I’ve worked with my nonprofit board for nearly 15 years. It is the collective time, energy, and expertise of my board members who have taken ProjectExplorer from a small nonprofit to an organization on the “tipping point.” Our success and impact is largely due to these passionate and dedicated individuals.
If you are looking to join a board, I suggest reaching out to Board Assist. They are experts in matching a board-seeker’s skills and interests with the perfect organization!
Q: How many countries have you traveled to? Which are your favorites?
I’m currently at 75 (and counting!)
London is one of my first international travel experiences and remains my favorite destination. My favorite parts of London are easily the South Bank and Southwark. I like to start early in the morning at Borough Market and taste my way through the food stalls.
Johannesburg has been a favorite destination since first visiting in 2007. Often overlooked by visitors heading straight to Cape Town or safari, Johannesburg is all about the energy and vibrancy of its people. The music and arts scene in Jozi is just incredible!
More recently, Amsterdam has become a favorite. So much so that I’m calling it home for part of the year now. I love how Amsterdam seems to have it all - the excitement of a big city without all the big city annoyances.
Q: What initiatives/projects are you most excited about?
Currently, we are filming a ProjectExplorer TV series with Kari Byron (Mythbuster’s fame). This is a huge step up in terms of our mission to create globally competent youth by expanding into living rooms across the country. I hope this educational, cultural TV series will become a jumping off point for family discussions at home.
While on location filming for the TV series, we're also capturing videos for classroom content and lessons. This will allow us to add curriculum from 5-10 new countries per year to the ProjectExplorer.org platform. Previously we only did 1-2 destinations per year. And, to make it all more accessible for our student and teacher users, we are rolling out a new website in early 2019.
Q: What is one the most rewarding experiences that you have had to-date after running your own non-profit for 15 years?
It’s hard to pick just one. But, a few years ago I received a letter from a 3rd grader that read: “I used to think that the world was a bad place, but you showed me it was not." Letters like this are how I know I’m doing something right!
Q: Where do you turn to in stressful moments?
In terms of self-care: I enjoy cooking and I’ve become somewhat of an ice-cream making genius, I try to take pilates or swim at least three times a week, and I video chat with my adorable niece as often as possible—a source of pure happiness in my life. I’ve also learned how important your personal support group is. I’m in a fantastic relationship with someone who helps focus on the “bigger picture” when I am stressed, encourages downtime, makes me laugh, and brews the perfect cuppa tea (which is essential in times of stress).
ProjectExplorer provides free multimedia content and lesson plans that improve students’ global awareness and cross cultural understanding. Its growing catalog includes more than 300 original episodes and dozens of lesson plans. Nearly six million students have used ProjectExplorer’s online materials to become more globally and culturally aware.
Support Global Competency in American Schools & Abroad
100% of online donations go directly to educational programming. Your support means the world!