Welcome back to our “Digging Deeper Series,” the interview series that gives an in-depth look into some of our donors and supporters. Today I spoke with Kanya Manoj, a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and member of DC Social Innovation Project’s Associate Board.
Like us, Kanya believes that in order to achieve sustainable and meaningful social change, the agents of that change must come from within communities. It is my hope that our conversation will inspire you as much as it inspired me. Meet Kanya.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived and/or worked in the District and what do you do?
I have been living in the District for two years doing health care strategy consulting for the Military Health System. I also do pro-Bono consulting for the Lab School of Washington, a K-12 school for leaning disabilities and fundraise actively for ISDIndia, an NGO dedicated to rural development and poverty alleviation in South India. Prior to that, I worked at Morgan Stanley in Public Finance in New York City and graduated from Duke with a degree in Public Health Informatics.
What social issues do you care most about? Why do these issues matter to you?
I’m passionate about improving access to health care and strengthening health care delivery for underserved populations. I was born and spent part of my childhood in India. When my family moved to the States, the pursuit of the American Dream took us on a 10 year cross-country expedition, living in Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, LA, and Atlanta all by the time I was 14. My passion for health care is rooted in an underlying interest in poverty alleviation due to the socio-economic inequalities and injustices that I was exposed to and lived with in India and across America.
However, it wasn’t until college that I became acutely aware of the pockets of extreme poverty that exist within America and gained a deeper appreciation for the interplay between politics, history, race, and poverty.
How did you first got involved with DC Social Innovation Project (DCSIP)? What interests you most about the organization?
When I first moved to the District, I was interested in finding ways to develop meaningful ties to the community. I wanted to and continue to try to learn how to reconcile the impact of gentrification (since I myself am a gentrifying presence) with the history and needs of long-time DC residents. I received an email about a DCSIP fundraiser through my firm’s listserv and felt a connection to the mission of the organization. I remember watching the applicant pitches along with the other Associate Board and Board members and was inspired by the sincere tenacity, entrepreneurship, and passion of DC residents to create social impact and tackle issues within their communities through a broad diversity of endeavors.
If I have learned anything through my studies, travels, work, and personal experiences, it is that to sustain meaningful social change, agents of change must often come from within the communities themselves. It seems that too often, even well-intentioned development projects have negative consequences due to misunderstood needs. DCSIP promotes the initiatives of DC residents, by DC residents, for DC residents. I couldn’t love that more! We simply connect them to a broad range of tools and resources to enable their success.
Who is your favorite DCSIP grantee and why?
I love the Healthy Babies Project (HBP). Before learning about them, I had no idea that infant mortality rates in DC were comparable to those in low-income countries, especially since in Public Health, infant mortality rates are used as a broader indicator of population health, poverty, and health care access and quality. I love the multi-faceted, holistic approach HBP takes in tackling these issues including the DCSIP supported Teen-to-Doula approach to improve social, economic, and health status of teenage moms.
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