The Most Creative People In Social Good, 2014

From our Most Creative People 2014 list, meet the people whose sole mission is making things better.

Theaster Gates (No. 11)

Theaster Gates, a Chicago-based potter turned conceptual artist with a background in urban planning, is using ­culture as a strategy to improve poor neighborhoods. He's turned vacant homes into ­cultural spaces and transformed a former housing project into a mixed-income residential and arts hub. And there's more in the works.

Anna Maria Chávez (No. 22)

With Girl Scout membership dropping, Anna Maria Chávez is working to lead the organization into the future. Girl Scouts now offers ­programs and badges in STEM–related fields, and in March, she teamed up with Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to launch the provocative "Ban Bossy" campaign, which encourages the development of young leaders.

Max Ventilla (No. 29)

Dismayed by the lack of available school options for his young children, Max Ventilla developed two goals: grow a network of excellent tiny elementary schools, and use the schools as labs to learn, iterate, and improve on the model. Launching its first one-room school last year, AltSchool is now building a network of schools in the Bay Area and around the country.

Charmian Gooch (No. 38)

Charmian Gooch's latest campaign is to end corporate secrecy laws that Gooch says enable drug dealers, ­mafia groups, and ­dictators to launder money. In March, Gooch was awarded the $1 million TED Prize. She pledged to use the money to create an online registry that will include company ownership information.

Carl Hart (No. 61)

Much of the conventional wisdom about addiction is wrong, according to Carl Hart. His recent memoir, High Price, draws on his experience growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood to examine the links between what he says is incorrect drug science and policies that damage under-​privileged communities.

Izzie Lerer (No. 73)

Izzie Lerer is turning online cat videos into something beneficial. Launched in January, The Dodo mixes silly content with serious stories about animal-rights issues. "The readership is there," says Lerer. Apparently so: The site quickly hit more than 1 million uniques a month.

Hugh Evans (No. 74)

Hugh Evans founded the Global Poverty Project, an insanely optimistic effort to help the world's needy. It's an innovative cocktail of entertainment, social media, and gamification, and has rallied millions of people worldwide, including celebrity supporters like Ben Affleck and corporate backers such as Hewlett-Packard and FedEx. "It is possible for us to see an end to extreme poverty in our lifetime," he says.

Le-Marie Thompson (No. 80)

"Most of us engineers want to create cool stuff without guilt that our creations have brought about harm," says Le-Marie Thompson. She's combatting the problem with the Conflict-Free Electronics platform, a source for companies to get information about suppliers worldwide.

Joy Howard (No. 92)

Through film, Joy Howard is turning crunchy environmentalism into effective branded content for Patagonia. Worn Wear encourages consumers to repair clothes rather than buy new (this increased sales by 43%). DamNation, which encourages river restoration, won an audience choice award at SXSW.

Rebecca Goldman (No. 94)

"You often see a cause tacked on to a movie just as it's being released," says Rebecca Goldman, who heads up the philanthropic arm of Bad Robot, a film and TV company. Her mission is the opposite: building causes directly into TV shows and movies. One example: She's connected writers on Bad Robot's NBC show Revolution with the United Nations to raise awareness about the one-fifth of the world's population who live without electricity.

Roger Norris Gordon (No. 99)

Roger Norris Gordon refuses to let good food go to waste. He helped found Food Cowboy, a web-based application that matches truckers and shelters. Now, finding a grateful home for bruised tomatoes is as simple as sending a text.

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8 Comments

  • wjorth

    This list is great. Nice to read about inspiring stories of social goodness. I would like to see Fastcompany return to the annual list of for profit going concerns ranked by the social good they engender through their business.

  • Luca Penati

    Great list! You should also check out Villy Wang, CEO and Founder of BAYCAT, a nonprofit social enterprise that educates and employs underserved youth in digital media and produce change-making stories. Her hybrid, unique model has been used and taught all around the world, including South Korea and Japan. www.baycat.org

    Here is a recent Forbes article about the model: http://goo.gl/BMf3bO

  • Nathan Hill

    Ok I will say what I did and you decide where I'm at on the list. My name is Idea ATM 23, born Nathan HIll. Idea ATM 23 means I have more ideas than a ATM machine has had cash, to the 23rd power!

    My company is Celebrity Green Room, www.celebrity-green-room.com ( currently under construction, you can see 3D pictures on my FB https://www.facebook.com/nate.hill23 and timeline photos https://www.facebook.com/nate.hill23/media_set?set=a.1227704452278.35461.1219073758&type=3 ) Celebrity Green Room will protect all your money from everybody, group, or Government on the planet, or off if it comes to that :). Safe guarding your money with 100% Security prevents Slavery, Homelessness, Poverty, and any Financial Crime you can imagine. Money only moves when we see you on camera, website can not be hacked, closed loop system. So things like Consumer Union which protects you for life of purchase of any service or product, & Performance Escrow make payments in stages as "performance" is completed

  • You should check out Plywood People founder Jeff Shinabarger in Atlanta. Jeff is an author, speaker and activist on social innovation with a mission to empower and educate innovators and entrepreneurs on projects that benefit society and make us better. http://plywoodpeople.com

  • Brad Berger

    I know I fly under the radar but I should be on your list. I help people all over the world and especially teens and children by spreading my free AIM HIGH! Tips. The FB page www.facebook.com/aimhightips has over 668,000 "Likes". I do this entirely myself and at my own cost. There is no other resource as important for all people to have better lives than the www.aimhightips.com Brad Berger