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Ed Gragert


MEET Ed Gragert


Eleven years ago by mutual agreement, WhyHunger and KIDS decided that the missions of both organizations required KIDS to separate from WHY and seek an alliance with another not for profit organization. As you will read in Ed Gragert's interview magic took place when iEARN & KIDS came together. Jane & I have a picture imbedded in our brains of Ed Gragert coming to our initial meeting with his backpack on his back, Contained in his laptop was all the information about the possible alliance between our two organizations. Now all these years later, the vision we all shared lo those many years ago has come to fruition.

Ed, Let's start with where you are from and your background

When I got my first e-mail account in 1985, I was working for an international exchange student program, sending and receiving young people globally for a year of immersion and transformation—with the goal of creating a more peaceful and just world. But, it took a few years more for me to realize the powerful potential of connective technologies to enable young people to collaborate on social, political and economic development. I was asked to help launch a network linking K-12 classes in the Soviet Union and the US to work together online as part of their education to reduce the chance of nuclear conflict in the midst of the Cold War. And, building on that pilot project, we launched iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), to link classes in eight additional countries to demonstrate that global issues of injustice, poverty, environmental degradation, cultural ignorance, fear of the unknown, etc. could be addressed and overcome if thousands and then millions of young people worldwide worked together using technology. I was privileged to help expand the iEARN network and created programs in over 130 countries. From the beginning, iEARN utilized project-based learning, with all projects being developed “bottom-up” by students and teachers. The glue that has held the network together for over 30 years is that all projects need to address the question of how will the planet be better, more just and peaceful. Projects are now also tied to at least one of the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What interested you in hunger and education?

When young people in the iEARN network expressed an interest in working on food security and hunger issues in collaborative online projects, I looked around for resources that could form the basis of effective collaborative learning and action on these issues. It did not take long to find Larry and Jane Levine and “Finding Solutions to Hunger.” Their Teachers’ Guide was precisely the kind of education-focused resources that teachers were asking for, with context and specific action steps that young people could take to address hunger—in their communities, countries and globally. I felt that iEARN could be a means for taking Kids Can Make A Difference to a global community—demonstrating that technology could enable young people worldwide to work and learn together on what hunger is, what causes it and how to deal with it. Being a natural partnership, Kids Can Make a Difference became a program of iEARN. Through this partnership, students interacted with peers in countries with serious food security issues and heard from them about hunger, its causes and its solutions. Further, amazing work has been done over the years by students and teachers worldwide, with them sharing the learning with their communities through videos, posters, campaigns and other actions and activities—thereby multiplying the impact of the project. As a result of this interaction and the curriculum materials from Larry and Jane, students globally have gained a first-hand understanding of the root causes of hunger.

What issues do you work on and why?

Following iEARN, I joined the Global Campaign for Education-US in Washington. DC and its global effort to ensure that all young people worldwide have access to quality education.

Despite the progress of the last decade, millions of young people remain out of school and without access to education. I felt that young people could not be part of the solutions to hunger and other issues dealt with in iEARN if they were not in school. At GCE-US we brought together 80 NGOs in the US to advocate for access to quality education for young people worldwide. One of these organizations was Girl Rising, a group grew out of the ABC Documentary Group in New York City, that made a powerful film about nine girls in nine countries and the obstacles they faced in getting an education. I continue to be active with the issue today, facilitating an online collaborative project (“Girl Rising”) within iEARN. Through this project, young people globally watch the film and discuss with their global peers the issues in it and the status of universal access to quality education in their countries. This work is tied directly to Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

My concern is that the young people increasingly do not feel that they can impact the world in which they live. All too often, they feel disempowered due to growing
inequalities, both economic and political, with money, resources and power concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Tragically there seems to be an enveloping
pessimism that doubts whether individuals can make a difference. This pessimism is fed, in my opinion, by the actions of the leaders at the highest levels of our

What drives you?

Having seen the power of technology to connect and bring young people together around a common interest to improve the quality of life on the planet, I am driven to combat the pessimism and continue connecting to demonstrate that there is power in collaboration and collective action. Being a person of the 1960s, I saw first-hand how people could come together to stimulate change. That commitment and conviction continue to drive me to engage young people from the earliest of ages to work with peers worldwide for positive change. They are the hope for the planet.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers? What do you think your legacy should be?

My message is one of hope and that in time there will be a critical mass of connected young people who will not be deterred or dissuaded from improving the quality of life for all of the world’s people. My small part has been to demonstrate what is possible when young people unite around a common issue and goal.

Goal 4
eliminate hunger

About us

Kids Can Make a Difference is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network), the world's largest non-profit global network. iEARN enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

Finding Solutions to Poverty & Inequality Alliance:

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