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Animation of a woman standing in front of a blank canvas, preparing to paint a still life portrait of a plant on a table. by Libby VanderPloeg
January 2020

A Note from Melinda

We put a lot of pressure on Januarys.

New years, we are often reminded, are an opportunity for a new start. We’re encouraged to take a hard look at ourselves and our habits and think about how we can do better.

While it’s nice to think that there’s some magic transformational power in the first days of a new year, the truth, of course, is that our personal journeys aren’t necessarily tied to a shared calendar. Maybe the new beginning that will change everything for you happened last fall. Maybe it will come later this spring. There may not be a champagne toast or a ball that drops at midnight, but these pivotal moments deserve to be recognized, too.

In that spirit, Evoke is starting the new decade by asking contributors to share how they’ve approached new beginnings in their own lives.

Happy new year.

What's Inspiring Me

World Polio Day

In 1988, the World Health Assembly set a goal to eradicate the disease and formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Since then, immunization efforts have reduced the number of wild polio cases by more than 99 percent. This past August, Nigeria—the last polio-endemic country in Africa—reached three years without a single case of wild polio.

That happened largely thanks to the fearless efforts of some 20,000 courageous women—community volunteers who go door-to-door to administer vaccinations to children. These women are on the front lines of the global fight against polio. On World Polio Day, I celebrated these true heroes fighting to #EndPolio once and for all.

How Smart Start is Empowering Girls in Ethiopia

While visiting Ethiopia earlier this month, I learned about Smart Start, a program from Adolescents 360. In rural areas with traditions of early marriage and pregnancy, Smart Start is empowering adolescent girls to think differently about how many kids they want and when they want to have them. All of the girls I met from the program told me they want to be mothers—and they want to be good ones. And now, they see family planning as a stepping stone to that and everything else they dream of.
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Artificial Intelligence for Social Impact

I’m inspired by the launch of Open Learning. It’s a free new program from AI4ALL that helps educators teach students how to use artificial intelligence to tackle problems they’re passionate about. AI is going to change our world—it’s up to us to make sure that change is for the better.