Photo: USDA

Setbacks and silver linings

Many of the stories in our roundup this week are about silver linings: The activist arrests that fortified a movement; a bottom-up small-dollar revolution in the absence of campaign finance reforms; from the ashes of local newspapers and shrinking media empires, an opportunity to remake the news by learning from the mistakes of the past. We hope these stories inspire you to look for the best-case scenario in any setback, and to find the opportunity to grow and change for the better.

  • The Chinese government thought that they could nip a feminist protest in the bud by arresting five activists planning to hand out anti-sexual harassment stickers on International Women’s Day in 2015—but instead their crackdown turned the women into heroes, and laid the foundation for a growing feminist movement. On a recent episode of The Current, author Leta Hong Fincher discussed a new book she wrote on the subject. Listen here.
  • South Jersey non-profit Distributing Dignity provides women in need with free, new bras and other goods that often go overlooked, but are essential to any woman’s well-being and dignity. Read the story at The Philadelphia Citizen.
  • According to a new study published by the Aspen Institute, schoolchildren who study in an environment with strong, secure relationships grow up to become empathetic and collaborative adults. Read about the education reform that appeals to conservatives and progressives alike in Governing magazine.
  • The industry working to improve global access to clean water, food, and education, relies too heavily on jargon that obscures more than it explains—and usually excludes the very people NGOs are trying to help. Simpler, more accessible language does not necessarily mean simpler, less impactful interventions. Read the op-ed in Bright Magazine.
  • Big money distorts our democracy in favor of those with the deepest pockets, but in the absence of campaign finance reform, politicians can make small-donor contributions a cornerstone of their for-the-people platforms. Read the op-ed in The American Prospect.
  • Defying telecoms and internet service providers, cities across the country are taking steps to create municipal broadband utilities to help close the digital divide in our country. Learn more on Smart Cities Dive.
  • Although the steady drumbeat of layoffs at newspapers and media companies across the country is devastating for the people who work in the industry, one optimistic way of looking at the wreckage is to see an opportunity to remake digital news and local media, learning from the mistakes of the past. Read the op-ed in Wired.
  • Finally, a start-up seeks to make disposable coffee cups a thing of the past with its reusable coffee mugs on-demand service. Sierra Magazine has the story.

Jessica McKenzie is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, NY. Previously, she was the managing editor of the civic technology news site Civicist and interned at The Nation magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @jessimckenzi.