Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just 16 years old, navigating the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling abroad he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked him what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, “a pencil.” The small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the award-winning organization Braun would launch several years later. Using his unique “for-purpose” approach, he meshed for-profit business acumen with non-profit idealism, proving that anyone can build a movement that matters. The organization has gone on to break ground on more than 300 schools around the world, and Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and went on to become a #1 national bestseller.
Braun, a graduate of Brown University, is a New York Times-bestselling author and the founder of Pencils of Promise, As one of the nation’s leading speakers on purpose-based leadership and innovation, he has been featured as a speaker at the White House, the United Nations, and the Clinton Global Initiative. By the age of 31, he was already featured in Business Insider’s “40 Under 40” as well as Wired‘s “50 People Who Are Changing the World.” Braun was also selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s first ten Global Shapers, and, in 2015, he joined a coalition to address global challenges with Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu, and several Nobel Peace Prize winners.
In 2015 he received the Jefferson Award, the nation’s most prestigious award for public service.
Architect and designer Mitchell Joachim tackles the urban issues currently redefining our built environments and cities and works to reassesses the way humans live together in the 21st century. Joachim envisions a future in which biology and architecture are a single discipline, and shares the ground-breaking work and disruptive ideas to make that future a reality. A TED Fellow and partner at Planetary ONE, he adapts sustainable ecological principles to new developments in architecture, transportation, and environmental planning. Joachim is also the co-president of Terreform ONE, where he develops new technologies for local sustainability in energy, transportation, infrastructure, buildings, waste treatment, food, water, and media spaces. His work offers the sheer excitement of opening minds to new ways of literally building the future.
Joachim’s work on the MIT Smart Cities Car, which Time magazine called the Best Invention of 2007, pushed the envelope of urban mobility in an intelligent way. His Fab Tree Lab, which rethinks the way we build with the use of grafted cells to erect structures, was exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
An associate professor at both New York University and the European Graduate School, Joachim was the Frank Gehry Chair at the University of Toronto. He was also featured in Wired‘s 2008 Smart List—“15 People the Next President Should Listen To”—as well as Rolling Stone‘s 100 Agents of Change. In 2010, Popular Science named him as a visionary, forecasting “The Future of the Environment.”
Michelle Moghtader is a co-founder and the director of global development of Shared Studios, a multidisciplinary arts, design, and technology collective. She is the artistic liaison and producer of Shared Studios’ global projects. Previously, Moghtader worked as a multimedia journalist based in the Middle East, writing for Reuters, CNN, the Huffington Post, and Energy Intelligence Group. She has also served as a community organizer in an American electoral campaign and with a U.S. nonprofit where she empowered citizens to become active members of their civil society. Fluent in Persian, French, and Spanish, Moghtader graduated from the University of Virginia and received her master’s degree from the Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.