Watch: PhotoWings + Ashoka U InSights Grantees




Learn More:

Following our Self-Discovery Through Photography webinar, the partnership of PhotoWings and Ashoka U announced InSights: Past, Present, and Future Self through Photography grants in September 2013. Working with nine prominent, grant-winning university communities from the 24 world-wide Ashoka U Campuses — including Brown, Cornell, New School, Ryerson, and Tulane — we helped foster and mentor campus projects that utilize the power of photography. The goal of InSights is to demonstrate ways that photography and the ideas around it could act as conversation starters in cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-generational contexts, engaging communities and catalyzing social change. 

Ashoka is the original network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries putting their system changing ideas into practice on a global scale. As founder Bill Drayton says, "Our job is not to give people fish, it's not to teach them how to fish, it's to build new and better fishing industries."

Ashoka U is an initiative of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs. Building on Ashoka’s vision for a world where “Everyone is a Changemaker,” Ashoka U takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students. The founders of Ashoka U were recognized in Forbes’ 30 Under 30. 

Project Criteria:


PhotoWings and Ashoka U asked grant recipients to engage a broad range of university stakeholders (such as students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees). Grant recipients are building connections on and off campus, including a wide variety of departments and disciplines on their campuses (e.g. photography, psychology, sociology, art, design, English, theatre, music, communication, journalism, history, film, cultural anthropology, engineering, and international relations).


All projects emphasize the use of images (existing photographs or ones made for the project) to communicate a story or idea. This includes, but is not limited to, a photography display, a website, an exhibit, multimedia, videos, performance, (musical or dance), projections, print displays, and/or a photo collage presentation.


The projects embody and explore some of the big ideas around photography to tell powerful stories and understand valuable concepts: visual literacy, empathy, communication, earning trust, ethics, resilience, critical thinking, perspective, context, photographic preservation and legacy.

View the PhotoWings + Ashoka U InSights Application (PDF)


The InSights program includes direct mentorship between project organizers, PhotoWings, Ashoka U, and a wide variety of creative minds in their communities. This collaborative planning process has fostered deep discussions and growth, encouraging participants to challenge themselves and one another to expand their scope and scale.

These ambitious, photography-based projects take initiative to engage a large-scale audience - using video, projection installation, posters and mass communication to share their ideas.

Brown University

Storytellers for Good - Brown University

Grantee: Alexandra Braunstein
Title: Social Innovation Initiative, Communications and Outreach Manager

The Storytellers for Good program selects students with skills in digital storytelling (written, photo, video, audio, or animation) to produce multimedia stories of social impact and innovation at Brown through interviews with students, alumni, faculty, and staff. The stories will be shared with the Brown community (and beyond!) on a dynamic, new web platform launching early next year. The website will act as a hub for stories of social change at Brown, allowing viewers to both learn about and directly connect with the people and resources in our network.

Connections: Swearer Center for Public Service, Brown's Social Innovation Initiative, WBUR's On Point, Brown Center for Public Humanities, Watson Institute for Internal Studies, Brown Alumni Association, and Brown CareerLAB, Brown Department of Social Entrepreneurship


Cornell University


Keep Your Hat On - Cornell University

Grantees: Center for Transformative Action, Anke Wessels, Meredith Ramirez Talusan
Titles: Executive Director - Center for Transformative Action; PhD student in Comparative Literature

The Keep Your Hat On project asks participants to remember what inspires them, and wishes to impart the important message that social enterprise is far from a waste of knowledge or talent; that one can "keep their hat on" and still engage in social innovation. To this end, the project organizers will identify individuals across disciplines who engage in social innovation using insights from their particular fields of study or expertise. The Cornell team will distribute special edition hats created by The Ricefield Collective, a social enterprise that creates ethically sourced handmade accessories. The team will then create a series of photographs telling the story of embracing your own unique talents and bringing your whole self to your work. These portraits, along with descriptions of the various social innovations, will be exhibited across the Cornell campus and online, engaging a larger community and provide opportunities for further discussions through workshops and the Center for Transformative Action.

Connections: Ricefield Collective, TEDxCornell, Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Gazette, Fingerlakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute, Engaged Learning + Research Center, Center for Transformative Action


Dublin City University

Collaborating on Intergenerational Learning - Dublin City University

Grantees: Dr. Cathy Fowley, Dr. Emer Ní Bhrádaigh, Dr. Trudy Corrigan
Titles: Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship Champion; Lecturer in Education; School of Education Studies

Participants in this project selected photos from their photo albums to bring to meetings that pair students and staff from the DCU community with older learners from the Intergenerational Learning Programme (ILP) in order to discuss their pictures and to reflect on and write stories about their experience. The ILP, originating as a doctoral project from Trudy Corrigan, brings together older people from the wider community along with DCU students to connect with one another on a personal level and learn together in a university setting.

After the meetings, the stories shared by the participants are published on the project blog, sharing the power of photography and storytelling with the world. In addition to this, new photographs were taken for the project on the theme of “your age” and a competition took place, each photo judged by photographers from well-known newspapers and advertising agencies. An exhibition of these photos takes place on campus, so that participants and interested viewers from the university and local community can see the photographs, read reflections, and discuss the results of the project.

Connections: School of Communications, Faculty of Humantities and Social Sciences, DCU Business School, Age Action Ireland, DCU Photosoc


George Mason University

Windows From Prison - George Mason University

Grantee: Mark Strandquist
Title: George Mason University Alumni

Windows from Prison asks the question, “If you could have a window in your cell, what place from your past would it look out to?” to hundreds of prisoners who were convicted in the Washington, DC area and are sent to prisons throughout the country. The corresponding answers/photo requests are then fulfilled by GMU students and mailed back to the incarcerated participants. An exhibit of the photographs includes a ‘Skype forum’ with incarcerated individuals, film screenings, letter writing workshops, and teach-ins. As a way to engage with the larger GMU community, students are working with faculty to design and print an exhibit newspaper.

Connections: Free Minds DC, George Mason University's School of the Arts, School of Conflict and Resolution, Provisions Library, African and African American Studies Department, Women and Gender Studies Department, Film and Media Studies Departments,  GMU VA Writing Project, The Washington Project for the Arts, and Duke Ellington High School.


The New School

BORN FREE - Parsons The New School for Design

Grantee: Sophie Lan Hou
Title: MFA, Transdisciplinary Design

“How can personal style be a window to understand deeper issues of identity?” The BORN FREE project is a series of participatory, photo-based opportunities utilizing street style as an entry point to explore and engage a critical conversation around concepts of self-expression, courage, freedom, culture and legacy. The project has three parts: a mobile photobooth installation capturing style portraits with a participatory backdrop, an instructional workshop, and a final exhibition. The organizers want to provide people the opportunity to reflect on their own sense of style, relationship with self and others and interrogate why they make the choices they do when presenting themselves in the world. The project began as an initiative of Oak Street Style, a creative media agency, and has been implemented in Oakland, CA and Johannesburg, South Africa. The organizers are partnering with Oak Street Style to bring the project to the New School in an expanded capacity and, in addition to the photo series, have a one-day workshop and extended exhibition showcasing the street style portraits from all three locations: New York, Oakland, and Johannesburg.

Collaborators and Connections: Taylor Kuhn, June Cho West, School of Design Strategies at Parsons, Oak Street Style, Dress Practice Collective, Project Africa


University of Northampton

I Dream of Home - University of Northampton

Grantee: Sri-Kartini Leet
Title: Subject Leader, BA (Hons) Photographic Practice

I Dream of Home asks a multicultural group of participants to find a photograph in their own personal archives or to make a new image that conveys the essence of their relationship to a place of belonging or “home.” It explores ideas of “home” by asking a range of individuals (students and faculty from Drama, Media, Business, Journalism, Graphic design, Interactive Learning Technologists — also, cleaners, receptionists, and porters) to temporarily donate an image that they regard as symbolic of their idea of home. Each of the contributors are photographed in studio, eyes closed, in reverie. These photographs are exhibited in the University Gallery (and on walls and TV screens across 2 campuses) in tandem with moderating discussion groups in and outside of the classroom in order to engage the university community not directly involved in the project.

Connections: University of Northampton School of the Arts & University Gallery


Rollins College

The Sanford Project - Rollins College

Grantee: Olivia Zuk
Title: Student

“How do you picture your community?” The Sanford, Florida project uses photography to capture people’s culture and landscape to show that the news media’s portrayal of a particular area should not always be taken as fact. This project aims to have a diverse group of participants in Sanford, FL make photographs of the culture and landscape they know and love — the way they see it. The project culminates in a community exhibition that showcases the participants’ work. To continue the message of The Sanford Project beyond the exhibition, the organizers are designing a website inviting people from all over the world to submit photo essays that share a vision of their communities. The organizers hope that people will be inspired to take pride in their community as a result of this project.

Connections: Rollins College of Arts & Sciences - Environmental Studies, Rollins Colllege of Arts & Sciences - Photography, Jons Hopkins University, Duke University, Sanford Historical Museum


Ryerson University

Foreign Encounters: Redefining Diversity - Ryerson University

Grantee: Cheryl Hsu
Title: Research Marketing Coordinator

Foreign Encounters centers around redefining the idea of diversity and multiculturalism from the unique and honest perspectives of the youth generation. Ryerson University is situated in downtown Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world. By prompting students to describe a funny, awkward, or inspiring moment in less than 150 words where their differences with others become apparent, the project aims to create a cross-disciplinary dialogue with Ryerson students by allowing them to share their intimate stories with each other. Five of the submitted stories will be transformed into photographs in collaboration with the student and exhibited across the campus in the hopes that viewers will take the time to reflect on their place in a diverse city and appreciate it for its complexity. These stories and photographs will also be shared and exhibited online at  

Research & Innovation at Ryerson, RUaChangemaker Student Committee, Ryerson Diversity Institute, Ryerson Faculty of Arts


Tulane University

RightSights - Tulane University

Grantee: Laura Murphy (Global Health Systems and Development) & Barbara Hayley (Dance)
Titles: Professors of Social Entrepreneurship
Program: Social Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship (SISE) program

RightSights is an interactive photographic experience and documentation project developed by SISE students and faculty to run at (1) the 50th anniversary of the Free Southern Theater (FST: a convening organized by Junebug Productions attracting artists, producers, and activists from around the country) and campus events including (2) the Tulane TEDxTU 2013. The SISE “design thinking” fall 2013 class developed the instant photo portrait experience for attendees to snap portraits and caption them with a story. The portraits from FST share the legacy and landscapes of civil rights activism (FST) and for TEDXTU: share our vision of the future we can create. The physical instant photos are shared in these public venues on and off Tulane’s campus and are being digitized (for other uses) and returned to owners. The goal of this project is to share stories of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement and incite other change-makers --from past, present and future-- through their future stories. SISE and other TU students and participants enrich their empathetic, observational photographic eyes and practical skills.

Connections: Junebug Productions LLC, Tulane Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (SISE) Program, Tulane’s TEDxTU, Local photographers