Salon Series: A Conversation with Steve Davis, Cheryl Healton, & Blessing Omakwu
December 15, 2020
Steve Davis, business leader, global health advocate, and social innovator, discussed his new book Under Currents: Channeling Outrage to Spark Practical Activism, which aims to help you change the world in practical and meaningful ways. Joining the conversation was Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean of NYU's School of Global Public Health, and Blessing Omakwu, women's equality advocate, strategist, and writer.
This webinar was free and open to everyone. Registration was required in order to receive the Zoom log in. Please note that this webinar was recorded.
Steve Davis, Senior Strategy Advisor & Interim Director China Country Office, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Steve Davis is senior China strategy advisor and interim director for the China Country Office. In this capacity, Steve provides experienced leadership to ensure a smooth organizational transition and continued progress on the foundation’s key initiatives in China. This involves working with a wide range of partners across China’s public, private, and social sectors to advance health and development outcomes both in China and globally.
Steve’s long-standing commitment to global health and development grew from his early work on refugee programs and deepened through his later focus on innovation and international cooperation. He was CEO of PATH, a global innovation enterprise that works to advance health equity through innovation and partnerships from 2012 to 2020. He has been a leader and strategist for a wide range of private and nonprofit organizations, formerly serving as CEO of global digital media firm Corbis, director of social innovation for McKinsey & Company, and interim CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute. Earlier in his career, he practiced law at the international law firm of K&L Gates with a focus on intellectual property and Chinese law.
He is a lecturer in social innovation at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and serves as a Distinguished Fellow with the World Economic Forum. He also co-chairs the WHO’s Digital Health Advisory Group serves on the boards of Philanthropy University and The Trinity Challenge, and sits on the advisory board or consults with a range of institutions and initiatives, including the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York University School of Global Public Health, Challenge Seattle, the International Digital Health & Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR), and the World Economic Forum. He is author of “Undercurrents: Channeling Outrage to Spark Practical Activism” (Wiley, 2020).
Steve holds a B.A. from Princeton University, an M.A. in Chinese studies from the University of Washington, and a law degree from Columbia University. He studied at Peking University in the early 1980s.
Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean, NYU School of Global Public Health
Dr. Cheryl Healton is responsible for building the School of Global Public Health’s academic, service, and research programs, which focus on domestic and international health with an emphasis on prevention, systems intervention, and innovation in public health practice.
Previously, as the founding President and CEO of Legacy – a leading organization dedicated to tobacco control – Dr. Healton worked to further the foundation’s mission: to build a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. During her time with Legacy, she guided the national youth tobacco prevention counter-marketing campaign, truth®, which has been credited with reducing youth smoking prevalence to near record lows. Legacy launched a national smoking cessation campaign, public education campaigns, technical assistance, and a broad program of grant making. Additionally, Legacy established the Steven A. Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Studies.
Prior to Legacy, Dr. Healton held numerous roles at Columbia University, worked to expand the scope of public health programs, and undertook innovative educational initiatives to advance public health practice.
Through her research, she has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and special reports on public health related topics including HIV/AIDS, public health education, health policy, substance abuse, and tobacco. She was the founding chair of the Public Health Practice Council of the Association of Schools of Public Health and is an active member of the public health community, serving on the National Board of Public Health Examiners, the Betty Ford Institute, and Lung Cancer Alliance. She also serves on the Board of Directors at the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, and the Board of Directors at HealthRight International.
Dr. Healton has given presentations around the world and is a frequent commentator on national and local broadcasts and print news coverage of tobacco control issues.
Blessing Omakwu, Esq., women's equality advocate, strategist, and writer
Blessing Omakwu is a Nigerian-American women’s equality advocate, strategist and writer. She is also the founder of The She Tank: a modern think-tank supporting the realization of equality for women of African descent. In 2017, Blessing was recognized as one of the top 50 emerging global policy leaders by the British Council. In 2019, Blessing served as the Co-Curator of Melinda Gate’s session on Gender Bias at Goalkeepers New York City. She is one of ten leaders currently serving on the inaugural Goalkeepers Advisory Board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A lawyer turned policy wonk, Blessing has been researching and working on human rights and women’s equality issues the past decade. Her career has been dedicated to the public sector, and she has worked and consulted for various government agencies and international organizations including the United Nations and the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives. In her role as Executive Director of a faith-based foundation, Blessing brokered a partnership with the Office of the First Lady of South Sudan and coordinated on the ground post-conflict humanitarian relief in the country. Between 2016-2017, she served pro bono on the Victory Counsel (legal) team for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. As the Special Advisor to the Executive Director of Global Policy at the ONE Campaign, Blessing advised a global gender campaign that centered African female activists and led to the creation of a docu-series. She also served as Co-Chair of ONE and (RED)’s Global Staff Advisory Group on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
Blessing currently advises foundations and international organizations on women’s equality and empowerment issues. She is a Consultant with the Gates Foundation, developing a strategy related to religion and gender equality as part of its Gender Equality Special Initiative. A wearer of many hats, she is also the Co-Lead of “Room 5” for SDG 5 (an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and Brookings Institute). Blessing has been invited to speak and moderate panels in cities around the world like Johannesburg, London and New York; and delivered the keynote address at Cargill’s HQ for its 2019 International Women’s Day event (livestreamed by 100,000+ Cargill employees around the world).
Raised by Pastors, her parents’ sermons and spirituality exposed her to the art of non-fiction storytelling at a young age. Blessing’s personal essays explore the intersection of womanhood, religion and (pop) culture. She ran the On Being A Woman blog between 2015-2020.
Blessing graduated summa cum laude from Oral Roberts University with a B.A. in Government and International Relations and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the George Washington University Law School. She is a recipient of the 2012 USA National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Law Graduate award and a member of the New York Bar. She has also completed executive education on Public Policy, Design Thinking and Leadership at Cambridge University.
Undercurrents: Channeling Outrage to Spark Practical Activism brings the perspective of experienced global social innovation leader, scholar and speaker, Steve Davis, to bear on some of the most powerful and helpful macrotrends rippling through society today.
The book teaches readers how to harness their outrage and capitalize on global trends to instigate and encourage change across the world. The author identifies five global undercurrents with outsized importance that are shaping our world:
- Global economies are moving away from the old pyramid model into a diamond, bringing powerful new possibilities for human well-being;
- Communities are becoming the customer - rather than passive beneficiaries - as social change is increasingly led by local voices and activists;
- Equity is leveling and reshaping the field of social change and activism;
- Digital disruption, through the power of data and digital tools, impacts almost everything; and
- The middle of the journey to social change is becoming surprisingly sexy, as we focus on adapting innovation for widespread impact at scale.
The book's lessons are supported throughout by stories, experiences, data and observations from across the globe. Undercurrents is perfect for activists and leaders of all kinds who aim to increase their impact on their organizations and the world at large, as well as the intellectually curious who hope to increase their understanding of the changing world around them.
The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists presents an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us. The Salon Series is made possible by NYU Washington, DC through the collaboration of NYU schools, departments and centers, as well as through special relationships with selected external arts organizations such as The Corporation of Yaddo.