The New School News

Diana Ayton-Shenker Advances Social Impact as Global Catalyst Senior Fellow

If anyone deserves the title of “global catalyst,” it’s Diana Ayton-Shenker.

Named one of 25 Leading Women Changing the World by Good Business New York, Ayton-Shenker started Global Momenta, a company that collaborates with private philanthropists, wealth managers, foundations, and corporations to advance social impact; founded the Fast Forward Fund, an initiative to accelerate philanthropic investment and change making among youth; and published a United Nations paper, The Challenge of Universal Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, which has been translated into the six official languages of the UN and cited in more than 100 books, articles, papers, and policies worldwide.

Now Ayton-Shenker is setting the stage for change as the inaugural Global Catalyst Senior Fellow at the Schools of Public Engagement at The New School. In her unique new role, Ayton-Shenker is exploring high-impact, innovative strategies in finance, entrepreneurship, and public engagement to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals and global health.

She fits right in at The New School, a progressive university dedicated to confronting the most pressing issues of our time. Working collaboratively and across disciplines, Ayton-Shenker enlisted diverse authors, including faculty members throughout the university, to contribute to a groundbreaking book of essays, A New Global Agenda: Priorities, Pathways, and Practices of the International Community.

In the wake of the “unexpected results” of last year’s elections, Ayton-Shenker says it is incumbent upon all the world’s citizens “to rise to the occasion and respond to the urgent problems that lie before us.”

“All around us, we are being called on to redefine our roles and reclaim responsibility in shaping the world we inhabit,” Ayton-Shenker writes in the introduction to A New Global Agenda. “We hear this call to action from inner voices of conscience, external demands to step up, the expectant looks of children, the silent cries of our degraded environment and depleted natural resources. The time to answer this call is now. Ready or not, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

The publication of the book will be celebrated at a launch event and roundtable discussion on Thursday, March 1, at 6:00 pm at the Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, 55 West 13th Street. It is part of The Nth Degree Series: Creative Minds Creating Change. In addition to editing A New Global Agenda, Ayton-Shenker will convene a series of public programs, faculty roundtables, and student workshops featuring scholars who contributed to the book.

Published this week by Rowman & Littlefield, A New Global Agenda is a jumping-off point for a collaborative approach to confronting global challenges around three major global agendas: the updated United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and the New Urban Agenda established by Habitat III. To catalyze solutions, Ayton-Shenker solicited chapters from thought leaders and changemakers from a wide variety of fields, including environmental policy and sustainability, mobility and migration, higher education, and human rights law. Several contributors hail from The New School: Mary Watson, executive dean of the Schools of Public Engagement; Alex Aleinikoff, director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility; Michael Cohen, professor of international affairs; and Lena Simet, PhD candidate in the Public and Urban Policy program at the Milano School.

“I’m so privileged to align with an institution that shares my aspirations,” Ayton-Shenker says. “This institution speaks to me because of its deep dedication to social justice, innovative cross-disciplinary thought and applied scholarship, and insistence on thinking outside the box.”

New School faculty members are equally excited to work with Ayton-Shenker.

“We are thrilled to welcome Diana Ayton-Shenker as Global Catalyst Senior Fellow, in support of our key university initiatives around innovative finance and social entrepreneurship,” Watson says. “This fellowship provides our students with mentorship opportunities with a key leader in impact innovation and enables us to launch a series of dialogues about the urgent issues of global equity and sustainability.”

Given the scale and severity of the problems facing the world, it’s only natural to feel the intense urgency of solving them. But Ayton-Shenker doesn’t think they can be addressed overnight. A crucial first step, she believes, is enabling the process to fix those problems.

“How can we create a world that sustains human viability and vibrancy and becomes more human and humane? That has become my mantra,” Ayton-Shenker says. “The real purpose and platform of the Global Catalyst is to ask and pursue that question.”

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