(Photo Courtesy of Lisa Servon)
NAME: Lisa Servon
WHO SHE IS: I saw Lisa Servon speak at the PopTech Sparks of Brilliance conference in Camden, Maine in 2013, and in a conference packed with amazing speakers, she blew me away. She had flow in on a redeye from Oakland, where she was working at a check-cashing outlet. An expert in urban policy and economic and community development, her current research explores the absence of financial services to the poor and the larger social and economic implications of that absence. But she doesn’t do it from an ivory tower — in order to learn why low-income people choose to use check-cashing outlets, a seemingly exploitative and abusive industry, she worked registers in the Bronx and East Bay, in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. New thinking about the urban poor and financial services is (duh) important and supremely relevant, and she’s doing it smartly and respectfully. Go, girl.
WHY SHE INSPIRES ME: As a journalist, I always aim to be open enough to learn without arrogance or prejudice. As a mom, I hope to do work that makes the world just a tiny bit gentler and more loving for the little dude. Lisa is an intellectual, an innovator, a mother, and a social conscience for all of us who might judge without attempting to understand. She’s willing to get her hands dirty to make the world a better place. Who wouldn’t be inspired?