After voluntarily deploying to Afghanistan for a year, former Goldman Sachs analyst Greg Behrman returned to the United States and was baffled by just how screwed up our country is.
Upon returning, Behrman quickly realised that the country still needs to revitalize low-income areas, improve our education system, close the opportunity gap, and advance socio-economic mobility.
“It’s very important to understand those challenges,” Behrman tells Business Insider. “I developed this thirst for understanding who are the people who are actually rolling up their sleeves, trying to solve those challenges? Who are the new American innovators — the people on the cutting edge of solving our big national challenges. I get fired up about people like that who are doing creative, effective things to solve big challenges. Maybe they’re not famous, but they’re the builders. They’re the ones who will sort of illuminate the way forward.”
These “innovators” could be teachers, librarians, students, or just anyone and everyone who wants to effect change.
“We’re interested in those community-based innovators who are doing really creative, effective things to solve big challenges,” Behrman says. “And what they’re doing could be the seed of something much larger, but can be unheralded and often unknown. Those are the people we get most excited about.”
But there are few ways to support those people, Behrman says, until now. Enter NationsWell, a media company focused on covering the people who are leading positive change throughout the country.
One of Behrman’s favourite stories is about Ben Simon, a senior at the University of Maryland. He started The Food Recovery Network, which is all about mobilizing college students to donate leftover food from their school’s cafeteria.
When NationsWell first ran the story about the Food Recovery Network, the network had just 50 chapters in colleges throughout the country. After the story and accompanying video ran, the FRN received 450 new applications from colleges looking to start a chapter.
“That’s a part of what drives us, but we’re really focused on impact,” Behrman says. “That’s the core of our mission and what we want to build.”
There are, of course, a slew of media startups coming out of the woodwork lately. But what sets NationSwell apart from the rest is its emphasis on telling stories about change, providing people with tools to help out and take action — be that donations or volunteering — and hosting in-person events to enable people to connect with those in need.
The hardest part about it, Behrman says, is “convincing people that there is an appetite for those stories that are told with conviction and authenticity.”
Now that NationsWell has seen first-hand the impact its stories can have on communities throughout the nation, Behrman hopes to keep growing the site’s readership.
There’s currently no advertising on the site, but NationsWell hopes to make money through sponsorships with relevant companies and foundations.
NationsWell soft-launched last December. In its first month, it attracted nearly 1 million unique visitors.