Why not YOU? by Ana Patchin

By: Ana Patchin

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -African Proverb

I have been thinking about this phrase a lot lately because the past few months have been tough. Whenever I open my Facebook feed I am confronted with headlines and posts that focus on everything that is broken about the world. And I’ve noticed that this constant conversation about how everything is so broken leaves people thinking there is no way to fix it. It is really easy to become cynical when this is all that you see.

Despite this, I still remain very optimistic because there are far more reasons to be hopeful. I know this because of the people that I get to go to school with every day at the University of Michigan, and the community of social innovators that I work with in optiMize.

optiMize, a social innovation and entrepreneurship community here at Michigan, is a group of students who are constantly searching for pragmatic approaches to some of the biggest social issues that we face. We are a community of individuals who live the change we wish to see in the world and take action together on the problems that we see and experience.


Every year we run a Social Innovation Challenge, where any student can take action on their ideas, and people doing great work can take that work to the next level. The teams that I have met in the challenge inspire me:

Leesta is building multimedia tools that teach elementary students history through the stories of women. They just released the beta version of their app this past week, and are working to get it into classrooms around the country.

Kulisha is creating a cheaper and more sustainable fish feed for aquaculture farms in Kenya, so more people can access valuable sources of protein without destroying ecosystems.

Blueprints for Pangea is reducing wastefulness of hospitals right here in Ann Arbor by diverting unused medical supplies and redistributing them to hospitals in need. They’ve shipped more than $1 million in supplies so far.

Redefine is creating a platform for individuals who are passionate about social justice to use art to break down social barriers and create a more accepting community.

And these are just a few of the many teams optiMize has supported — check out more HERE.

Since its inception in 2012, optiMize has empowered over 850 undergraduates to take action on the problems that they care about and has created a culture where people do something about the things that they wish to change. Now, as president, I get to do my part to help people move great ideas forward.

I keep going back to that phrase of “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” because optiMize has shown me that if you get the right people into a room, and if you grow a community where possibilities are illuminated and ideas are acted on, you can start to create real tangible change in the world.

And that matters because the problems that we face right now are far too big and complex for us to fix by ourselves. But, if we go in it together, we can, and we will, create a better future.

I am a firm believer that actions speak far louder than words. So I encourage you to think about the biggest, most frustrating issue that you wish with everything in you that you could change, and then ask yourself “why not me?”

Because really, why not you?

Let’s create the world that we want to live in, together.

Still don’t know where to start? Let’s grab coffee. Send me an e-mail at patchina@umich.edu.