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Our Social Impact

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Our Social Impact is long-form, in-depth conversation exploring the positive impacts today’s social entrepreneurs, policy makers, and scholars are making on our world.


United States


Our Social Impact is long-form, in-depth conversation exploring the positive impacts today’s social entrepreneurs, policy makers, and scholars are making on our world.




Ep#033, Marlon Chamberlain, Stopping Gang Violence Before It Starts

Marlon Chamberlain, Englewood Community Project Manager for READI Chicago, discusses his work with Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund, in this episode of Our Social Impact. Marlon reflects on violent crime prevention strategies employed by READI Chicago and the effects of underinvestment in South Chicago communities. Dirk and Marlon also discuss reacclimating to life after prison and creating positive reference groups in at-risk communities https://youtu.be/HYtNmbfjrP8 Invest in...


Ep#032, Salena Taylor, Shattering the Mold

Salena Taylor, Founder of Partial to Girls, joins Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund in this episode of Our Social Impact. Salena discusses overcoming the trauma of incarceration, the difficulties of life on parole, and the barriers faced by those reentering society from prison. Dirk and Salena also dive deeper into how Jackson College in Michigan is assisting incarcerated people access education and invest in the future. https://youtu.be/YCKPeRFRQBM Invest in Potential - Make a...


Ep#031, Juan Flores, From Expecting Prison to Considering a PhD

Juan Flores, a member of the Underground Scholars program at U.C. Berkeley, explores his unlikely journey to college with the Founder and CEO of the Prison Scholar Fund, Dirk van Velzen. Juan discusses his incredible journey from prison to the top public university in California. Tune in to learn about Juan’s current research at Berkeley, the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated people seeking education, and how Underground Scholars is making college possible for those with criminal...


Ep#030, Not Getting “Lost in the Shuffle”

Hakim Crampton, Founder and Director of AMEN 4 Youth, sits down with Dirk van Velzen, Founder and CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund, to discuss his experience with the Innocence Project, life on parole, and his current work as a juvenile justice advocate. In this episode, Dirk and Hakim swap stories from their experiences going through the clemency and parole systems, and from their time with JustLeadershipUSA. Hakim also does a deep dive into his work teaching students hip-hop and rap to...


Ep#029, Supporting First Generation College Students

Michael Cheever, College Success Foundation Executive Vice President of External Affairs, and Anthony Peterson, Alumni Board Member, share their experience supporting first generation college students with Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund. Hear about the evolution of College Success Foundation from a scholarship awarding organization to an academic support system for students beginning in middle school and running through college . Michael, Anthony, and Dirk also discuss...


Ep#028, Disrupting the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline

Listen in as Almetta Pitts, Founder of Attemla Consulting and TeamChild board member, joins Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund, to discuss interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Almetta brings her insight to undoing institutional racism, addressing implicit bias, and viewing the prison system through a human lens. Learn about Almetta’s path from teaching in South Korea to her work promoting diversity, equity, and belonging here in the United States....


Ep#027, College and Beyond for Formerly Incarcerated People: Underground Scholars at U.C. Berkeley

Violeta Alvarez, the former Program Director for the Underground Scholars Initiative at U.C. Berkeley, discusses her experience as a formerly incarcerated person with Prison Scholar Fund CEO, Dirk van Velzen. Violeta and Dirk explore navigating college with a criminal record, the push to “Ban the Box,” and the inequities created by the current public defender system. Violeta breaks down the amazing work being done to destigmatize formerly incarcerated people attending college and shares her...


Ep#026, The Golden One

Life after prison can be daunting. Goldie Russell sits down with Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund, on this episode to Our Social Impact to talk, hardships, triumph, and perspective. Goldie approaches transition with the attitude that fear will not guide it as it can produce beautiful fruits, thrilling experiences, and a unique perspective that even Ghandi could be proud of. https://youtu.be/3bvwywB2RtY


Ep#025 – Restorative Justice is Changing the Conversation about Conflict

Nicholas Bradford, Founder and Executive Director at the National Center for Restorative Justice (NC4RJ), sits down with Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund, and unpacks how Restorative Justice is a "relational approach to conflict." Primarily working in schools the NC4RJ has created a language that speaks to our human nature to connect and be in community. Conflict makes that difficult and we need strategies and systems that will address those difficulties, besides our...


Ep#024 – From Cannabis Prisoner to Stanford Scholar

Stanford undergrad Jason Spyres talks with Dirk van Velzen, CEO of the Prison Scholar Fund, about his journey from being a poor youth and making mistakes based upon improper notions of what success is, and how he came to a clear understanding of what he wanted for himself, and the impact he wanted to make upon society. After being released from a 30-year prison sentence for nonviolent cannabis offenses, he went back to school and eventually transferred to Stanford University, where he...


Ep#023 – Why are people afraid of being themselves?

Marquis Elliott, AKA Preacher, answers this question when he sits down with Dirk van Velzen, CEO at the Prison Scholar Fund. Preacher believes many people are afraid of not being themselves because of criticism. He explores how some people need to understand that life is subjected to nothing but all types of criticism. Once you grab onto the fact that change is inevitable and not everyone will understand the person you are and/or became, then you will be able to accept who you are and find...


Ep#022 – New Profit’s Case for Applying Venture Capital Principles to Social Impact Investing

Ep#022 - New Profit's Case for Applying Venture Capital Principles to Social Impact Investing Brian Screnar, Partner at New Profit Foundation, sat down with Dirk van Velzen at the Prison Scholar Fund to talk about how his nonprofit uses venture capital evaluations and metrics to investin in social entrepreneurs that have proven their models. https://youtu.be/3r2BmWP2rhg


Ep#021 – Using Tech to Connect Families and Advocacy Groups to Incarcerated Populations

Marcus Bullock sat down with Dirk Van Velzen of the Prison Scholar Fund to discuss his journey to build Flikshop, a mobile app that helps families and organizations send notifications to incarcerated residents via postcards. We discuss the entrepreneurial path, his failures along way, and how he is helping to create success stories for other returning citizens. Bullock believes that we can prevent recidivism if we help keep love, positive affirmations, and notifications about resources that...


Ep#020 – Why some nonprofits succeed but most are still struggling

Donald Summers, founder of Altruist Partners, is known globally for his work dramatically accelerating nonprofit growth, revenue, and social impact. He spoke with Dirk van Velzen at the Prison Scholar Fund about what it takes to transform your organization from struggling to true success. There are hard truths and brutal realities, along with clear, practical and actionable directions about how to become a more effective leader for making the world a better place. https://youtu.be/IwZrd3JTk_c


Ep#019, Why Yoga Behind Bars?

Julian Saucier sat down with Dirk Van Velzen to discuss his journey from incarcerated person to Executive Director of Yoga Behind Bars. He talks about his experience in prison, how learning yoga in prison shaped the course of his rehabilitation, and how he continues to use the lessons he learned from that experience to develop a positive mindset as well as the power, purpose, and passion needed to guide Yoga Behind Bars into the future. This conversation highlights how important the...


Ep#018, Why Young People are Getting Organized and Demanding Change

Claire Gorey sat down with Dirk Van Velzen of the Prison Scholar Fund to talk about her work as a 16-year-old changemaker. She talks about her A-Ha moment when it became clear she needed to get involved and be the change. Claire talks about her role as co-founder of her high school's Empowerment Club, as a chapter lead for March for our Lives, and her work to turn a Red district Blue for the first time in over 40 years. Learn how this 16-year-old was able to get over 200 people to join her...


Ep#017, Defying the Odds

Leo Novsky, Executive Director at Defy Ventures, Washington, sat down with Dirk van Velzen at the Prison Scholar Fund to discuss how his organization unlocks human potential in prisons and beyond. https://youtu.be/R0TQxK_notk


Ep#016, Wired to Win

Robert Wood, PSF Board Director and Senior Social Media Advisor, as well as #Cut50 ambassador, sat down to talk to Dirk van Velzen, CEO at PSF, about how he entered federal prison as a gang member serving 25 years for a drug conspiracy and ended up earning four degrees including a dual Bachelor's of Science in Small Business Management and Marketing, graduated magna cum laude, and began his MBA degree. As he continues his volunteer efforts for both organizations he is writing a book...


Ep#015, Dismantling Permanent Punishments

Quintin Williams, campaign manager at Heartland Alliance, sits down with Dirk van Velzen to discuss his policy work in Illinois, how he approaches the work, and his hopes for a better future for everyone, especially people with criminal records. https://youtu.be/yxTWpDR_2IM


Ep#014, From Prison to Therapist Within a Year of Freedom

Prison Scholar Jenny Iredale, Therapist at Royal Life Center, sat down with Dirk van Velzen of the Prison Scholar Fund to discuss her educational journey while in prison, including being thrown "the hole" (segregation) for tweeting for the PSF, to life in the free world changing the lives of people with chemical dependency challenges. Jenny feels that she is living proof that we can turn our lives around. She uses experiences from her past to make a positive impact in the lives of others....