Chelina Odbert '99 Named By American Express as One of 15 Emerging Social Innovators Most Likely to Become Leaders Who Will Solve the World's Critical Challenges

CMC alumna Chelina Odbert, who in 2006 co-founded Kounkey Design Initiative, Kenya, is among 15 social entrepreneurs recently recognized by American Express, in partnership with Ashoka Changemakers, as top innovators most likely to become the next generation of leaders who will solve the world's critical challenges. Odbert also serves as principal of Kounkey, a nonprofit that has transformed impoverished communities by collaborating with residents to build low-cost, high-impact "Productive Public Spaces" (PPS's) to turn formerly unusable and sometimes unsafe areas into active, public spaces that benefit the community, such as meeting areas, vegetable gardens, and recreation spaces, along with basic infrastructure.
"The problems the world is facing can only be tackled by a class of innovators with the social and emotional intelligence to create solutions and develop the skills required to lead," said Timothy J. McClimon, president of American Express Foundation. "These 15 emerging innovators are the future leaders of social entrepreneurship, capable of collaborating across sectors of expertise, expanding the reach of their ideas and creating true long-term impact."
The entrepreneurs will attend the American Express Emerging Innovators Leadership Boot Camp where they will have the opportunity to seek guidance from leaders including Ashoka Fellows Molly Barker and Greg Van Kirk, Andrew Yang (founder of Venture for America), Leslie Berland (senior vice president, Digital Partnerships & Development, American Express) Dan Schulman (group president of Enterprise Growth, American Express) and Antony Bugg-Levine (CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund).
The three-day workshop in New York City is part of the American Express Emerging Innovators Campaign, which aims to accelerate and highlight the ideas of tomorrow's leaders through training, mentorship, promotion and collaboration. The campaign web page will feature videos and interviews from the 15 innovators, as well as notable thought leaders who will share knowledge and advice about leadership, social change and entrepreneurship.
The American Express Emerging Innovators are:
Yi Wei, market penetration strategist, iDE - Cambodia
Chelina Odbert, co-founder and principal, Kounkuey Design Initiative - Kenya
Alison Malmon, founder and executive director, Active Minds, Inc. - USA
Tyler Gage, co-founder and president, Runa - Ecuador
Anna Young, co-founder, LDTC+ Labs - USA
Dhruv Lakra, founder and CEO, Mirakle Couriers - India
Shiv Bhaskar Dravid, founder, The Viewspaper - India
Matthew Alexander, co-founder, Red Tierras (Mercy Corps) & Ahmsa - Colombia
Jodie Wu, founder and CEO, Global Cycle Solutions - Tanzania
Jacqui Cutts, founder, president, and CEO, Safe Mothers, Safe Babies - Uganda/USA
Lawrence Cann, founder and director, Street Soccer - USA
Emily May, co-founder and executive Director, HollaBack - USA
Mario Aleman, founder, Bright New Ideas- Nicaragua
Dalumuzi Mhlanga, founder and CEO, Lead Us Today - Zimbabwe
Peter Luckow, founder, Tiyatien Health- USA
The American Express Emerging Innovators Boot Camp is an extension of the highly successful American Express Leadership Academy that just finished its 20th session held in New York City May 8-11. The American Express Leadership Academy is a week-long program created in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) that immerses participants in a series of leadership training and development courses. Through the Academy, participants polish the personal, business and leadership skills needed to run a successful nonprofit enterprise in today's complex economic climate. The Innovators Boot Camp uses the same principles to help these emerging social entrepreneurs to be better equipped to lead their organizations, create sustainable solutions and, ultimately, be a positive impact on the global society. About American Express One of American Express' three philanthropic giving platforms is Developing New Leaders for Tomorrow. Under this giving initiative, which recognizes the significance of strong leadership in the nonprofit sector, American Express makes grants focused on training high potential emerging leaders to tackle important issues in the 21st century. Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and Ashoka Changemakers is a community of action that connects social entrepreneurs around the globe to share ideas, inspire, and mentor each other. Through its online collaborative competitions and Open Growth platform, is one of the world's most robust spaces for launching, discussing, and funding ideas to solve the world's most pressing social problems. Changemakers builds on Ashoka's three-decade history and belief that we all have the ability to be a Changemaker. Ashoka is the global association of the world's leading social entrepreneursmore than 2,500 men and women with system-changing solutions for the world's most urgent social problems.