Kristin Hayden: Innovation to Improve Youth Future

Kristin Hayden

“I had many opportunities to give up.”

As Kristin Hayden prepares to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of her organization OneWorld Now! in September, she reflects on the many bumps along the way. “Starting OneWorld Now has been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life and the most rewarding.”

OneWorld Now! started in Seattle in 2002 as the global program for underserved youth focused on the tripod language, leadership and study abroad. They have served thousands of high school students over the last years, and anticipate serving 500 more in the year ahead. Eight out of 10 youth in the program are girls. “It’s especially transformational for them to experience being so independent at an early age and to see how girls and women are perceived and live in different cultures around the world.”

Mind opener

Kristin believes deeply in the power of opening our minds to other cultures. She experienced that herself at the age of 15 when she went off to live in South Africa. She witnessed the end of Apartheid and, years later, the fall of the Soviet Union. Her life was changed forever.

And so will, she hopes, the lives of the students attracted to OneWorld Now! First they will start learning Arabic or Chinese. Then they will have exposure to leadership skills. Ideally they will have the opportunity to spend some time abroad. And the aim of OneWorld Now! is for these students to go to college or a university, a goal that is not reachable for most low income minority youth. What is Kristin’s vision for these young people? “I hope these experiences broaden their horizons and empower them and push them on to do things they never thought was possible for themselves.”

Like the girl who went to Morocco and Qatar and started a campaign educating the community about water rights. Or the other who started a business in China. Or the youth who is working as an intern in the White House. Or the one who continued their studies of the Middle East in college. “My greatest hope for this young people is ultimately to be their greatest self and to be conscious and intentional about that.”


For all this work, OneWorld Now! was recognized as “one of the nation’s most innovative after school programs” by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Innovation is apparent in several forms here. The integrated approach – language, leadership and studying abroad – is unique. The choice of languages is well thought out: Chinese and Arabic are not typically taught in American public schools although they present themselves as very relevant in the world today. The fact that they focus on providing international opportunities to underserved and underrepresented youth is another innovation. They prepare youth before they go abroad with critical language and leadership skills that foster success once they are abroad. They also support them in entering higher education.

The next step for OneWorld Now! is to create a global model for their program. What if the obstacles appear again? “When your vision is so exciting, it becomes the guiding shining light where you can go back to”, teaches Kristin. When facing big challenges, Kristin advises us to connect with the feeling that first inspired us. Why did you start this in the first place? What was the vision you saw? What is the change that you want to make and see in this world? And keep on going back to that.

Kristin Hayden is the founder of OneWorld Now! and is a featured speaker at the Women in Innovation Summit (WINS) 2012 on September 22, 2012, at the Intiman Theater in Seattle. To learn more about OneWorld Now!, visit

Melissa de Andrade is a social media strategist, who graduated from the University of Washington. She also has extensive experience as a journalist in Brazil, specializing in technology, and holds a masters degree in Digital Enterprise Management from the UK. Her blog about social media is found at

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