With over 15 years of experience in philanthropy and social change, Solomé Lemma is committed to community-owned and -determined social transformation. Solomé joins Thousand Currents most recently from Africans in the Diaspora (AiD), an initiative she co-founded and led for four years before its merger with Thousand Currents. She is also one of the founders of Africa Responds, a diaspora-led humanitarian initiative that was created to galvanize support for grassroots organizations that fought the Ebola outbreak in parts of west Africa.
Previously, she served as Global Fund for Children’s Senior Program Officer for Africa for over five years, managing a portfolio of over 100 grassroots organizations in about 25 countries. Solomé has also worked with the UN Development Programme in Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch in New York City, and International Rescue Committee in Liberia. She received a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a Bachelor’s in International Relations from Stanford University. Solomé was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for her work with diaspora communities and has been featured in both Forbes and the Washington Post. She was also named as one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s “100 women to follow on twitter” at @innovateafrica.
In Her Own Words
Why AiD? Why Africa?
I firmly believe that transformational change in Africa requires Africans to take a lead in the process. “Aid” and “development” shouldn’t be exports when there are invaluable skills, resources, and ideas within and from Africa. Africans are the continent’s most important resource and many of us in the Diaspora want to invest in the continent’s future. After years of working in and on Africa, I have realized that we leverage our passions, knowledge, and resources best when we support and amplify the social change innovations and solutions being spearheaded by Africans in Africa. To date, we haven’t had effective platforms to connect the financial, intellectual, and human capital of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora and channel them into strategic philanthropic and social investment. AiD fills that gap.
What or who do you call home?
Home is found in my childhood memories in Addis Ababa, my adolescent dreams in Los Angeles, my youthful self-discovery in New York, and the grounding experiences in all the African countries I have worked in. It is more importantly found in the people that I love…where they are, I am home.
Where did you dirty your hands and/or mint your knowledge?
In our small, yet loving neighborhood in Addis Ababa where I learned the value of community; from my family which continues to offer inspiring models of philanthropy and community organizing; in the projects in Los Angeles where I saw the America within America; at Stanford and Harvard where I found communities of change seekers that provided more education than the classrooms; and from the hundreds of leaders and activists throughout Africa that I have had the pleasure of working with—what studying “international development” attempted to teach me, they proved and challenged to me in practice.
What are you passionate about?
Africa. I am passionate about the “hows/whys” and the “processes” of social change. I care deeply about agency- people being able to own and actualize their ideas, dreams, resources, voices, stories, and power. I strive for a world where change is of the community.
What keeps you sane?
Family and friends. Imagination. Spirituality. Books. Running. Fresh air. Iced soy Chai. Song.