Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards

Festival celebrates "amazing people who are doing amazing things."

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Dr Richard Leakey, Chair of the Kenya Wildlife Service and Turkana Basin Institute
Dr Richard Leakey, Chair of the Kenya Wildlife Service and Turkana Basin Institute Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The 2016 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, hosted by Perri Peltz and introduced by Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Craig Hatkoff (with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal), holds an impressive list of activists: Brent Stapelkamp, 14 Minutes from Earth's Alan Eustace (featured in the film by Jerry Kolber, Adam "Tex" Davis, Trey Nelson and Erich Sturm);The Birth Of A Nation director Nate Parker who was also an actor in Mia Hansen-Løve's Eden and Amy Berg's Every Secret Thing; The Suskind family in Roger Ross Williams' Life, Animated; Louie Psihoyos,director of Racing Extinction and The Cove; Jennifer Jacquet and Dr. Richard Leakey. From Foo Fighters Learn To Fly to a remembrance of Prince and David Bowie, and past honorees that include Twyla Tharp, David Lynch, Rick Rubin, Kanye West and Keith Richards - creativity, imagination and problem solving are at the forefront of these awards.

Seventh annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards
Seventh annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Craig Hatkoff greeted the audience at BMCC's John Zuccotti Theater: "Welcome everyone and happy Earth Day and happy Passover to the crowd over on the other side and welcome to the seventh annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. We are here today to celebrate, explore and revisit one man's theory of disruptive innovation, Professor Clayton Christensen. Today we shine a light into the lives of some of the world's most amazing people who are doing amazing things. Everyone's a little bit crazy that's involved in this kind of endeavor. What do all these crazy people have in common?

Steve Jobs would say - they stayed hungry and they stayed foolish. To solve the world's most difficult challenges requires a new toolbox filled with a new set of tools. We've made a discovery about the world's tractable problems and what they had in common. And the answer is, they are all very hard to solve. Nothing is black and white, the world is filled with paradoxes and one size does not fit all. Today we will take a look at a group of extraordinary, and some ordinary, people making a dent in the armor of tractability. We hope you enjoy the show, we hope you learn something, we hope you are inspired and, of course, stay on and stay crazy. Thank you, Steve Jobs. And now I would like to welcome our terrific seven time host and moderator, Perri Peltz."

Anthropologist and Conservationist Dr Richard Leakey with Perri Peltz
Anthropologist and Conservationist Dr Richard Leakey with Perri Peltz Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees

Dr Richard Leakey Chair, Kenya Wildlife Service and Founder and Chair, Turkana Basin Institute Dr Richard Leakey is currently a Professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University, New York where he also serves as the Founder and Chair of the Turkana Basin Institute, a Kenya-based research facility that studies the history of life, past climate change and origins of humans. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Formerly Director of Kenya’s National Museums, Director of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department, founding Director and Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service, Member of Parliament in Kenya and Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Richard is now focused on funding the research institute at Turkana and working as Chair of the Kenya chapter of Transparency International and Founder of Wildlife Direct. Richard has played a key role in efforts to combat elephant and rhino poaching since the early 1990s, has actively campaigned for the protection of the Great Apes and he has become increasingly vocal about the threats to biodiversity arising from global climate change and the human population growth.

Thomas Heatherwick Founder and Design Director, Heatherwick Studio Thomas Heatherwick is a British designer whose prolific and varied work is characterized by its ingenuity, inventiveness and originality. He founded Heatherwick Studio in 1994 to bring design, architecture and urban planning together in a single workspace. Known for projects like the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 Expo, the cauldron for the 2012 London Olympics, and the Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Heatherwick Studio is currently working in four continents on projects valued at over £2 billion. Thomas is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a Royal Academician and in 2004 became the youngest Royal Designer for Industry.

Founder and Design Director, Heatherwick Studios - Thomas Heatherwick
Founder and Design Director, Heatherwick Studios - Thomas Heatherwick Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Adam Smith Prize Jennifer Jacquet Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Studies at NYU Jennifer Jacquet is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at NYU. She is an environmental social scientist who studies large-scale cooperation dilemmas, such as overfishing, climate change, and the wildlife trade. She is the author of “Is Shame Necessary?” (Pantheon, 2015) about the evolution, function and future of the use of social disapproval in solving the tragedy of the commons.

Theodore Parker Prize Nate Parker Activist, Filmmaker Actor, director, producer, writer, and humanitarian Nate Parker recently won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for The Birth of a Nation, a 7-year labor of love for Parker which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, to rousing acclaim and fanfare at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Following its debut, the film received an enthusiastic standing ovation and was quickly acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures, who will release the film October 7, 2016.

Scott Harrison Founder and CEO, Charity Water Scott Harrison is the founder and CEO of Charity Water, a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. In nine years, with the help of more than 500,000 donors worldwide, Charity Water has raised over $207 million and funded over 19,000 water projects in 24 countries. When completed, those projects will provide over 6.18 million people with clean, safe drinking water.

The Cove director Louie Psihoyos: "There's a tipping point. If you want to have nature, you have to change the way you eat … adopt more of a plant-based diet."
The Cove director Louie Psihoyos: "There's a tipping point. If you want to have nature, you have to change the way you eat … adopt more of a plant-based diet." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Louie Psihoyos Executive Director, Oceanic Preservation Society and Director, “Racing Extinction” and “The Cove” Louie Psihoyos is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Executive Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS). He is recognised as one of the top still photographers in the world, having created iconic images for National Geographic for 18 years, and hundreds of covers for other magazines. His ability to bring humanity and wit to complicated science stories carries over to his filmmaking. Psihoyos’s first film, The Cove, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Film of 2009 and over 75 other awards around the world. His second film, Racing Extinction, aired in 220 countries and territories and sparked the #StartWith1Thing movement.

Brent Stapelkamp Conservationist and Photographer Lion-obsessed Brent Stapelkamp has studied nature’s majestic apex predator in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe for Oxford University’s Wildlife and Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). Brent’s work is primarily about promoting ways to mitigate the conflict between lions and livestock owners with a healthy dose of wildlife photography to get his “lion fix.” He lives off-grid with his wife, Laurie Simpson and their seven year-old-son Oliver. For nine years Stapelkamp tracked and photographed Cecil the Lion who rose to fame after being hunted down under questionable circumstances. Cecil has become the global icon for conservation andBrent’s extensive collection of photos of Cecil and other wildlife in Africa is a true treasure trove.

Perri Peltz with Life, Animated's Suskind family
Perri Peltz with Life, Animated's Suskind family Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Max Kenner Founder and Executive Director, Bard Prison Initiative Max Kenner is the Founder and Executive Director of Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), which enrolls incarcerated individuals in academic programs culminating in Bard College degrees. He co-founded the Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, supporting similar programs in 10 states. Kenner is Vice President for Institutional Initiatives and Advisor to the President on Public Policy & College Affairs at Bard College. He was a 2013-14 fellow-in-residence in American History at Harvard University and serves on Governor Cuomo’s NY State Council on Community Re-Entry and Reintegration, Re-Entry Subcommittee.

The Suskind Family Ron, Cornelia, Walter and Owen Suskind Owen Suskind, a boy silenced by autism, methodically memorised dozens of Disney movies. When his family realized this, they began to speak to him in Disney dialogue and turned their world into a stage, playing animated characters. Over years, Owen regained speech, learned to read by reading credits and eventually invented an original language — using scripts and lyrics — to express love, loss, kinship, and brotherhood. In turning his passion into a pathway, the Suskind family developed an approach, called “affinity therapy,” that is driving research and showing broad success in addressing the core social communication deficits of autism. Owen’s father, the author Ron Suskind, is now leading an effort to develop technology that allows multiple neurodiverse populations to harness their strong interests to drive social, emotion, and practical learning.

Walter, Cornelia, Ron and Owen Suskind: "No sidekick ever gets left behind."
Walter, Cornelia, Ron and Owen Suskind: "No sidekick ever gets left behind." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Fabio Zaffagnini Creator, Rockin’1000 Fabio Zaffagnini is the creator of Rockin’1000, a crowd-funded project that culminated in a performance where 1000-musicians gathered on a field in Italy to play one song: Learn to Fly by the Foo Fighters. The YouTube video chronicling this event went viral and has to date attracted 30 million views. The event served as an invitation for the Foo Fighters to come perform in Cesena, Italy which they accepted. Furthermore, Fabio is a co-founder of Trail Me Up, a startup that creates augmented virtual reality experiences of hike trails. In 2015 he entered the European Commission’s Expert list for his product design skills. Previously, he dealt with Technology Transfer and Industrial Research for private and public research centers. Earlier in his career, Fabio was a marine geologist at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Italian National Research Center and the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Climate Change.

Anthony D. Romero Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organisation just seven days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Shortly afterward, the ACLU launched its national Keep America Safe and Free campaign to protect basic freedoms during a time of crisis. They achieved court victories on the Patriot Act, uncovering thousands of pages of documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and filing the first successful legal challenge to the Bush administration’s illegal NSA spying program.

Photographer and conservationist Brent Stapelkamp
Photographer and conservationist Brent Stapelkamp Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Alan Eustace Engineer/Stratospheric Explorer World–record free faller Alan Eustace retired as Senior Vice President of Knowledge in April 2015 after 13 years with Google. His lifelong interest in flying, skydiving, and engineering lead him to work with the world-class StratEx team to design, build, and fly, scuba-like system for the exploration of the Stratosphere. In the final test of this system, Alan and the StratEX team set three new skydiving world records, including the highest exit altitude (135,899 feet, 41,422 meters). Alan served as executive producer of the film 14 Minutes From Earth.

Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson Co-Founders, Blue Latitudes Emily Callahan and Amber Jackson founded Blue Latitudes to unite science, policy and economics to create innovative solutions for the complex ecological challenges associated with offshore structures. Ms. Callahan is a marine conservation biologist, oil and gas consultant and explorer. She has a B.A. in Environmental Science and an M.A.S degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She worked as a field technician on the BP 252 Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She learned of a unique silver lining to the reality of offshore oil and gas development, the Rigs to Reefs program – a program that worked to preserve the ecosystems thriving beneath the surface.

Prince In Memoriam - Let's Get Crazy
Prince In Memoriam - Let's Get Crazy Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Ms Jackson is an oceanographer, environmental scientist and entrepreneur. She has a B.A. in Marine Science from UC Berkeley and a M.A.S in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A former Ocean Curator at Google in partnership with the Sylvia Earle Alliance, she engineered and launched intelligent map layers in Google Maps that distill and relate complex concepts in ocean science. A former National Science Foundation Researcher at the California Academy of Sciences, she developed a curiosity for using artificial habitats to mitigate anthropogenic losses and degradation of natural habitats. In California, the Rigs to Reefs program is an active example of this.

Adam J. Foss Juvenile Justice Reformer As Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of Suffolk County, Adam Foss has become one of Boston’s leading voices for compassion in criminal justice. Recognising that prosecutors have a unique opportunity to intervene in offender’s lives, Foss co-founded the Roxbury CHOICE Program, a collaborative effort between defendants, the court, the probation department, and the D.A. to recast probation as a transformative experience rather than a punitive process. In addition to his work with the DA’s office, Foss is the founder of the SCDAO Reading Program, a project designed to bridge the achievement gap of area elementary school students.

Jenna Arnold and Greg Segal Co-Founders, ORGANIZE ORGANIZE is a nonprofit organisation based in New York that leverages health data to end the organ donor shortage by applying smarter technologies, building more creative partnerships, and advocating for data-driven policies. Founded by Greg Segal and Jenna Arnold after Greg’s father waited five years for a heart transplant, ORGANIZE’s goal is to flip supply-and-demand for organ transplants in the US by building the country’s first central organ donor registry and creating more culturally relevant ways for people to share their donor wishes. Fast Company called ORGANIZE “the [one] to end the organ shortage.”

Hilde Kate and Isabel Rose Lysiak Orange Street News Hilde Kate and Isabel Rose Lysiak run the monthly community newspaper Orange Street News, based out of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. The OSN recently received widespread acclaim for its reporting on community news and its response to critics who questioned its publishers' ability to cover serious news because of their young age and gender. The Publisher of the OSN, Hilde Kate Lysiak, 9, is in charge of all content, reporting, writing, and taking all pictures while her older sister Isabel, 12, runs its multimedia operations where she produces, edits, and directs all video content for

Renaud Laplanche Lending Club Founder and CEO, Lending Club is the world’s largest online credit marketplace, facilitating personal loans, business loans, and financing for elective medical procedures. The company’s mission is to transform the banking system to make credit more affordable and investing more rewarding. Lending Club operates at a lower cost than traditional bank lending programs and passes the savings on to borrowers in the form of lower rates and to investors in the form of solid returns.

Christensen Prize Hamdi Ulukaya Founder of TENT, Founder and CEO of Chobani

The Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards are held in collaboration with Harvard professor Clay Christensen and the Disruptor Foundation and co-sponsored by Accenture, AT&T and media sponsor The Guardian.

Additional screenings of the award-winning feature films will take place at the Regal Battery Park Stadium 11 on the closing day of the Tribeca Film Festival today, Sunday, April 24.

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