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Temina Madon: Investing in People’s Beliefs about Themselves

Temina Madon: Investing in People’s Beliefs about Themselves


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Temina Madon, co-founder of The Agency Fund. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Temina! Tell me, what challenges are you addressing through your organization?

Temina: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! Our vision is for everyone to have access to a supportive coach, counselor, or mentor. Everyone deserves a bit of support as they solve the problems in their lives, or search out a path to a better future. But not everyone gets the support they need. So, we help deliver useful advice, information, and counseling to people facing difficult lives. In some cases, we train teachers, nurses, parents, and politicians to serve as mentors. We also create phone apps, videos, and books that can help people through their problems. The challenge is to make sure that the advice we offer is useful and relevant. We want to help people invest in their own education, health, and happiness—whatever it is they are looking for.

Spiffy: Very inspiring! What motivated you to do it?

Temina: We started The Agency Fund because we were looking for the most effective ways to help people achieve their life goals. We talked with economists, psychologists, and other researchers to learn what might be helpful to people who are struggling. We learned that investing in people's beliefs about themselves (and their own powerful capabilities) is one of the most promising approaches. Often, it doesn't even cost that much. If we encourage and support people, and coach them in solving their own problems, they're often able to find the right answer. Whether they are trying to earn more money, find new friends, improve their family's nutrition, or even move to a new country. 

Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?

Temina: Some people receive all the coaching and counseling they need. They are surrounded by family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have the time and interest to lend a hand. But many people around the world are alone with their problems. They could use a supportive ally to listen, provide feedback, and offer support. It isn't fair that some people get all the attention, while others are left to fend for themselves. We want to ensure that everyone has access to a mentor, counselor, or other support. It might be a nurse, teacher, therapist, or lawyer. Often, even a lightly trained community member can learn to offer valuable support. The Agency Fund works with organizations around the world to bring support to those in need.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?

Temina: We have been working with several organizations in India and Africa that teach parents how to provide better support for their children. For example, preschool children tend to learn through play. Even playing simple games with a child can help her learn about shapes, numbers, colors, and language. However, many parents do not realize that they are their child's first teacher. So, we have worked with various organizations to provide advice to parents, by phone, through teachers, or via community leaders. We offer simple activities that families can do at home. Together, we have reached more than two million families. In the future, it is our hope that every parent has the resources they need to invest in their children's development.

Spiffy: That’s amazing! Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.

Temina: One of the organizations we work with is called Shamiri Institute in Kenya. It creates classroom programs focused on youth mental health. The programs are offered through government high schools across the country. In the classroom, students are led through group exercises that focus on mindfulness and meditation, stress management, and even how to recognize the signs of depression. We have helped Shamiri streamline its operations and incorporate new ideas from psychology so that it can support more Kenyan youth with better programming, on a smaller budget.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Temina: As we move through life, we often encounter confusing or difficult situations. Should I stay in school, or find a job? Am I doing the right things to help my child stay healthy? How can I save more money for my business? Sometimes, we know what we need to do. But sometimes we don't what to do and we don't know how to figure it all out. When we have the right insights and support, we can make decisions that move us forward. But if we are discouraged by those around us or if we begin to doubt ourselves and lose confidence, it is much more difficult to find the path to a brighter future. The Agency Fund exists so that everyone has the information, experiences, counseling, and support they need to make their own best choices.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Temina—it’s been an honor!

Temina Madon is co-founder of The Agency Fund, which invests in tools and technologies that help people navigate toward a brighter future. She is also a member of South Park Commons, a technology community and venture capital fund. Earlier, Temina co-founded the Center for Effective Global Action at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and also served on the professional faculty at the Haas School of Business. She started her career as a science policy advisor at the United States National Institutes of Health and in the United States Senate. She has a PhD in neuroscience from UC Berkeley and a BS in chemical and biomedical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). (First published on the Ladderworks website on November 20, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.