Ashoka Fellow Raj Jayadev was just named a 2018 MacArthur Fellow for exceptional creativity. Raj is the creator and champion of participatory defense, a growing movement that gives families and friends of accused persons a way to contribute to the defense of their loved one.
In a country that imprisons more people per capita than any other country, participatory defense offers support to overstretched public defenders at little to no cost. It’s also a powerful example of how ordinary citizens can step up as changemakers when the stakes are as high as they get.
When we met Raj five years ago, he and his team were working mainly in San Jose, California. Now they partner with trusted community organizations like churches and neighborhood associations in over 20 cities. They are working to make participatory defense the new norm and permanently shift the balance of power in our court system – and they are succeeding.
We are grateful to know and support Raj and his team and to field-build alongside colleagues at MacArthur Foundation. Our communities intersect at a fruitful place: exceptional creativity applied to society’s toughest social challenges. Raj is the latest of 19 Ashoka Fellows who are MacArthur Fellows from previous years, including most recently Ai-jen Poo, Mauricio Lim Miller, Gary Cohen, and Jose Quinonez. As each breaks ground in her or his field, they together create ways for all Americans – all ages, all walks of life – to step into roles as changemakers.