Daniel Ross

Ashoka Fellow
Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Daniel Ross was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Daniel believes that America’s urban immigrant communities can secure a brighter future for themselves and their cities by reconnecting to their roots. While most immigrants come from agrarian origins, many of them end up living in concrete cities with no access to land. Farmers at heart, they come to America to work in the fields, and then move into the city in search of better-paying jobs, only to find that many such jobs have moved overseas. In the meantime, they lose the community connectedness that is critical to their economic security and cultural identity. Daniel brings immigrant communities together to revitalize their ailing cities by developing culturally reinforcing economic opportunities, promoting food security, and improving their health and safety.

Daniel began by helping a Puerto Rican community in Holyoke, Massachusetts reconnect to the land and draw on its cultural strengths to create the economic, personal, and environmental connections that build and sustain a healthy community. Daniel recognized that the skills immigrants bring from their native countries—growing wholesome food, preparing traditional dishes, and expressing their culture through the arts—could be the basis for enterprises that provide livelihoods. Through Nuestras Raíces (Our Roots), community members acquire and share access to the land, equipment, and space they need to establish farms, restaurants, and other entrepreneurial enterprises.

At Nuestras Raíces (NR) the older generation prepares young leaders to drive the economic and cultural rebirth of their community. NR builds the capacity of youth, adults, and elders to take leadership roles in their local initiatives and participate in citywide and regional forums. By sharing their perspectives and working with the larger community, immigrants and refugees break down barriers and become partners in their city’s future. The result brings new vitality to depressed city centers and a new model to the country for rebuilding and creating healthy cities. Indeed, many other cities and organizations have expressed avid interest in learning from Daniel and NR about this unique way of applying the strengths of newcomers to the challenges of urban America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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