We're all about open information at Tulalens, and we're hoping to foster that spirit in all areas of our organization. One way we're doing this is by launching a monthly Q&A feature here on our blog. In this series, you'll get to know the people in the Tulalens community. First up, an interview with board chairwoman, Erin Stock.
Q&A: Erin Stock, Tulalens Board Chairwoman
By: Kathleen Pointer
Erin met the organization’s Founder & CEO, Priya, in tenth grade statistics class at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas. (The two were fast friends!)
After high school, she earned a journalism degree at Northwestern University, and went on to report on immigration for The Birmingham News in Alabama and on humanitarian crises out of Bangkok for IRIN.
“I think (coming from a journalism background) really shapes the way I think and the way I solve problems,” she said.
She has a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, and lived abroad in Jakarta and Bangkok while in school.
One of the perks of her time at the Clinton School was a private lecture for students given by the former president.
Aside from Tulalens, Erin works as a communications consultant for clients who include a financial inclusion think tank housed at the World Bank, as well as a journalism nonprofit that is pioneering a new form of conflict reporting.
Want to know more about Erin? Check out our conversation below. She tells us about what she does (ideally) in her down time, her favorite things about the city she calls home, and why she’s so passionate about Tulalens.
What are you reading these days?
I’m reading this book called Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imaging New Futures for News by Jeff Jarvis. He’s the director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and is a thought leader in the media space.
What is your favorite part about living where you live?
If I had to say one thing, I would say how walkable and pedestrian-friendly Washington D.C. is. There is so much to do and see without even spending any money.
What would you do on your perfect day off?
My perfect day off starts with a really nice rest so that I could wake up at sunrise and make myself some coffee and read. I’d get my paper and also consume some news on my phone.
Then, I’d go for a long bike ride through Rock Creek Park — ideally, my fiancée would be with me for that. Once we got back, lounging by the pool would be lovely.
I’d also love to eat out. There’s this Thai restaurant (Thai X-ing) in D.C. that’s heaven. Your plate is never empty and it feels like you’re having dinner in someone’s home.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I had my first job bagging groceries when I was 14, and when I was interviewing for the job the manager asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him in all seriousness that I wanted to be the first woman president of the United States. It’s funny that I once seriously aspired not only to be the president, but to be the first woman president.
What’s a hidden talent?
I’m a scuba diver - from Kansas. I got certified in high school. There are these shops where you get your training, and you do pool dives. You have to do an inaugural dive in an actual body of water and my family all did it together, so we went on a trip to the Caribbean.
Are you a early bird or a night owl?
I’m definitely a morning person. The world is built for us, I realize that, and it’s not fair.
What do you do for Tulalens?
I’m responsible for coordinating our board meetings, and I help with decisions around strategic direction, fundraising, and communications. I find, at least at this stage, that we’re a highly engaged and active board.
How did you get involved with Tulalens?
I first met Priya in tenth grade statistics class. We were two kindred spirits, and we quickly became very close — best friends. Since then we went off to school and lived abroad, but in 2012, we happened to land in in DC at the same time. As Priya started to think about starting a social enterprise, I heard her ideas and her thought process evolve. I was there when she took the plunge, quit her job, and made Tulalens her focus.
What was your first impression of the organization?
Initially, Tulalens was Priya to me. I know her so well and we go so far back. I had a great deal of respect for what she was doing. As I became more involved and I learned more about the work, I’ve come to see it is much bigger than her.
It’s rare to be involved with something that has such a direct impact on people. It’s a gift to get to work with Tulalens.
When did you know you wanted to be part of this organization?
Early last year Priya reached out and asked if I would be interested in joining the board. I was so honored that she asked me, but she told me to take some time to think about it because it was a big commitment. I made myself not give her an answer on the call even though I knew what I would say. I confirmed it just hours later.
What about Tulalens inspires you?
Having been a journalist, I’ve always really valued the power of information and storytelling. I’ve seen it transform communities for the better. At its core, Tulalens is about putting power through information into the hands of people who are some of the most marginalized in the world. It’s not through someone else’s information but through their own, and that’s what I found so novel and inspiring about the work. It’s harnessing the power of crowdsourced information to help people improve their lives and improve their communities.
If you want to use information for good, this is the most important space you could be working in.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating or getting involved with Tulalens?
Tulalens is innovative and cutting-edge not just in terms of the service we’re offering and the model, but also in the way we work and how we’re approaching the problem.
What is going to make us have a real, sustainable impact is that we’re honestly assessing what’s working and what’s not and we’re changing course as needed. We are committed to putting the customer at the center of what we do.
Erin’s conversation with Kathleen has been edited for length and clarity.