Memorial Prize for poetry her senior year.
“For the last five years or so, every few months we’ve held
these big poetry nights,” she says, smiling. “We invite a few
dozen friends over, and the only price of admission is that
you bring a poem. It can be original or found, famous or
totally new, serious or silly. Everyone gets up and reads at
some point during the night. So you’ll have the random —
like a poignant text exchange — alongside beautiful original
pieces. It’s really fun.”
They also are practicing a new duet: sharing the stage at
college venues and on social media, explaining how they
navigate another important aspect of their lives — interfaith
marriage. Jackley, from Pittsburgh, is an evangelical Christian
whose brother is a pastor, while Aslan, who was born in Iran,
is Muslim. The response to their discussions on the topic has
been overwhelmingly positive.
But for now, Jackley’s focus, outside of her family, is on
a new venture, which she says, “will create a different way for
people to support causes they care about through micro-philanthropy.” The platform will be up this summer, and
Jackley says she’ll be “tweeting from the rooftops” at launch
(follow her at @jessicajackley).
The spirit of the new enterprise, she says, “is about doing
little things every day to construct a legacy of impact, brick
by brick, step by step. Just like I want to build up a body
of work that I’m proud of across my lifetime, which is the
culmination of many small actions, there’s a better way for
donors to build something meaningful over time, too.
“Instead of taking action around an issue every once in a
while, say by giving big on an annual basis, why aren’t frequent,
small contributions the norm?” she asks. “They add up. And
more crucially, they shape the consciousness of the contributor.
Our actions build us. I do all sorts of small things every day
as a parent; those actions shape me as much as they affect my
children. If I want to live thoughtfully and practice generosity,
shouldn’t I do that every day too?”
If Kiva’s success is any indication, this new project might just
have all of us asking that question — and taking action.
Jessica Jackley ’00 will speak at Bucknell in mid-October as part of the
School of Management’s Walling Lecture Series. After the talk, a video
will also be available in the Speaking of Success series, bucknell.edu/
SpeakingofSuccess, where accomplished alumni share their career
experience and discuss how Bucknell prepared them to lead.
lending over the internet. The startup began with just a handful
of entrepreneurs in Uganda but grew rapidly; a decade later,
Kiva has attracted about 1. 5 million lenders and administered
nearly $1 billion in loans, with a repayment rate of more than
Jackley left Kiva in 2008 but continues to advise the
organization. In 2009, she launched a second startup,
ProFounder, a community-based crowdfunding tool that
was acquired by GOOD Inc. in 2012. She later worked as a
venture partner with the Collaborative Fund — early investors
in Kickstarter, Lyft, TaskRabbit and other companies —
and continues to advise portfolio companies.
Jackley also was a visiting practitioner at the Stanford Center
for Philanthropy and Civil Society and now teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California and online
to more than 100,000 students. She does a select number of
consulting engagements, advising companies on “social impact
strategy and taking advantage of new trends in the sharing
economy,” she says. For instance, she was Walt Disney
Imagineering’s first entrepreneur in residence two years ago.
She also works closely with The Lavin Agency to do speaking
engagements on social entrepreneurship, and of course, her
book. She’s spoken to tens of thousands of people at universities,
corporations and conferences (including TED) globally.
However, her most fulfilling collaborations are with her
husband, Reza Aslan, whom she met on a blind date in 2010.
Of course, their three little dark-haired boys are, she says,
“the center of our universe.” But she and Aslan also support
each other in their respective careers. The entire family went
with Jackley on a six-week book tour last summer. And last
fall, while Aslan was trotting the globe filming his new CNN
series Believer, as an Anthony Bourdain-like guide for world
religions, Jackley held down the home front.
When Jackley was writing CLAY WATER BRICK, her
husband “read every draft and just helped me navigate the
whole process,” she says. Aslan, who teaches creative writing
at UC Riverside, has published four books, including the
controversial bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of
Nazareth, which has been optioned for a feature film. Aslan
wears many other hats, as a writer and professor but also
frequent commentator, consultant and television producer.
Aslan also feeds Jackley’s love for poetry, which she first
cultivated at Bucknell. A political science and philosophy
major and poetry minor who was Student Government
president, Jackley was awarded the Julia Fonville Smithson
“Instead of taking action around an issue every once in a while,
say by giving big on an annual basis, why aren’t frequent,
small contributions the norm?” — Jessica Jackley ’00