Ever since I was a little girl, my parents have taught me to leave this planet a little bit better than how I found it. This is what I strive to do every single day. As the Creative Director of a social enterprise called, Free People International, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world working with creatives, NGOs and purpose-driven brands. From managing a creative placemaking project at an artist collective in Amsterdam, to facilitating a girls empowerment program in Ghana, I’ve explored how creativity can be used as a vehicle for social innovation.

Graduate

New York University

Gallatin School of Individualized Study

New York, NY

 

Concentration: Arts + Social Change

 

I earned a graduate degree from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Gallatin is a small interdisciplinary college within New York University. Students design their own interdisciplinary program that meets their specific interests and career goals. Coursework can be taken at any of the schools that comprise NYU in addition to the school’s own offerings.

 

2007 – 2010

Post Grad

The DO School: Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship

Hamburg, Germany

 

This program invited twenty social entrepreneurs from around the world to participate in the Entrepreneurship for Good Program in Germany. Our challenge was to design sustainable packaging for retail giant, H&M while learning invaluable skills to apply to our respective social enterprises.

2015

United Nations Mandated University of Peace: Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership

Bangkok, Thailand + Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

This field course was designed to put the principles of human centered design into action. We visited and worked with NGOs, design agencies and local businesses throughout Southeast Asia on this immersion course.

Undergraduate

Marymount Manhattan College

New York, NY

Major: Theatre Arts BA/BFA

2004 – 2007

High school

Walnut Hills High School

Cincinnati, OH

College Prep

Rated #1 High School Program in Ohio

1999 – 2003

Creative Problem Solving
Socially Responsible Branding
Social Entrepreneurship
Sustainable Event Styling + Planning0%
Graphic Design0%
Social Impact Storytelling0%
Photography0%

Global Youth Forum

Dubai, UAE

The aim of the forum was to bring together young people from all over the world to discuss and redefine what it means to think as an entrepreneur in today’s knowledge based economic climate. This conference was set to the backdrop of beautiful, scenic and lavish Dubai. My project, The Green Store was one of 15 projects invited to come to Dubai and pitch at the conference.  We came in first place within our category, environmental sustainability and second place overall.

World Summit Youth Award

Sao Paulo, Brazil

The World Summit Youth Award is a unique global contest which brings together young developers and digital entrepreneurs who use internet and mobile technology to put the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into action. My, “Green is the New Gangsta” project won in the category of Environmental Sustainability.

Creativity + Innovation Instructor

2016 – 2018

As a visiting professor in the Farmer School of Business, I teach a course called Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking. This course was designed to teach students how to apply creative problem solving techniques to develop unique solutions for the business context. One of four courses in the university’s new first year integrated business core, ESP 103 is geared towards helping students tap into their creative genius.

Project Manager

2011 – 2014

Nestled away in the Southeast neighborhood of Amsterdam, Netherlands is one of the greatest gems in the world, an artist collective called “Heesterveld”. I had the pleasure of living/working at Heesterveld for nearly three years collectively. While there, we engaged in a number of creative placemaking projects including hosting weekly, Meatless Mondays and an Over Datum Eet Club (over date food club) in which we procured leftover, out of date, but still edible food from local grocers and offer free meals to the community. We facilitated open yoga and meditation sessions. We also produced a large-scale event called, The xchange in which we transformed the entire community into an open art exhibition.

Cultural Agent

2016

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture is a people-powered department (not a government agency). The organization is based on the idea that art and culture are powerful and under-tapped resources for creating a more just, equitable, and vibrant world.

Creative Consultant

2014 – 2015

In this role, I collaborated with GOOD magazine to support the launch of the GOOD Citizens campaign. Launched in tandem with the release of the GOOD 100, this project was all about celebrating innovators who are tackling pressing global issues.  I worked alongside the magazine’s Marketing Director and creative team to co-curate this digital collection of insights, meditations and personal stories by influential citizens working in alliance with the world at large.

Journalist

2014 – 2017

I have experience working as a freelance journalist for a variety of publications on topics such as sustainability,  corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship. Publications include European based, Youth Time Magazine, Triple Pundit, the “go to” publication for all things people/planet/profit and Mochni, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle platform.

Teaching Artist / Program Lead

2008 – 2013

For several years, I worked as a teaching artist designing and facilitating creative educational programming for elementary and high school students all across New York City. In collaboration with WHEDCO (The Women’s Health and Education Corporation) I designed arts and social justice curricula with a focus on food and sustainability. In partnership with Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, I directed and facilitated programming for a project called, The Black Artist as Activist. I personally taught a course on poetry, playwriting and performance.

Academic Advisor

2007-2011

As an Academic Advisor, I primarily worked with undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. In my role, I supported students through the process of selecting classes, deciding on a major, securing internships and plotting out future career goals.

SXSW ECO: Engaging A New Generation of Green Leaders

Global Youth Forum Dubai

Miami at the Mercantile: Creating Innovative Consumer Experiences

MUFD: Careers in the Fashion Industry

Pecha Kucha: A Creative Talk 20 x 20

  • United Nations Youth Forum
  • Global Youth Forum Dubai, UAE
  • Global Youth Forum Rhodes, Greece
  • World Summit Youth Awards Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • SWSW Eco 
  • Green Festival San Francisco, CA
  • Modefabriek Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Ethical Fashion Week Berlin, Germany

The Green Store Cincy Pops Up In Over-the Rhine
Three Cincinnatians Win Globe Grant to display new, innovative work in OTR
Creative City Podcast Featuring Joi M Sears

Cincinnati born-and-raised Creative Director Joi Sears is a creative’s creative: she’s done everything from dance and spoken word to photography and theater, earning a BFA in Acting before shifting her focus to combining the arts and social change through entrepreneurship. We talk about her ethical fashion line Amsterdamage, her sustainable pop-up shop The Green Store, and why she was banned from Europe by the Dutch government(!).

We also discuss:

– Her goal of traveling 30 cities outside the US by her 30th birthday, including places in Brazil, Haiti, an Ghana before winding up in Amsterdam.

– The bold mouse and the poetry performance that changed the course of her life.

– Her top three tips for zero-waste newbies (hint: cut back on plastic, especially single-use plastic products like water bottles and straws).

– Why she wanted The Green Store to be more than a place to shop.

– What she discovered researching sustainability and shopping habits of millennials.

– Her dream of finding a permanent location for The Green Store and how it could be replicated and adapted to communities in cities around the world (attention funders and investors!).

Click here to check out the episode.

Innovation News: Environmentally conscious store occupying People's Liberty
New OTR Pop-Up Shop Focuses on Sustainable, Ethical Fashion

Click here to check out the article. 

Innovation Looks Good On Cincinnati: Fashion, apparel startups creating vibrant community

“Cincinnati has a thriving startup community,” said Joi Sears of The Green Store Cincy, a pop-up eco shop supported by People’s Liberty and located in its Over-the-Rhine storefront across from Findlay Market. “As someone who has spent many years living between New York City and Amsterdam, Netherlands, I find that it’s much easier to be an entrepreneur here in Cincinnati than most other places I’ve been, mainly because it’s easier to access capital, resources and support.”

click here to keep reading.

Art as Activism

“Sears has some serious experience engaging diverse communities of participants — sometimes willing, sometimes circumstantial — in reflecting their cultures back at themselves via events, workshops and performances around the world with her organization, Free People International. “ click here to keep reading. 

Joi Lends An Artistic Eye to Social Change

“Just 31 years old, Sears has traveled the world, racking up an impressive resume of cultural experiences, as well as professional and educational fellowships. But these achievements are only the means to an end: Sears is helping other entrepreneurs and creatives around the globe use art to enact social change.”

Click here to keep reading. 

Joi Sears leads the Theatre for the Free People on the world’s stage
Creative Types Gather for Pecha Kucha Night

“Pecha kucha” means “chit chat” in Japanese and is based on a presentation format showcasing 20 images in 20 seconds. This makes each presentation concise and keeps things moving.

“The key to a great presentation is to present something you love,” says Ryan Newman, organizer for PechaKucha in Cincinnati. “Most people use PechaKucha Night to present their latest creative projects or work. Some people share their passion and might show their prized collection of records, while others share photos of their latest visit to a construction site or their recent holiday snaps.”

Here’s the link.  

Artist as Activist Program Offers Venue For Social Change

“Art is at the forefront of any social justice movement—it’s very central to creating change in the world,” Sears says. “So I really want to empower artists to think about what it is that they do and how they can use that—use their voice to make change.” Click here to check out the write-up.

joi@freepeopleinternational.com