The Fledgling Fund
Purpose Prize Fellow 2009
Barrett supports documentaries coupled with education campaigns to bring public attention to social problems, including sexual trafficking and torture.
After 25 years at Harvard University, where she taught business and public health, Barrett left academia to start a foundation called the Fledgling Fund. Barrett says she made the decision to switch careers the day after 9/11. She was teaching a class about Martin Luther King Jr. and individual responsibility to society, when she decided to do more than teach about change, but to make change. Two years later, at age 58, she started the foundation’s work by providing grants focusing on health care for impoverished women and children in New York City. After helping fund the documentary, “Born into Brothels,” about children in Calcutta who grew up in a brothel, Barrett’s formula for change clicked: Take powerful stories; tell them though compelling documentaries and media projects; and match them with outreach campaigns to educate, engage, and ignite social change. Fund-supported documentaries have raised awareness about food policy (“King Corn”); sexual trafficking (“Very Young Girls”); and torture (“Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”). “On a very personal level,” Barrett says, “I feel that I have finally been able to combine the strengths of my previous careers.”