Emerging stronger in 2021
“The world is changing,” says Franklin Lee. “Social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more important, especially among younger generations.”
Lee speaks from personal experience. A Harvard graduate, he had a job as a paralegal in New York City. Like many young people, finances were tight. A rift with his family exacerbated his challenges. “I had to get creative about how to build my foundation,” he remembers.
With the help of friends and a lot of knowledge from YouTube, Lee came up with a solution: renovating a van to serve as permanent housing. Parked in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side, he lived in his vehicle and walked to work.
Looking for his next step, Lee applied to the Koch Associate Program, and was accepted into the 2019-2020 class. With help he found an open position at R Street Institute, where he worked four days a week. On Wednesdays he attended programming at the Charles Koch Institute, focused on how he could grow as a social entrepreneur. “I was undergoing a lot of changes, and I needed a program that was focused on my self development,” Lee reflects. “There was this idea of really focusing on your personal passion, finding your own dreams and aspirations.” For Lee, this meant a focus on housing, culminating in a memoir about his van life, From Harvard to Homeless, publishing in Spring 2021.
When asked about his dreams and plans after KAP, Lee is quick to give a litany of ideas, all focused on helping others through housing challenges. “There could be a lot of opportunity for other people if they gain the same knowledge that I have now,” he remarks. “I went through these struggles with a lot of privilege and a lot of support, and yet I still struggled. There are people out there who struggle more than I have — ultimately solutions should be shared to help everyone.”