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Featured on Jun 07, 2011

Kyle Westaway

"Vision over Visibility."


Kyle believes in the power of the market to create a positive social and environmental change. Kyle is the founding partner at Westaway Law- an innovative New York City law firm that counsels startups. He has helped build Biographe - a sustainable style brand that employs and empowers survivors of the commercial sex trade. Kyle is a Cordes Fellow. He lectures at Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School. He writes for Huffington Post and GOOD.

Based on the projects you have been involved with, it is clear that you are extremely dedicated to changing the world to be a better place. What do you envision to be a perfect world? What do you see as the most pressing social and environmental issues currently?

Hmm… a perfect world? (Thanks for the easy question.) I’m not sure that the world will ever achieve perfection. However, we can take steps toward renewing systems – economic, justice, political, etc – that affirm the value of each person and remove barriers of opportunity while stewarding our natural resources in a way that maximizes their utility to all members of society.
It’s so hard to rank one social or environmental issue as more important than others. Right now I’m spending a good deal of time working with my friends at The Blind Project to solve the issue of human trafficking in southeast Asia. When my eyes were first open to the issue I couldn’t believe that modern day sex slavery is a thriving industry not a thing of the past. On the environmental side, 1 billion people on earth lack access to clean drinking water. It’s shocking that this is happening in our lifetime. But I’m optimistic that innovative thinkers and doers in our generation that can end these problems.

What first inspired you to become a social entrepreneur? What have you found is the most satisfying about your work?

During my Masters degree in Public Policy, I wrote my thesis on economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. While in law school I get really into social justice. So when I joined The Blind Project and we were contemplating ways to create real lasting impact in the lives of those affected by the commercial sex trade, my economic development side came out and we started talking about ways to leverage the market for good. I became a social entrepreneur because this was the best way to serve the women we cared about.
The most satisfying thing about my work is to see the survivors of the commercial sex trade that we work with in Bangkok learning new skills and feeling empowered. They are used to being treated like a victim and a charity case, but because we partner with them and empower them, they live life with confidence and a sense of purpose.

Instilling social and/or environmental change is a daunting task that most don’t even dare to take on. What would you tell someone in order to encourage them to fight for a cause?

I would tell them to get off the couch and do something. We started by diving in over our head. It was stupid and ambitious, but full of passion.  We were naive and made some stupid mistakes, then you learn as you go and get smarter. But it was that first act of getting off the couch and doing something that made it possible to create real impact now.

Running a law firm, writing articles, and being involved in numerous social entrepreneurial organizations, your schedule must be pretty hectic. What do you do to unwind?

Fortunately, I love what I do. So, even though it’s hard work and long hours I’m consider myself quite blessed to find fulfillment in my work. But I’m sure to take time to read, write, pray, meditate and run… also, I love spending time with family and friends over a good meal.

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