The nature of a society’s ability to recover from crisis depends on the strength of its systems. Unfortunately, the crises of the past six months have revealed fundamental flaws in our nation’s system. In order to change a system, we must first attempt to understand the historical legacies of the system we are attempting to change. None of this is accidental. In fact, the systems and structures we are fighting were always intended to benefit certain parts of society at the expense of others.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Naysa Mishler of Everest Effect.
“Passion and conviction create change.” This belief is evident throughout Naysa’s 15 years of leadership at large tech companies and it is now driving the mission of Everest Effect, a disaster relief tech marketplace she co-founded to connect people in need with donors and brands who want to help.
Before launching Everest Effect, Naysa was the SVP of Global Brand and Product Marketing at Citi FinTech, where she led new product launches, including the world’s first FinTech beta testing community. Her career also includes marketing and business development roles at LinkedIn, Citi’s Women & Co. and WeWork. Naysa is a member of Founder’s Pledge and a past board member of Step Up. She is proud to live in the vibrant community of Jersey City with her husband, son, and dog, Hudson.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Naysa! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Some books leave an impact on you and shape the very foundation of your thoughts or mindset. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts was one of those novels for me. I especially resonated with the optimistic nature of the character Prabhaker, who was a tour guide living in the streets of Bombay. He lived simply and modestly, and found joy in the smallest things in life. He always chose to see the best in people, and that is how I wish to live. As Roberts quotes, “There are no mistakes. Only new paths to explore.”
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Strength is waking up every morning with optimism no matter where the rest of the world is at.”
As the CEO of a crisis recovery company, I spend my days tracking and tracing all of the disasters happening around the world right now, from the manmade (global pandemic, systemic racism, and economic fallout) to those caused by Mother Nature (hurricane, earthquake, wildfires). If you want to change the system and impact millions of people’s lives you have to see hope and opportunity rather than the devastation and barriers.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
- Take intelligent risks. Every single act of innovation or advancement in the world it’s the result of a risk that paid off. We’re faced with risks every day, and how we navigate those choices can change the direction of our lives. Create a culture where intelligent risks — no matter the outcomes are celebrated.
- Hire for talent not longevity — if you can help people realize their purpose you get so much more out of them; whether it is for 2 years or 20 years. Also, look forward to and celebrate their next chapter. At LinkedIn, we called it their Next Play.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Natural disasters are occurring nearly once per week, but the crisis that I would like to address is not a specific disaster: rather, it is the aftereffects of disaster: the disaster of crisis recovery — both for people impacted by these events, and those who are living in perpetual crisis. There are three main issues plaguing our societal response to crisis relief and keeping us from achieving true long-term recovery:
1 . Recovery efforts are driven by perceived needs, rather than actual needs. When a disaster strikes, recovery for the affected individuals always follows a set pattern. The start of the recovery cycle, right after a disaster, invites the most intense relief efforts. Donations are at their highest and agencies allocate the lion’s share of resources at this point; yet 60% of in-kind donations go to waste, and needs not only go unmet, but also evolve and grow as people move through relief and recovery. As an example, for COVID, we supported food and soap, then diapers and batteries, then hygiene products and sleeping bags and now school tech and supplies.
2 . Currently, disaster recovery efforts are largely driven by media coverage of a disaster, which begins strong as the story is top of mind, but this coverage tapers off quickly as novelty dwindles.
For a concrete example of this visibility issue, look at how our media has responded to Black Lives Matter movements. These protests are still happening today, but where is the nationwide media attention laser-focused? Right now, it’s focused on the existing flaws the pandemic has exposed in our nation’s education system, and everyone is asking the questions of what is going to happen when and if schools reopen for in-person learning. I don’t say this to fault the media, but rather to remind you to remain aware that simply because a crisis is no longer receiving front-page media visibility, it does not mean that people who are affected are not still suffering. In fact, they are likely suffering even more.
3 . Redistribution of available relief resources continues to be an issue globally. After each crisis, the world responds with incredible offers of support, yet redistribution continues to be one of our biggest challenges. This is a problem Everest Effect aims to solve. In most cases, there are actually enough supplies and services to support communities in need. The issue often lies in how these goods are distributed across the impacted ecosystem. For example, after Hurricane Dorian, the World Kitchen prepared more than 2 million meals across the Bahamas, but didn’t have enough drivers to deliver all those meals — a problem which could have easily been solved by technology.
Lack of transparency in disaster recovery data not only limits our understanding in the scope of who is affected, but also limits our knowledge of whether recovery from this disaster has truly been attained.
Recovery is often measured by dollars donated rather than communities returning to normalcy. The reality is, the system is not set up to serve those who are most vulnerable. In a crisis, those who were already living in crisis become invisible, quickly lost in the cracks. Recovery for these communities can take a lifetime, or even generations.
Who is affected, how badly they are affected, how long they will remain affected, whether they were living in crisis before the disaster, or whether they have recovered — we need this clear data to not only measure our impact, but see what other resources are needed and prepare more effectively for future disaster and recovery.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The nature of a society’s ability to recover from crisis depends on the strength of its systems. Unfortunately, the crises of the past six months have revealed fundamental flaws in our nation’s system. In order to change a system, we must first attempt to understand the historical legacies of the system we are attempting to change. None of this is accidental. In fact, the systems and structures we are fighting were always intended to benefit certain parts of society at the expense of others. We see this, for example, in COVID lethality statistics: Black Americans are dying at over 2x the rate of other groups, and in Kansas, 7x more due to comorbidities resulting from the trickle-down effects of systematic racism. In this light, we need to focus on underserved communities who are more likely to be impacted by a crisis and less likely to recover.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
I spent 15 years of my life working for large financial services and tech companies like LinkedIn, WeWork, and Citi. I’ve always paved my own path, even in corporate life. I was never driven by titles or money; rather, it was the idea that I could make an impact on corporations whose missions and services impacted the lives of millions that inspired me. I always dreamt of having a hand in changing the systemic issues our society faced.
The idea for Everest Effect started back in late 2017. A half dozen disasters were taking place all around the world: Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Maria, the wildfires in California, the earthquake in Mexico.
A group of my peers and I were working in financial services. At the time, we saw what was happening and saw the inefficiencies and waste. I’ll never forget hearing a story on the radio about a single mother who had been severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She sobbed in shame as she admitted that, even though she worked two jobs, she couldn’t afford to buy her children Christmas gifts that year. As it was, she struggled to get the bills paid and keep food on the table. I was in disbelief, knowing so many people would have helped her and on top of that — there were countless other examples I had heard and seen of good intentions going to waste. Donation centers with abandoned inventory sitting in piles, rotting away, forgotten. My team and I had been working at large tech companies for decades helping to build billion dollar marketplaces. That was when the idea arose: “Why don’t we apply the same business models and structural thinking to crisis relief?”
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Share information and resources that can help those affected by disaster. In times of crisis, neighbors are always the “first responders” who do what no other group can. And these communities evolve around resources and information. From telemedicine to e-learning to small business loans, Everest Effect has curated a list of reliable resources to help people affected through all phases of recovery. Share this list and other resources you know of in your local groups and communities. Even if it doesn’t help you, it may be helpful for someone else to have access.
- Help close the learning gaps in our nation. 11 million students do not have adequate access to technology. Many millions more are at risk of infection when many schools nationwide re-open. Whether you have children or not, remember that our nation’s students are our nation’s future. Get involved in local groups — or organize one yourself — to discuss the current state of education in your local community. Raise your voice on district budget voting on the reopening of schools. Advocate for the proper allocation of resources to help students who do not have access to resources. You can help students directly, as well — offer to virtually tutor a student, join a mentorship program. In the near future, you will be able to directly purchase technology for a student who does not have access at home through Everest Effect.
- Be a conscious, intentional consumer and express your beliefs through your spending habits. Research the companies you currently support with your hard-earned income. What do these companies stand for? What practices do they adopt to make the world a better place? If their values are not aligned with yours, do your research to find alternatives you can support. And, if you are comfortable doing so, write to the companies you normally support to explain why you are going elsewhere and ask them to be better. Do your best to buy from minority and women-owned businesses. Now is not the time for political apathy. Raise your voice. Contact your local politicians to express your views on what needs to change. And, for the love of your country, get out and vote on November 20th.
- Strive to be a civic hero every day. This sounds more difficult than it is, but all you have to do to be a Civic Hero is to simply do what you can every day to protect and serve not only yourself, but your community at large. This is the very definition of “civic duty”. Remember, your actions do affect others around you. Socially distance wherever possible. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Follow the guidance and guidelines that humanity’s top virologists have put forth to keep us and our future generations safe. These steps may be uncomfortable, and irritating at times, even. But the very definition of a hero is someone who is willing to be courageous in the face of fear or discomfort. Courage doesn’t feel good in the moment; but that’s precisely what makes it courageous.
- Help fulfill the needs of those who are struggling. So many people, but primarily those in underserved communities, are struggling right now, and Everest Effect is a way to get them critical supplies. Our platform channels 100% of donor dollars to directly help those in need. Until the system is able to serve ALL lives, we must leverage our collective strengths to uplift those who need it most.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
Remember that individual actions add up to collective impact. See how you can pay it forward — quite literally. Are there elderly folks in your town who need help? If you don’t know anyone, leave notes in mailboxes offering to help how you can. Leave a flyer in your building offering socially distant assistance. Perhaps you can offer to get them groceries when you get yours. You can help even while socially distancing. You can fulfill a basket of items for someone in need at Everest Effect, or volunteer through a mutual aid program. You can also make your voice heard in your local area: vote, let your local leadership know your views on the programs that need improvement, join a local community (virtual) Town Hall.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
When you face adversity, you can either shrink away or choose to face it head on and grow. Fear is our body’s natural response to keep us safe — but there are certain situations where bowing to fear and living in safety and silence means that you are instead choosing to accept the status quo. Nothing changes without facing adversity. Change isn’t meant to be comfortable. And what we’re working on with Everest Effect isn’t comfortable. Facing crises every day isn’t comfortable. Actively tracking pending or current natural disasters, reading the statistics, seeing and seeking out the real, human stories outcomes of these tragedies instead of choosing to avoid the news — none of this is comfortable work, but it is necessary work. It is necessary because I believe there is a true solution to crisis recovery, one that is more sustainable and equitable than the resources we currently have available to us. The problems we face right now in crisis recovery stem not from an utter lack of resources, but from data, fraud, and redistribution issues. I believe Everest Effect will become the solution, which is why, even though the world seems dark, I choose to wake up every morning with optimism that I am working actively on a way to bring some of the light back to it.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
We live in a new age of activism. Remember that you can make a difference. Raise your voice. Be a conscious consumer. Start a movement. Every purchase you make, action you take, word that you utter, cause you support — live in alignment with your beliefs, and you will help create the reality that you envision.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private lunch with Melinda Gates. She and Bill have championed and supported the needs of individuals who have been living in crisis their whole lives, and her foundation has paved the way for long-term recovery from disaster and incredible growth for humanity in so many sectors. I would love to glean insights on her approach to rethink philanthropy, as well as her vision for what our society needs systemically in order to uplift our most vulnerable communities.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me @naysamishler and Everest Effect at @everesteffect on all social media platforms, and join the Effect at www.everesteffect.com to create a basket if you are in need, or fulfill a basket for someone in need.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!