For the first time in the Grinnell Prize’s five-year history, a Grinnell alum has won the $100,000 award.
Nov. 9, 2016 — Luna Ranjit ’00, cofounder of Adhikaar in New York City, and Diana Jue Rajasingh and Jackie Stenson, co-founders of Essmart in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India are the winners of this year’s two Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prizes.
The Grinnell Prize carries an award of $100,000. Half of each prize is awarded directly to the prizewinner or prizewinners, and the other $50,000 is presented to the prizewinners’ organization.
Ranjit is the first Grinnell College graduate to win the Grinnell Prize. She founded Adhikaar in 2005 to address the need for leadership and human rights advocacy in the Nepali and immigrant communities in New York City. Adhikaar has assisted thousands of individuals and families; trained hundreds of new leaders; and successfully changed policies and created new laws at local, state, national, and international levels, including the New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and the International Domestic Workers’ Convention.
Ranjit also received a Joseph F. Wall '49 Award in 1996, which helped her grow Adhikaar in its early days. “Grinnell has played an important role in Adhikaar,” Ranjit says, recalling that a $500 check from Professor Mark Montgomery in 2005 “meant that we could stop talking about creating an organization and actually doing it.
Essmart’s co-founders, Rajasingh and Stenson, recognized the need for better last-mile distribution systems in India’s poorest communities. Essmart works directly with local street vendors in southern India who help meet the consumer needs of the majority of households in isolated areas.
Together with these vendors, Essmart helps to collect data on rural consumption patterns and needs. They then source requested technologies and goods from locally based companies that are able to provide sustainable, relevant, and permanently available products to those traditionally left out of the supply chain.
Grinnell Prize Week
The winners will receive their prizes during the awards ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 4, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center on campus. The ceremony is part of Grinnell Prize Week (Oct. 3-6). Prizewinners will interact with Grinnell College students, faculty, and staff in classes, workshops, and informal conversations throughout the week.